Radiocarbon dating of 'antique' ivory being sold in European countries reveals that many are not antique at all. By Megan Shersby. Ivory items bought from a range of countries in Europe have been tested by the environmental group Avaaz and exposed to be modern ivory. The ivory pieces were all advertised with either no date or predating , but more than 47 per cent were found to be from after this year. The date of is key as ivory is considered to be antique if it originates before then, and can be traded. A sample of ivory items were bought via antique dealers and private sellers, and then dated at the University of Oxford, to test the statements from European officials that there is no evidence of the legal ivory trade providing cover for illegal ivory.
Scientists deploy DNA analysis and radiocarbon dating in latest salvo against ivory trafficking
Japan's new rules for curbing ivory trade won't work, many experts say
The sale of ivory across international boundaries has been banned since , when the African elephant was listed among species prohibited for commercial trade, but the precious commodity still manages to find its way to buyers in Asia, Europe, and North America. The United States buys more retail ivory than any country except China. Until , it allowed the import and domestic trade of antiques and ivory from elephants killed before the listing. Sifting the legal from the illegal has proved difficult. One study found that most items sold were antiques and that a high proportion of seizures in the U.
Age and legality of ivory revealed by carbon-14 dating can fight poachers
University of Utah researchers developed a new weapon to fight poachers who kill elephants, hippos, rhinos and other wildlife. By measuring radioactive carbon deposited in tusks and teeth by open-air nuclear bomb tests, the method reveals the year an animal died, and thus whether the ivory was taken illegally. It was published online the week of July 1 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Not only can the method help wildlife forensics to combat poaching, but "we've shown that you can use the signature in animal tissues left over from nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere to study modern ecology and help us learn about fossil animals and how they lived," says Cerling, a distinguished professor of geology and geophysics, and biology at the University of Utah. The method uses the "bomb curve," which is a graph — shaped roughly like an inverted "V" — showing changes in carbon levels in the atmosphere — and thus absorbed by plants and animals in the food chain.
Japan will tighten controls on its internationally maligned ivory market in July, requiring dealers to prove via carbon dating that specimens were legally obtained, the Environment Ministry said Friday. In , international ivory trading was banned in principle under the Washington Convention, officially known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. However, ivory that remains in its original form and that was obtained prior to the convention taking effect is permitted to be traded in Japan after it is registered with the Japan Wildlife Research Center. Individuals who wish to trade ivory in the country will now have to report how it was acquired, while providing third-party testimony on its provenance. Carbon dating to show the age of ivory will become an absolute prerequisite from July 1, making ivory obtained from recent poaching impossible to register and sell, the ministry said.