Student project bites back at big cat crime

A Staffordshire University student has teamed up with zoos across the UK to help combat wildlife crime

Federica Brandimarte in a lab in the Science Building

Federica moved from Italy to study Forensic Investigation at Staffordshire University

In future, I would like my research to be used to lower cases of wildlife crimes committed against these animals which are currently endangered and at high risk of extinction by simply trying to find hair samples on the crime scene.

Federica Brandimarte, BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation

Born and raised in Italy, Federica Brandimarte never had the opportunity to take practical science lessons at school and chose to study BSc (Hons) Forensic Investigation at Staffordshire University to get hands-on experience in the lab.

She said: “I’ve always wanted to do something related to forensics. The fact that the UK and especially Staffs provided such a great course in Forensic Investigation made me want to follow my dream, move to a different country and start this new experience.”

During her degree, animal lover Federica investigated how microscopic hair analysis can be used to address the illegal wildlife trade.

She explained: “Wildlife crime is a current and global problem. Many species of big cats are threatened by wildlife trafficking due to the exotic pet trade and also demand for their teeth, claws, bones, fur and skins.

“For this reason, hair present on a wildlife crime scene can be used to tell if a particular species has been present. But currently, investigators are unable to tell the difference between hair from different big cat species.”

For Federica’s final year project, handlers at six zoos across the UK collected samples from 32 different animals - including jaguars, leopards, cheetahs, lions and tigers - and she created a database of unique characteristics to help identify hair from each species.

“In future, I would like my research to be used to lower cases of wildlife crimes committed against these animals which are currently endangered and at high risk of extinction by simply trying to find hair samples on the crime scene.”

During her studies, Federica found a home from home in Stoke-on-Trent and after finishing her course this summer she hopes to return to the UK to complete a master’s degree.

“I was welcomed at Staffs in a very kind and friendly way. Living in Stoke-on-Trent has been amazing, especially because I managed to make new friends not just from my course and the university but also outside my course and the university.

“The lecturers and my tutors have been absolutely amazing they’ve supported me over the last three years and I’m very grateful to them for that reason. This course was definitely worth the time and energy because it has taught me so many things.”

Find out if you are eligible for an offer through Clearing by using our offer calculator, have a ‘live chat’ with Clearing experts at http://www.staffs.ac.uk/clearing/ or call our Clearing hotline on 0800 590 830.

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