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Study using isotope data co-authored by Sam Wasser strengthens suspicions of ivory stockpile theft

Thursday, October 20, 2022 - 13:00

UW News posted a press release about new research showing that a stockpile of ivory, which was once thought secure from illegal ivory smuggling networks, is actually not secure.

In January 2019, a seizure of 3.3 tons of ivory in Uganda turned up something surprising: markings on some of the tusks suggested that they may have been taken from a stockpile of ivory kept, it was thought, strictly under lock and key by the government of Burundi.

A study co-authored by Sam Wasser, a University of Washington professor of biology and co-executive director of the Center for Environmental Forensic Science, used carbon isotope science to show that the marked tusks were more than 30 years old and somehow had found their way from the guarded government stockpile into the hands of illegal ivory traders. The team, led by Thure Cerling, a professor at the University of Utah, published its results Oct. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their findings suggest that governments that maintain ivory stockpiles may want to take a closer look at their inventory.

Read the full story on UW News.

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