Tuesday, March 3, 2015

DNA Barcoding of elephant tusks

TORONTO, March 2, 2015 /CNW Telbec/ - Toronto-based Five Star Auctions and Appraisals, and its Director, Mrs. Chun Al JIN, pleaded guilty on February 27, 2015, to charges under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). The company and its Director were fined $9,375 each for a total penalty of $18,750 and ordered to forfeit two elephant ivory tusks to authorities.

In November 2013, Environment Canada enforcement officers ceased two carved elephant ivory tusks which were being offered for sale by a Toronto-based auction house. Our institute received samples of both tusks to help with the verification of the species identity. The specimens were subsampled using sterile bone drilling techniques. Our lab subsequently sequenced COI DNA Barcodes for each of them and the colleagues were able to confirm that both tusks are from African forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis). 

This find confirmed that the auction house was in possession of elephant ivory for the purpose of offering it for sale which is illegal unless it can be established that the animal was taken from the wild before July 3, 1975, or that the elephant ivory was legally imported into Canada.

Environment Canada went ahead and used radiocarbon dating technology to establish that the tusks were from animals killed in 1977 and 1978 which ultimately led to the convictions. 

This case represents a few firsts for the scientific and law enforcement community. It is the first time that DNA Barcoding and radiocarbon dating were used to obtain a conviction under wildlife law in Canada.

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