DNA testing has enabled scientists to pinpoint elephant poaching hotspots. Now, the authorities will know which areas are in need of special surveillance.
Poaching is one of the main factors that contribute to the dramatic plummet observed among elephants at the moment. And the situation has reached an alarming point, as elephants face extinction if serious measures are not taken to ensure their protection.
Presently, it is estimated that only 500,000 elephants are left worldwide, and that is an extremely low figure. But considering that about 50,000 elephants are brutally killed by poachers annually, taking serious action against this practice becomes absolutely necessary, as it has the potential to bring the moment of elephant extinction much closer.
A major breakthrough in the fight against poachers has been recently achieved by scientists, who have managed to identify the location of the two main poaching sites by conducting DNA testing.
They have used an impressive amount of ivory that has been confiscated by the authorities in order to study their DNA patterns. Then, they have crosschecked the results with DNA extracted from live elephants, in order to identify the origin of the ivory and complete an actual poaching map.
The DNA from the live elephants has been extracted from feces samples that the scientists have collected. By using this type of sample, they have been able to collect a large amount of them and therefore, to build an extensive database that would lead them to the location of the ivory.
And it seems that there are two main poaching hotspots. The results of the extensive DNA testing reveal that more than 85% of the ivory that is obtained from savannah elephants comes from to Gabon, Cameroon. As for the ivory that comes from forest elephants, it seems that 85% of it comes from Mozambique and Tanzania, and even more specifically, from two separate natural reserves.
This is a great step forward in the fight against poaching, because it reveals to the authorities where it should concentrate its resources, in order to reduce the poaching rates considerably. Henceforth, surveillance and control in the regions of Cameroon, Tanzania and Mozambique that have been declared poaching areas will be significantly enhances, all in the hope of limiting poaching practices.
This extensive research has been conducted at the University of Washington, by research professor Sam Wasser and his team of scientists. His work will constitute a great advancement for law enforcement, as it will permit the implementation of entirely new strategies.
“By being able to say that these came from just a couple of areas means that we can target those areas much more efficiently with law enforcement”, said Professor Wasser.
Hopefully, his work will permit the authorities to identify the pawns of the poaching industry and prohibit them from continuing to kill so many elephants. Other scientists have described the severe necessity of imposing penitence on those who are revealed to own ivory, as those who supply the demand for this product greatly contribute to the perpetuation of the practice.
The combined effort of these two measures in a alert and aggressive manner has the potential to lead the poaching industry towards extinction, rather than the elephants.
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