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In Africa, Ivory Trafficking Controlled By a Powerful Few

The multi billion-dollar ivory trade is controlled by a small number of kingpins who are primarily trafficking tusks through the Kenyan port of Mombasa, according to an expert panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

In a June paper published in Science, University of Washington conservation biologist Samuel Wasser and his colleagues had compared DNA samples from African elephant populations with DNA extracted from seized elephant tusks between 1996 and 2014. Using this genetic analysis, the researchers found two primary poaching hotspots: one in East Africa (particularly Tanzania), and another in protected areas spanning parts of Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.

Since the study was published, Wasser analyzed another sample of seized tusks and found them to be freshly poached, moving rapidly from poaching sites to ports where they are smuggled abroad.

“Not only have we showed that the number of kingpins are fairly limited, because the hotspots are very few, but also we’re showing that there are probably one or two major dealers that are moving all of this ivory out of Mombasa,” Wasser said Sunday during the panel.

Read more about the panel via AFP/Hong Kong Free Press.