Focused Conservation’s DEES Program: Empowering Conservation Crime Investigators Worldwide

Focused Conservation, in partnership with the US Department of the Interior-International Technical Assistance Program and the US State Department-INL, recently delivered an in-person training session at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV, USA. This significant event brought together 13 participants from Peru, Colombia, Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, and South Africa, all members of the groundbreaking Digital Evidence Exploitation Specialist Program (DEES).

The DEES program is a unique, long-term initiative designed to provide advanced training and mentorship in digital forensics to conservation crime investigators. Under the guidance of Focused Conservation’s subject matter experts (SMEs), participants receive extensive training on identifying, seizing, extracting, and examining digital data. This data is crucial for wildlife crime intelligence operations and the criminal prosecution of illegal wildlife traffickers.

During the training session in the USA, participants covered a range of advanced topics, including:

  • Triaging and Imaging Digital Evidence
  • Apple/MAC Forensics
  • Expert Witness Courtroom Testimony
  • Advanced Mobile Device Forensics
  • Advanced Practical Exercises
  • Train the Trainer Presentations

These training modules are designed to ensure that DEES participants not only become experts in digital forensics but also have the skills to train others, leveraging Focused Conservation’s Train the Trainer model. This approach aims to amplify the program’s impact by creating a multiplier effect, where trained individuals pass on their knowledge to peers, thereby enhancing the overall capacity to combat wildlife crime.

The DEES program is a comprehensive, three-year initiative that provides continuous support, equipment upgrades, and mentoring. This initiative includes state-of-the-art training in cyber evidence seizure, extraction, examination, and reporting. Participants are provided with essential digital devices and software, ensuring they have the tools needed to perform their duties effectively. The program also offers ongoing guidance from experienced Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), who bring extensive experience as former wildlife crime investigators in handling digital evidence investigations related to nature and environmental crimes at the highest levels. Additionally, the DEES program emphasizes the implementation of industry-standard policies, procedures, and ethical practices, ensuring that all operations are conducted with the utmost integrity and professionalism.

Currently active in Colombia, Peru, Uganda, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Liberia, the DEES program plays a crucial role in strengthening conservation crime investigations and increasing the rate of successful prosecutions globally. By equipping investigators with cutting-edge skills and tools, Focused Conservation and its partners are making significant strides in the fight against illegal wildlife trafficking.

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