Elephant poaching for ivory is now at "critically high levels," according to an announcement from the U.N. Office for Drugs and Crime. A report says that poaching, heightened by involvement by organized crime groups, could lead to elephant extinction in parts of Africa.
"Wildlife crime is a serious and growing problem worldwide," said the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime.
In response to the threat, the U.N. released a document titled "Guidelines on methods and procedures for ivory sampling and laboratory analysis" this week. Compiled by ivory experts around the world, the guide offers ways for investigators, law enforcement officials, forensic scientists and prosecutors to use forensic technology to combat elephant poaching.
Forensic technology has been used for years to track ivory's origins. DNA profiling from seized ivory can even be traced back to the location in Africa where it was taken and the specific subpopulation that elephant belonged to. Testing ivory is expensive, though, and not always employed after a seizure. But at a CITES meeting in 2013, it was agreed that all authorities who made a seizure over 1,100 pounds would have to submit samples of the ivory for DNA analysis. The move was aimed at exposing wildlife trafficking syndicates and targeting the areas where they poach. Writes wildlife conservationist Laurel Neme in National Geographic: