Investigating the origins of ivory recovered in the United Kingdom

Catherine Hale , Rob Ogden, Sherryn A. Ciavaglia, Gordon T. Cook, Guy Clarke, Sharron Ogle, Lucy M I Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Over recent years, mounting pressure has been placed on countries to assess their role in the ivory trade, with a view to tackling the rapidly declining numbers of elephants, due to poaching. The United Kingdom has been identified as a large re-exporter of ivory. Despite much of this trade being reported as legal or antique ivory, such provision of ivory to meet demand is known to fuel illegal markets and provide trade routes for modern ivory sales. Aside from ivory species and age, further analysis to evaluate geographic provenance, can inform where an elephant had lived, and so identify a source region or population where poaching occurred. The purpose of this study was to determine the age and species of ivory objects surrendered or seized in the UK and assess their likely geographic provenance through comparison of results from mitochondrial DNA and stable isotope analysis to publicly accessible georeferenced African elephant databases. The results demonstrated that the objects tested from an airport seizure were modern and matched existing haplotypes allowing for regional geographic inferences (supported by both techniques) to be obtained for most of these objects. In contrast, antique and modern ivory was detected amongst the amnesty objects, and several new mtDNA haplotypes were identified. Regional geographic inferences were achieved for some but not all of the objects tested. Our findings show this combination of methods provides a wealth of information which, could provide insight into targeted elephant populations and assist in disrupting international wildlife trade networks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number100027
JournalForensic Science International: Animals and Environments
Early online date1 Nov 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Nov 2021


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