Two poachers are now serving time in jail in Manitoba, Canada, thanks in large part to the pioneering work of Simon Fraser University forensic entomologist Gail Anderson.
Earlier this month, the two men were sentenced to six months in jail for the senseless slaughter of two young black bear cubs at a dumpsite near Winnipeg. A pivotal piece of evidence against them was supplied by insects, courtesy of Anderson's rather unusual area of expertise.
Anderson uses the lifespan of insects found on bodies to help determine time of death. She's frequently called in as an expert witness in murder trials, where her evidence can sometimes make or break an alibi.
Three years ago, Anderson expanded the scope of her research to include wildlife poaching. The Manitoba case is, to her knowledge, the first time forensic entomology has been used to get a poaching conviction in Canada.
The twin bear cubs, only several weeks old, were found shot and gutted on July 15, 1995. Their gall bladders -- too tiny to be worth any money -- had been removed. Poachers had recently killed the cubs1 mother and several other adult bears, also for their gall bladders.
Insect egg samples were taken from the cubs1 bodies and monitored over the next 24 hours. From them, Anderson determined the window of time in which the cubs had been killed. Her testimony tied the suspects to the scene. During his summation, the judge stated that the entomological evidence was a key factor in reaching the guilty verdict.
Anderson is one of only a handful of forensic entomologists in North America, and possibly the only one working on poaching cases. "Poaching is a massive problem in Canada," she says. "It's considered to be the most profitable crime next to drug trafficking."
Note: A longer release is available on the Web at:
CONTACT: Gail Anderson, criminology, 291-3512/3589 (pager: 252-5785), or Marianne Meadahl, 604-291-4323.