Elephant tusk DNA helps track poachers

Dr Sam Wasser cuts an ivory sample for DNA analysis. Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said earlier this year it is working with US experts to track down the source of some 3,500kg of illegal ivory worth about US$2.5 million (S$3.4 milli
Dr Sam Wasser cuts an ivory sample for DNA analysis. Singapore's Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority said earlier this year it is working with US experts to track down the source of some 3,500kg of illegal ivory worth about US$2.5 million (S$3.4 million) shipped from Nigeria.PHOTOS: AGRI-FOOD AND VETERINARY AUTHORITY
Some 3,500kg of illegal ivory was seized in Singapore in March after it was shipped from Nigeria, en route to Vietnam.
Some 3,500kg of illegal ivory was seized in Singapore in March after it was shipped from Nigeria, en route to Vietnam.PHOTOS: AGRI-FOOD AND VETERINARY AUTHORITY

US scientists use genetic map of elephants to identify origin of confiscated ivory tusks

Poachers are killing 40,000 elephants a year, and with a global elephant population of just 400,000, it doesn't take a mathematician to figure out that there is an urgent need to stop the killing.

But it's hard to catch poachers in the act. They operate over a wide area, move just a few elephant tusks at a time and once their ivory contraband reaches a major port, it can be easily hidden among other goods, said Dr Samuel Wasser, director of the Centre for Conservation Biology at the University of Washington.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 27, 2018, with the headline 'Elephant tusk DNA helps track poachers'. Print Edition | Subscribe