Wildlife Forensic Pathology

Course Description

  • Recognize the important definitions relating to the discipline of pathology.
  • Identify normal gross and histological anatomy and abnormalities that may be indicative of pathological change.
  • Describe and discuss the relevance of pathology in forensic cases relating to wildlife.
  • Outline the role played by different pathological investigations in the investigation of forensic cases.
  • Describe the main types of law and legal case in which animals may play a part and their relevance to the practice of forensic pathology.
  • Illustrate how an understanding of the relevant law assists in the investigation of wildlife crime and how this is applicable to forensic pathology studies and the presentation of evidence in a report and to a court.
  • Distinguish the aetiology and pathogenesis of infectious and non-infectious diseases, including traumatic injury and poisoning, that can be a feature of wildlife forensic cases.
  • Recognize basic features of gross and histopathological pathology and be able to illustrate how these may be correlated with clinical signs or cause/to the death of an animal.
  • Show how an investigator should prepare for appearance in a court of law, especially one where the evidence and opinion relates to pathology.
  • Discuss new and emerging global challenges in the field of wildlife forensic investigation and how the practice of investigative pathology might contribute to solving and resolving some of these.

It is assumed that the student:

    • Has a basic knowledge of vertebrate anatomy, physiology and embryology.
    • Knows the function and control of different organ systems.
    • Understands the nature of the main groups of microorganisms and non-infectious factors that may cause, or contribute, to disease and pathology.
    • Appreciates the likely relevance of pathological investigations in forensic work.
    • Can explain how an understanding of the law and legal principles might assist in the investigation of wildlife crime, with particular reference to forensic pathology methods.

In addition, s/he will be expected to:

  1. understand the principles involved in a post-mortem examination and the reasons for taking samples, and
  2. recognize the importance, especially in the context of forensic cases, of interdisciplinary collaboration in wildlife studies.
  3.  outline the principle features of wildlife legislation in their own country, state or province.
  4. know where to go for further information (books, journals, reports, reprints, pdfs, websites, museums) about wildlife pathology and animal law, especially in the context of forensic cases, and how to seek further advice if needed.

Course Objectives

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

    • Recognize basic common pathological changes in relevant organs of animals, where appropriate including reptiles, amphibians and fish and selected invertebrates, as well as mammals and birds.
    • Summarise the main considerations and requirements when preparing a report on the findings in a post-mortem examination or laboratory examination of samples.
    • Demonstrate an ability to answer questions and queries clearly and correctly in line with producing a forensic report or appearing in court.
    • Write a descriptive report that is free of factual and grammatical errors.
    • Critically review gross, microscopic and radiographic images and suggest a diagnosis or sequence of pathological events.
    • Relate how what is seen in cytological, histological and radiographic images might be correlated with clinical signs shown by live animals.
    • Explain the principles and importance of comparative pathology, in particular in extrapolating from domestic animal and human studies and applying this to live or dead wild animal forensic cases.
    • Recognize and memorize the important considerations when investigating a wildlife crime scene, including the use of portable field equipment.
    • Describe how an understanding of the relevant law and legal principles assists in the investigation of wildlife crime and how this is applicable to forensic pathology studies.
    • Show how an investigator should prepare for appearance in a court of law, especially one where the evidence and opinion relates to pathology.
    • Give examples of emerging global challenges in the field of wildlife forensic investigation that might usefully be tackled using forensic pathology techniques. Relate this to the increasing need to have an international approach to combatting wildlife crime.

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

Course Topics

ModuleTopicSubjects
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