DNA could help combat elephant poaching

Posted by Laura Grant on August 5, 2008
Posted in Conservation

Seized tusks. Photograph W Clark

Africa’s elephants are being slaughtered for their ivory at such an alarming rate that most remaining large groups will be extinct by 2020, says Samuel Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington. Yet the public is unaware of the seriousness of the situation, he says.

Wasser’s lab has developed DNA tools that allow ivory to be traced back to the elephant population from which it came.

According to a UW news report, Wasser’s team found using DNA tracking that 6.5 tons of ivory shipped from Malawi and seized in Singapore in 2002, actually came originally from an area centered on Zambia. A 2006 shipment of 3.9 tons seized in Hong Kong had been sent from Cameroon, but DNA forensics showed it came from an area centered on Gabon.

Wasser says that DNA evidence gathered from recent major ivory seizures shows conclusively that hunters are targeting specific herds. This means that law enforcement can be focused on poaching hot spots. But that will only happen if there is sufficient public pressure to marshal funding for a much larger international effort to halt the poaching, says Wasser.

The illegal ivory trade is being carried out mostly by large crime syndicates, Wasser believes, and is being driven by growing markets in China and Japan, where ivory is in demand for carvings and signature stamps called hankos. Demand has also risen sharply in the United States in recent years, where it is used to make knife handles and gun grips.

See also Science Now Daily News

Via :: Science Daily


One Response to “DNA could help combat elephant poaching”

  1. esvl
    August 9th, 2008 @ 2:23 pm

    Elephants are the most beautiful animals on the planet. I wish there was a way bloggers could stand together and help save them.
    Its sad.

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