Traffickers will go to any lengths to smuggle elephant ivory out of Africa. And if it is detected, they often produce papers claiming the ivory is actually from hippos, warthogs, or just plastic. Once a colossal tusk is processed into small pieces for transportation, it becomes exceptionally hard to identify.
Right now, in Malawi, work is underway equipping the country’s first-ever forensics lab for DNA analysis of wildlife. With funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network (a non-profit based in Edinburgh) is working to get the lab up and running and ensure the skills are in place to run it. This will mean that a seized sample can be sent to the lab to find out whether it is synthetic or biological and what species it is from. The analysis can even indicate whether a sample is from an elephant population in Malawi or has been smuggled from further afield.
As a result of this support, Malawian scientists at the country’s Central Veterinary Laboratory Wildlife are extracting and amplifying wildlife DNA for the first time – a key step on the way to establishing a forensic casework lab. The lab will not only help detect smuggled ivory but also provide essential forensic evidence to prosecute traffickers.
Read more here: https://www.traffic.org/news/trace-wildlife-forensics-network-brings-wildlife-dna-analysis-to-malawi/