The multi billion-dollar ivory trade is controlled by a small number of kingpins who are moving tusks through the Kenyan port of Mombasa, according to an expert panel at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
In a June paper published in the journal Science, University of Washington conservation biologist Samuel Wasser and his colleagues compared DNA samples from African elephant populations with samples extracted from elephant tusks seized between 1996 and 2014. From this genetic analysis, they found two primary poaching hotspots in the continent: one East Africa (particularly Tanzania) and another in protected areas spanning parts of Cameroon, Gabon and the Republic of Congo.
Since the study was published, Wasser analyzed another sample of seized tusks found to be freshly poached, moving rapidly from poaching sites to seaports where they are smuggled.
“Not only have we showed that the number of kingpins are fairly limited, because the hotspots are very few, but also we’re showing that there are probably one or two major dealers that are moving all of this ivory out of Mombasa,” Wasser said during the panel.
Read more about the panel via AFP/Hong Kong Free Press.