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Ivory DNA pinpoints poaching hot spots

Two African regions ID’d as centers of illegal trafficking

By
2:00pm, June 18, 2015
poachers stand over the body of an elephant

ILLEGAL IVORY  Poachers stand over the body of an elephant killed for its tusks. With a genetic analysis of seized ivory, researchers have pinpointed two major poaching hot spots in Africa.

Ivory poachers tend to hunt elephants in just a few key spots in Africa, a new genetic analysis shows.

The DNA signatures of smuggled tusks seized by law enforcement officials over the last 20 years finger central and southeastern Africa as hotbeds of organized ivory trafficking crime and corruption, scientists suggest online June 18 in Science.

Other evidence had pointed to these areas before, but the new work “shows a smoking gun,” says conservation scientist Fiona Maisels of the Wildlife Conservation Society in New York City. Identifying major poaching spots may help officials zero in on big ivory cartels, she says, and that could curtail elephant killings across Africa.

Decades of illegal ivory trading have whittled the population of African elephants down to about 400,000. In recent years, poachers have killed roughly 50,000 elephants annually. To figure out where to focus protection

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