Activists Hope to Fight Poaching —With Nukes
New test can pinpoint year of elephant's death
By Rob Quinn, Newser Staff
Posted Jul 2, 2013 3:46 AM CDT
Updated Jul 2, 2013 6:02 AM CDT
A Thai customs official displays seized elephant tusks smuggled into Thailand from Kenya.   (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)

(Newser) – As the slaughter of elephants for their ivory continues at its worst rate in decades, conservationists have enlisted an unlikely new weapon in the fight against poaching: Cold War-era nuclear bombs. Scientists have found that radioactive carbon left over from above-ground nuclear tests carried out between 1952 and 1962 makes it possible to determine the year of an animal's death and distinguish legal from illegal ivory, the BBC reports. Radiocarbon levels started to drop when tests were shifted to below ground.

The technique "would dovetail very nicely with DNA testing, which tells you the region of origin, but not the date," says the lead researcher, who hopes to win support for a plan to use radiocarbon testing to target poaching hotspots. "Saving elephants—majestic and wonderful species—is priceless," he says. "These wildlife forensics are ready to roll, now we need to speak to the organizations who can set up a program to make it happen."

View 2 more images
More From Newser
My Take on This Story
To report an error on this story,
notify our editors.
How Nuclear Bombs Can Help Stop Poaching is...
Show results without voting
You Might Like
Showing 3 of 12 comments
Jul 5, 2013 1:56 PM CDT
Exterminate the poachers from which this culprit culture breeds!
Jul 2, 2013 11:21 PM CDT
"Nukes" are not realistic. Use drones... Read below: The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society — the environmental organization defending whales against asshole Japanese whalers on "researcher" cosplay — have a powerful new weapon: unmanned aerial vehicles. They have located a Japanese whaling fleet 1,000 miles north of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary using a drone. The good news is that one of their new drones has intercepted the fleet before any captures. Sea Shepherd ship Steve Irwin is now on course to intercept the Japanese fleet. Captain Paul Watson says that they now have an advantage they never had before: "Eyes in the sky. We can cover hundreds of miles with these drones and they have proven to be valuable assets.'' According to Sea Shepherd's Jeff Hansen, "right now we've deployed a drone which has gone up and taken aerial surveillance which has located the factory vessel, but we've also picked up three harpoon ships on our tail and security vessels but that's not going to deter us in our mission." Last year Sea Shepherd ships blocked the Japanese whalers saving 858 whales out of 1,035—the number of whales the Japanese had planned to hunt down. It's too bad they don't have Predators carrying torpedeos or some AGM-65 Mavericks. That would save a lot of fuel and provide with some nice underwater environments. Heck, give me an old Avenger and I will do the grunt job myself.
Jul 2, 2013 4:48 PM CDT
Vlad has a great idea. Why burn the ivory when you could finance better protection with the proceeds from selling it. The danger would be that the protectors would become corrupted and their job would become more important than protecting the elephants and rinos. However, burning the ivory cannot possibly the best choice.