DNA trail nails ivory cache

Published: Saturday 31 March 2007

A trail of dna has helped investigators trace the biggest ever consignment of contraband ivory seized in Singapore in June 2002 to Savannah elephants in Zambia. Scientists extracted dna from 37 tusks recovered from the shipment and compared this data with a continent-wide map showing genetic differences and similarities between African elephants.

The results showed that the ivory came from Savannah elephants in a small region of southern Africa, with Zambia being the focus.

Details of the investigation has appeared in the recent online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal.The research team led by Samuel Wasser of the Center for Conservation Biology in Seattle, Washington, usa, is now working with international law-enforcement authorities and hopes the method will pinpoint the origins of ivory consignments and can help efforts against poaching.

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