The Wildlife Detectives: How Forensic Scientists Fight Crimes Against Nature


Slaughtering elephants for their ivory; shooting bears for their gall bladders; capturing sea turtles for soup. In the name of vanity, fashion, and greed, man stalks and kills wild animals — and gets away with it, even when it is clearly against the law. But now scientists have a way to catch and convict poachers. In a laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, they analyze clues to link suspects to crimes. In words and pictures, this book tells a poignant...
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Slaughtering elephants for their ivory; shooting bears for their gall bladders; capturing sea turtles for soup. In the name of vanity, fashion, and greed, man stalks and kills wild animals — and gets away with it, even when it is clearly against the law. But now scientists have a way to catch and convict poachers. In a laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, they analyze clues to link suspects to crimes. In words and pictures, this book tells a poignant story and reveals how science can indeed save the day.

Describes how the wildlife detectives at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, analyze clues to catch and convict people responsible for crimes against animals.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Children's Literature
The true story of an elk killed in Yellowstone National Park in 1993 is the focus of this excellent information book about the development and work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Forensics Lab. The Lab staff includes wildlife detectives who recover evidence from a wildlife crime scene and apply their skills of analysis to fight crimes against animals. With outstanding photographs, the story of finding the poacher who takes the dead elk's rack is told sequentially and skillfully. The reader is absorbed in solving the crime and bringing the poacher to justice in this well-written account. Following each chapter is a "Wild File" which serves as sidebars offering additional information about endangered species, crimes against animals and animal crime lab work. It is commendable that the back matter includes a page on what the reader can do to help. If all information books were structured as well as this one, students would read and read and read. 2000, Houghton Mifflin Company, Ages 9 to 12, $16.00. Reviewer: Jacki Vawter
From The Critics
A fascinating introduction to how wildlife detectives solve crimes. In a unique laboratory in Oregon wildlife detectives analyze clues from bone fragments to bloodstains, while firearms experts match bullets to guns. Follow the case history of Charger, the elk slain in Yellowstone Park, and how the human responsible was identified and punished. Part of the "Scientists in the Field" series. 2000, Houghton Mifflin Children's Books, $16.00. Ages 10 to 12. Reviewer: S. Kleven SOURCE: Parent Council Volume 8
From The Critics
It's one thing to pass a law protecting endangered species; it's another to enforce it, as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers well know. Fortunately, they have a unique weapon in their anti-poaching arsenal: the world's only crime laboratory specifically designed to examine animal evidence. To show the lab in action, Jackson tracks an actual case, involving Charger, a popular, much-photographed Yellowstone Park elk who was killed one night for his magnificent antlers. Thanks to witnesses, expert detective work, and an anonymous tip, a suspect is soon tracked down—but it's up to the lab technicians, using DNA analysis and other methods, to prove indisputably that man, gun, dead animal and recovered antlers are linked. To a tale that has all the fascination of a police procedural, the author adds heartrending comments about the causes and effects of poaching, a survey of wildlife and endangered species legislation, and even a quick lesson on how to tell illegal elephant ivory from that legally harvested from frozen mammoths (hint: all you need is a protractor and a scanning electron microscope). The photographers add an array of sharply detailed wildlife portraits to shots of lab workers, and telling views of the artifacts and evidence they handle—one picture late in the book of Charger's body with the top of its head sawn off is potentially disturbing but not gratuitously so. This book present science as exciting, worthwhile work, and from many young readers will spark a "Hey, I could do that!" reaction. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, $16.00. Ages 10 to 13. Reviewer: John Peters — The Five Owls, September/October 2000 (Vol. 15 No. 1)
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-A fascinating look at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory where scientists work to solve crimes, such as poaching. The book focuses on a specific incident-the shooting of a bull elk in Yellowstone National Park-and follows the case step-by-step. Interspersed with the story about this killing are "Wild Files" that give further information about the lab, the scientists, and related topics such as endangered wildlife protection laws. These inserts, alternating with two-page spreads of text, contain lots of intriguing information but their placement is a drawback. Although the main story is compelling, its continuity is continuously broken. Otherwise, this is an enjoyable, informative volume with well-placed, clear photos that add interest. Offer it to fans of the author's The Bone Detectives (Little, Brown, 1996) and nature enthusiasts, who will appreciate this foray into an intriguing and little-known area of wildlife conservation work.-Arwen Marshall, formerly at New York Public Library Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Kirkus Reviews
Donna Jackson (The Bone Detectives, 1996) creates a riveting and thorough account of dedicated people banding together with the help of science and the law to catch an elk poacher. It begins the day before the elk, Charger, is shot in Yellowstone Park and takes the reader through almost two years of detective work more riveting then any television police drama. Jackson focuses on the almost miraculous feats of scientists in the only animal forensic lab in the world as they piece together clues, examining, for example, DNA samples and bullet casings. Those readers clamoring for justice will find satisfaction in the apprehension of the poacher who is punished with jail time and fines. Jackson does not skip lightly around the subject, so the story is often painful and jarring. The treatment is appropriate for children over ten, effectively eliciting an emotional reaction that is educational as well as motivational. Interspersed throughout the story are pages filled with facts about the law, science, poaching, and endangered species. Stunning color photographs from a renowned team graphically illustrate the pages, but do not overwhelm the text. The effect is that of a scrapbook of information with photos that enrich a real-life animal detective story. (ways to help, list of forensic terms) (Nonfiction. 8-10)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618196838
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/25/2002
  • Series: Scientists in the Field Series
  • Edition description: None
  • Pages: 48
  • Sales rank: 795,666
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 11.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna M. Jackson is an award-winning author of nonfiction books for children and holds a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her works include the critically acclaimed Elephant Scientists, Bone Detectives, Bug Scientists, and Wildlife Detectives—all honored by the NSTA/CBC’s Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children award; ER Vets , an Orbis Pictus and ASPCA Henry Bergh honor book; and Extreme Scientists, named a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, 2009.

When she’s not writing about scientists in the field, Donna enjoys reading, skiing, gardening, hiking in the mountains, and spending time with her family. She lives in Colorado. Learn more about Donna at her website:

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