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Last on

Wed 5 Aug 2009 21:00 BBC Radio 4

30 minutes
First broadcast:
Wednesday 05 August 2009

Andrew Luck-Baker asks how science can stop the new upsurge in the slaughter of African elephants for the booming illegal international trade in ivory.

20 years ago the African elephant was being fast-tracked to extinction by poaching. In response, the world voted to outlaw the international trade in ivory. Since then, elephant numbers in many countries have been recovering. But in the last five years, ivory poaching and trafficking have surged once more.

One group of conservation scientists has calculated that 38,000 animals every year are being slaughtered to feed the demand for ivory products in East Asia. If that poaching rate is correct and sustained, the African elephant will be effectively extinct within 15 years.

Some other elephant experts argue the slaughter rate is not as high as this but are still alarmed at the steep increase in poaching in many African countries.

Andrew Luck-Baker visits Kenya, one of the countries where some believe elephant poaching is accelerating out of control. He also talks to the scientist behind an ivory DNA test which is helping the fight against the organised crime syndicates behind the illegal trade.


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