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Save the Elephants: Most Ivory For Sale Comes From Recent Poaching

Nov 08, 2016 04:40 AM EST

Researchers discover just how widespread poaching still is as they found that most ivory in the black market come from elephants killed less than three years ago. 

According to a report from Los Angeles Times, although the elephant population is in rapid decline, the demand for their tusks aren't ceasing. In fact, killing these majestic animals for ivory have been continuing with hardly any disturbance.

In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers studied 231 samples of ivory that were confiscated between 2002 and 2014. Specifically, they analyzed the carbon-14 in the pulp cavity, which would reveal the last two or three months of growth before the death of the animal.

They found that about 90 percent of the collected ivory came from elephants that died less than three years before the confiscation by the government. Only one out of the 231 samples had a lag time of over six years.

"That means all of the ivory that's being seized by customs is [from] very recently killed elephants," lead author Thure Cerling said in the Los Angeles Times report. "So indeed, the crisis is severe if we're going to preserve this species on our planet."

A report from Smithsonian Magazine pointed out that there was a recent spike in elephant deaths. The creatures' population in savannahs dipped by 30 percent in the last seven years, while the ones living in the forests saw their numbers drop by a devastating 62 percent in the decade between 2002 and 2013. The recent study strongly supports the link between the loss of elephant lives and the thriving ivory trade.

Elizabeth Bennett, vice president of species conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Society, explained that it's important that countries around the world become more committed in shutting down ivory trade. She said, "If all domestic markets globally were illegal, it would be much more difficult to sell the newly poached ivory. And without a ready market, the incentives to poach and traffic are reduced or removed."  

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