A Mammoth Achievement for King’s Scientists

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King’s College London have developed ivory fingerprinting testing techniques to help identify poachers.

Working with Metropolitan police and University College London, scientists have created a new powder that is able to lift fingerprints up to 28 days after they are deposited. Previous methods were largely ineffective on materials like teeth and bone due to its ridge-like surface.

The results, published in the Science and Justice journal, revealed that scientists testing three types of powder and found that the one containing the smallest particles was most effective in identifying individual fingerprints.

Poachers are thought to kill around 35,000 elephants a year, a species listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The development hopes to give police officers a better chance of catching wildlife poachers involved in the illegal trade. The ivory trade was banned in 1989, but the market still continues to thrive, particularly in areas of Asia.

The technique is shown to be applicable to sperm whale teeth, rhino ivory and hippo teeth.

Dr Leon Barron, a lecturer in foreign science at King’s, has said “This is the first time that fingerprinting on ivory has been thoroughly investigated and a practical solution offered”.

“Our study has shown for the first time that these newer powders could potentially be used for identifying poachers, and are especially suited to rangers working in the field” he added.

Last month Prince William called for an end to the ivory trade in his address to China’s President Xi Jinping. The Duke of Cambridge urged for Buckingham Palace’s 1,200 artefact ivory collection to be destroyed.