The cause of death was easy to figure out. The gun had left a deep wound, allowing Fiona Howie to quickly locate the pellet at the base of the deceased’s neck. Spread across the grey metallic table, the victim had been dead for a week. The cadaver was found the day before in the middle of a field, by a passerby who had been walking his dog.
The body on the table is not that of your usual victim, just like Howie is not your typical forensic pathologist. She is a veterinary pathologist, and on her table is a young peregrine falcon.
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Wildlife crime is not always taken seriously, despite the fact that wildlife trafficking is the fourth largest illegal industry worldwide, just after human, weapons and drug trafficking. In Europe, unlawful killing of wildlife and seizures of trafficked species rarely lead to arrests. The number of cases that end up in European courts appears to be even more limited, according to data from Oxpeckers, a non-profit organisation who specialise in investigative environmental journalism.
Part of the problem is that for a criminal case to successfully reach the prosecution stage, law enforcement needs to make a convincing case.