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Tracing an International Crime Ring Shipping Ivory from Africa

African elephants have drastically dwindled as targets of the illegal ivory trade, but the DNA contained within their tusks is pointing to the very criminal networks that poached them. Researchers used genetic testing on ivory shipments seized by law enforcement and were able to trace the international crime ring shipping the ivory from Africa. The team tested more than 4,000 elephant tusks from 49 different seizures, made between 2002 and 2019, across 12 different African countries. The findings published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behaviour. The study establishes familial connections between the elephants that are being poached for their ivory tusks and reveals the poaching and shipping practices and interconnectedness of the traffickers. This kind of DNA detective work can expose the tactics employed by transnational criminal organizations, believes the research team, comprised of scientists and US Department of Homeland Security special agents. These illicit organizations have operated out of Africa for decades, leading to the heavy decline of thousands of elephants in recent years, according to the study.