From: International Fund for Animal Welfare
Published September 29, 2004 01:45 PM

DNA Testing Used for First Time on Elephant Ivory

Law Enforcement Officials Turning to Forensic Science to Fight Growing and Sophisticated Wildlife Smuggling Syndicates (Bangkok, Thailand - 27 September 2004) - IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) announced today that for the first time ever DNA testing is being used on elephant ivory to help fight the illegal ivory trade. High-tech crime-fighting techniques, such as DNA testing, are increasingly used to investigate wildlife crime, a sophisticated, global black market that is estimated at billions of dollars (U.S.) annually. Wildlife crime - the illegal buying and selling of endangered animals and animal products - is a growing problem that is driving animals like elephants, tigers and great apes toward extinction.


IFAW is working with the Lusaka Agreement Task Force (LATF) on its investigation into a seizure of 6.5 metric tons of illegal ivory. In 2002, the haul was seized by officials in Singapore and remains the single largest seizure of illegal ivory since the trade was banned by the U.N. Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1989.


Scientists from Africa and North America are also cooperating on the ivory investigation and hope that by using modern techniques, such as DNA analysis and forensics technology, they can identify which populations of African elephants the ivory has come from. Not only will this assist with the criminal investigation, but this information will also help conservation groups, such as IFAW, to identify which elephant populations are being targeted and threatened by poachers to feed the demand for illegal ivory.


Information gathered by LATF through traditional investigative procedures, has already led to several arrests, and indicates the consignment was packed in Malawi and moved through South Africa before the interception in Singapore. LATF has been working closely with the Zambia Wildlife Authority, Anti-Corruption Bureau of Malawi, Interpol, World Customs and others in the investigations.


"LATF hails all cooperating parties in this endeavor including IFAW for their invaluable contribution to the investigations and examination of this ivory. The investigation is a big challenge, as it will require unearthing and exposing all the players in the syndicate. The outcome of the investigation is intended to facilitate the prosecution of the perpetrators of this crime, whoever they may be, and formulate strategies to pre-empt recurrence of similar crimes," said Emily Kisamo, LATF Director.


Both the African and Asian elephant are listed as endangered and their populations continue to decline worldwide.


Wildlife crime - the buying and selling of endangered animals and animal products - is a growing problem that is driving animals like elephants, tigers and great apes toward extinction.


About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)


Founded in 1969, IFAW works to protect animals and their habitats. With offices in 15 countries around the world, IFAW works to protect whales, elephants, great apes, big cats, dogs and cats, seals, and other animals. To learn how to help animals, please visit www.ifaw.org.


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