Elephant-poaching hot spots identified
Scientists have pinpointed elephantpoaching areas in a move they hope will increase international pressure to stop the killing of the pachyderms. Most illegally poached African elephant ivory can be traced back to just two areas in Africa, the research shows – Tanzania and nearby parts of Mozambique, as well as the Tridom, which spans parts of Gabon, the Republic of Congo and Cameroon.
About 50 000 elephants are thought to be poached a year. The African elephant population is estimated at 500 000, according to the BBC. Scientists matched the DNA fingerprint of seized ivory to DNA profiles from the dung of elephants living throughout the continent.
The paper was published in top journal Science.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora banned the international trade in ivory in 1989, but poaching is driving the elephant to extinction.
Dr Samuel Wasser, a conservation biologist from the University of Washington and lead researcher on the paper, said: “The source populations are where it all starts, and to be able to focus on the source populations, especially the major source populations, is very effective at trying to target these killings.”
He said his team focused on 28 seizures made between 1996 and 2014.
“We analyse large animal seizures that are more than half a ton in weight, and that’s important because these large seizures represent about 70% of all ivory smuggled,” Wasser said. “They reflect the involvement of large transnational organised crime syndicates.”
A comparison of the DNA fingerprints in the seized ivory to their geographical map of elephant DNA enabled them to pinpoint the sites of this mass animal slaughter.
The results were astonishing, showing that most animals were poached in Tanzania, followed by the Tridom.