Ivory collected decades ago continues to surface in raids.

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By Creative Media News

Scientists report that confiscated ivory from elephants slaughtered more than three decades ago has been discovered in recent operations.

Burundi’s officials took the tusks from poachers and stored them in locked containers.

In this investigation, DNA and carbon dating techniques were utilized to demonstrate that some of the stored material is now in the possession of smugglers.

According to the authors, seizures should be destroyed rather than kept.

Ivory collected decades ago continues to surface in raids.
Ivory collected decades ago continues to surface in raids.

Between 2007 and 2016, around 100,000 African elephants were murdered for their tusks.

The study analyzed samples from four significant seizures made by law enforcement officers from 2017 to 2019.

Using tools to measure the presence of a carbon-14 isotope, the researchers determined that the majority of the captured ivory originated from elephants slain within the previous three years.

Ivory seized
Ivory collected decades ago continues to surface in raids.

However, the majority of ivory from one seizure originated from elephants murdered more than three decades ago.

The markings on these tusks showed they originated from a supposedly secure stockpile kept by the Burundi government.

Burundi, one of the world’s poorest countries, has prohibited the ivory trade since 1987. In 2004, scientists from Traffic International, an organization that specializes in wildlife trafficking, analyzed the nearly 84-ton cache of 15,000 ivory tusks. The seven crates with ivory were then sealed with customs seals.

Nonetheless, since 2015, several seizures in various regions of the world have shown Burundi as the country of origin.

According to scientists, until recently the government stated that its storage facilities are secure.

Prof. Samuel Wasser from the University of Washington, a specialist in conservation biology and co-author of this new study, stated that these containers must be reopened and the stock stored there must be retested.

“Since the government also claims that the weights of these containers have not altered, does this imply that they are smuggling out ivory and then replacing it with new ivory?”

“Well, if that’s the case, that’s awful,” he told.

The new research highlights the reality that many African nations continue to maintain ivory stockpiles that they have seized since the ivory trade became prohibited.

Given that international accords restrict the selling of ivory recovered through poaching, several experts question why they are choosing to do this rather than destroying the stocks.

Additionally, stocks are susceptible to theft, as occurred in Mozambique in 2016.

Researchers have also uncovered evidence of seized ivory returning to the black market through dubious means.

Prof. Wasser added, “When we sample these seized tusks, we remove a small square from the bottom, and at least one seizure revealed that our squares had been removed, indicating that this ivory had been previously studied and was now being re-smuggled.”

Other parties, however, argue that stocks may be properly maintained for research, instructional, or identifying purposes.

The Elephant Protection Initiative (EPI) is now assisting 15 African nations in securing their ivory stocks, as well as assisting others in destroying their ivory stocks.

John Scanlon, from the EPI, stated, “Ivory has little commercial value, and this is not going to change.”

It is up to each nation to determine the appropriate course of action for itself, and each nation will be directed by its domestic concerns.

“If information is stored, it must be done so safely and reported. If it is destroyed, it must be accounted for, and forensic samples must be collected to determine the origin of the ivory.”

In the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the research has been published.

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