New Technology For Anti-Poaching

Seized ivory tusks before being destroyed at a waste management center in Port Dickson, Malaysia, in 2019. Mohd Rasfan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Poaching has a puzzling array of culprits as well as victims, and many possible solutions. I have thought over the years that the Tiger Trail approach was replicable for this purpose. But genetic technology might scale more effectively. And with climate change overshadowing other crises, you might think this topic is past its prime, so read the comments section at the end of this article. Thanks to Catherine M. Allchin (how did we miss her prior work?) for this story, and please click through to read it in the New York Times:

It Helped Catch Serial Killers. Can It Stop Elephant and Wildlife Poachers, Too?

Scientists used a genetic investigation technique with the aim of helping turn the tide against illicit hauls of ivory and other animal parts.

Cambodian law enforcement officials received a tip from investigators in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. At the freight terminal in Phnom Penh, a cargo container — supposedly carrying legally harvested wood from an African country — was unloaded for inspection. The officials pried open large logs and discovered more than a ton of illegal elephant ivory and other animal parts, hidden in paraffin in the hollowed-out wood.

This haul, recovered about five years ago, was just a small fraction of the 500 tons of raw ivory shipped out of Africa each year, destined for illegal markets in China and Southeast Asia.

Nothing can bring back the elephants that were killed for their tusks. But a genetic investigation technique, familial searching, could help turn the tide against illicit hauls of elephant parts and other wildlife like the batch in Phnom Penh. Researchers detailed in the journal Nature Human Behaviour on Monday how they used the tool to link hundreds of individual tusks recovered from dozens of large shipments of illegal ivory, providing detailed information about how and where global crime networks operate.

While the technique has been used in many recent human criminal cases, Sam Wasser, a conservation biologist at the University of Washington and an author of the paper, said this was the first time it had been applied to animals and to global environmental crime.

Read the whole story here.

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