Combating transnational organized crime by linking multiple large ivory seizures to the same dealer

Sep 19, 2018 | Studies

  1. Samuel K. Wasser1,*
  2. Amy Torkelson1
  3. Misa Winters1
  4. Yves Horeaux1
  5. Sean Tucker1
  6. Moses Y. Otiende2
  7. Frankie A.T. Sitam3


Rapid growth in world trade has enabled transnational criminal networks to conceal their contraband among the 1 billion containers shipped worldwide annually. Forensic methods are needed to identify the major cartels moving the contraband into transit. We combine DNA-based sample matching and geographic assignment of tusks to show that the two tusks from the same elephant are often shipped by the same trafficker in separate large consignments of ivory. The paired shipments occur close in time from the same initial place of export and have high overlap in the geographic origins of their tusks. Collectively, these paired shipments form a linked chain that reflects the sizes, interconnectedness, and places of operation of Africa’s largest ivory smuggling cartels.

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