Scientists reveal new way to track illegal ivory
WASHINGTON (AFP) - Wildlife crime investigators hope to crack down on illegal elephant killing with a new tool for analysing ivory that uses nuclear test residue to determine the age of a tusk, said a study out on Monday.
Tens of thousands of elephants are hunted for their ivory each year. As few as 470,000 African elephants remain, making them a vulnerable species while the Asian elephant is endangered and may number about 30,000, experts say.
Despite international agreements that ban most raw ivory trade from Asian elephants after 1975 and African elephants after 1989, the slaughter continues in large part because police lack the means to tell the age of the ivory.
"We've developed a tool that allows us to determine the age of a tusk or piece of ivory, and this tells us whether it was acquired legally," said Dr Kevin Uno, lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.