Anonim

The fusion of the Siberian permafrost linked to climate change is bringing to light the remains of prehistoric megafauna: the tusks of the woolly mammoths have for some time been at the center of a new - by daylight saving time - treats of ivory. There are conflicting opinions on this type of trade, but based on genetic analyzes performed on some ivory objects sold in Cambodia, it may have spread much more quickly than expected.

To combat the illegal trafficking of elephant tusks, it is important to reconstruct the route of the smuggled ivory from the animal to the seller as accurately as possible. For this reason, the Cambodian authorities (one of the most widespread countries in the ivory trade) are collaborating with researchers from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland to collect samples of hunting trophies sold in local markets and analyze their DNA, so as to establish the origin.

Infiltrate by surprise. As expected, most of the ivory confiscated for analysis was of African origin: between 2007 and 2014, a third of the continent's elephants (approximately 144, 000 specimens) disappeared due to poaching. But if all this was sadly suspicious, the researchers were stunned when they realized that some confiscated charms had been made from a fang of 10 thousand years ago. For scientists, finding the Siberian mammoth ivory in a tropical country like Cambodia, and above all discovering it practically at the beginning of the tests, was a shock: it means that the product is much more widespread than previously thought.

Mix the cards. To an inexperienced eye, the ivory of a woolly mammoth is practically indistinguishable from that of the modern pachyderms. This is why countries like China consider the new trade an "ethical" alternative to smuggling ivory. In fact, the woolly mammoths have already died and spread in quantity in the frozen soil (there could be 150 million in the northern permafrost). On the other hand, however, the fact that their sale is legal causes them to be used to camouflage elephant ivory, with which they are easily confused. Not to mention that the mammoth tusks would be a valuable study object for paleontologists.

In short, it is always better to take ivory from frozen beasts than from live animals, but as long as poaching remains a widespread scourge, it is impossible to determine whether this alternative trade is helping or complicating investigations into the smuggling of elephant tusks.