Ele­phant-poach­ing hot spots iden­ti­fied

CityPress - - News - – Staff re­porter

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.

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