Wildlife Forensic Pathology

Course Description

Examine the pathology and pathogenesis of infectious and non-infectious diseases, traumatic injury, and poisoning that are a feature of wildlife forensic cases. Recognition of aspects of gross and histopathological pathology and correlate changes with clinical pathology and other data. Understand infectious agents and involvement in the production of pathological lesions.

It is assumed that the student:

  • Has a basic knowledge of the normal gross and histological anatomy and embryology of the organ system in question.
  • Knows the relevant physiology and, where appropriate, the endocrine control of the relevant organ system.
  • Understands the nature of the main groups of microorganisms and non-infectious factors that may cause, or contribute, to disease in the relevant organ system.
  • Appreciates the relevance of pathological investigations in forensic work.

In addition, s/he will be expected:

  1. to be able to carry out a diagnostic, investigative or forensic post-mortem examination and take relevant samples, and
  2. to know where to go for further information (books, journals, reports, reprints, pdfs, websites, museums) about pathology, especially in the context of forensic cases; how to seek further advice if needed.
  3. to comprehend the importance, especially in the context of wildlife forensic cases, of interdisciplinary collaboration.

Course Objectives

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Recognize basic common pathological changes in relevant organs of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish and selected invertebrates, and the whole body, and write a report on the findings.
  • Suggest a diagnosis or sequence of pathological events and comment on their significance and relevance to clinical investigation, especially in the context of forensic cases involving free-living or captive mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish and selected invertebrates.
  • Examine gross, cytological and histological specimens from relevant organs and to correlate what is seen with clinical signs or epidemiological features in live animals free-living or captive mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish and selected invertebrates.
  • Extrapolate from knowledge of domestic animal pathology principles that can be applied to a) other, less familiar, species of animal that have been presented for clinical or post-mortem examination, or b) samples from live or dead animals that are the subject of a legal case.

Instructors: John E. Cooper, DTVM, FRCPath, FRSB, CBiol, FRCVS and Margaret E. Cooper, LLB, FLS

Course Topics

1Introduction1. The features and importance of veterinary and comparative forensic medicine and pathology
2. The language of pathology; terminology; glossary of terms
3. The guiding principle: “Hic locus est ubi mors gaudet succurrere vitae”
4. Brief review of embryology, anatomy and key microscopical features – to include a comparative approach (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, selected invertebrates)
2Health and Disease5. Aetiology and pathogenesis of disease and its clinical/pathological consequences, with particular reference to forensic investigation
6. Overview of the responses of the relevant organ system to insults – inflammatory and other changes – and the relative susceptibility of tissues and cells in different vertebrate and invertebrate species
7. Zoonoses, toxicoses, and physical damage – trauma, burning, electrocution, drowning etc.): their relevance to wildlife forensic investigation
3The Role of Law in Wildlife Forensic Pathology (Material contributed by Margaret E. Cooper)8. Introducing law
9. Definitions: animal; wildlife; etc.
10. Basic information about law; criminal and civil law; levels of legislation; general advice
11. Legislation relevant to the practice of wildlife forensic pathology; occupational health and safety; movement of animals and animal materials
12. Animal legislation relevant to wildlife forensic pathology; animal welfare; wildlife conservation; international wildlife trade
4Particular Types of Cases: Wild Animal Welfare and Cruelty13. The role of the wildlife forensic pathologist and those in associated disciplines, such as ethologists
14. Accidental and non-accidental injuries (NAIs)
15. Assessment and scoring of lesions
16. Diagnosis of starvation; assessment of “condition”
17. Special considerations - wildlife, animals in sport, animals in entertainment, animal sanctuaries and shelters, zoo and laboratory animals
5Particular Types of Cases: Conservation and Wildlife Crime 18. The role of the wildlife forensic pathologist and those in associated disciplines, such as ecologists
19. Types of wildlife investigation
20. The contribution of forensic science techniques to conservation biology, including species and habitat protection
21. Lesions to wildlife associated with firearms, other weapons, traps and snares
22. Predation and other attacks
23. The application of forensic science, including molecular biology, to wildlife investigations
24. The wildlife crime scene
6Forensic Methods: Working with Live Wild Animals25. Methods
26. Facilities and equipment
27. Samples and laboratory tests
28. Case studies, demonstrating approach and techniques
7Wildlife Pathology Field Work29. Site visits, including the crime scene
30. What does field forensic work entail?
31. Facilities and equipment in the field
32. The collection of evidence in the field
33. Risk assessment in the field
34. Case study
8Forensic Methods: Working with Dead Wild Animals35. The function and purpose of wildlife post-mortem examinations (necropsies)
36. Considerations in different vertebrate and invertebrate species
37. Facilities and equipment
38. Post-mortem techniques; dissection
39. Practical aspects of examination of the organ systems
40. Ante-mortem versus post-mortem changes
9Forensic Methods: Working with Dead Wild Animals - continued41. Special examinations: bones and bodies
42. Pathology: lesions and changes; their effects and implications
43. Case studies
10Forensic Methods: Laboratory Techniques 44. Wildlife samples for forensic laboratory investigation; important considerations
45. The range of possible laboratory samples: swabs, blood, urine, faeces, others
46. The range of possible laboratory investigations: microscopy, cytology, histology, microbiology, others; quality assurance
47. Case studies and quizzes
11Records and Evidence48. Record-keeping and collation and analysis of findings
49. Submission and report forms
50. Collection and collating of evidence
51. Storage, labelling and presentation of wildlife forensic pathology material
52. Journals, books, societies, and sources of information
12Presenting the Evidence (Material contributed by Margaret E. Cooper)53. Writing a report, relevant law and appearing in court
54. The particular legal implications of forensic pathology investigations
13Summation – and the Future55. The meaning and significance of wildlife forensic pathology, with reference to the previous twelve modules
56. Links with conservation biology and species protection
57. The need for training and continuing education
58. The future – needs and opportunities; horizon-scanning
59. Conclusions and the way forward