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Ivory is a valuable commodity on the black market, encouraging the killing of elephants for their tusks. Poaching has many costs to local communities, including a high human toll, as armed poachers kill not just the endangered animals but also anyone standing in their way.
One major hurdle to being able to stop the slaughter of elephants is that poaching patterns can be complex and difficult to pin down as major ivory seizures can contain tusks from different areas. But much like detectives use DNA from a crime scene to identify potential suspects from a genetic database, wildlife investigators are now using genetic fingerprinting to figure out where elephant poaching is happening. This audio feature examines how mapping slight differences in the DNA of elephant groups all over Africa is helping investigators detect poaching hotspots and protect the mammals from the ivory trade.