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Edinburgh scientists to help tackle elephant poaching

Scottish scientists are using DNA techniques to help curb the illegal poaching of African elephants for their ivory.

A new initiative, which tracks slaughtered elephants using their genetic information will be launched in London on Thursday by Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba.

Representatives from more than 50 countries will attend the UK Government's Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference hosted by Prime Minister David Cameron and attended by the Prince of Wales.

Experts from the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) in Edinburgh have contributed to the project, which involves collecting bone and tissue fragments from elephant carcasses killed by poachers.

This allows scientists to create unique profiles that can be matched against poachers' blood-stained clothing or ivory recovered in Africa or Asia.

RZSS has been working alongside the UK-based TRACE Wildlife Forensic Network and the National Parks Agency of Gabon on the EU-funded initiative.

Elephant poaching is on the increase in Africa as demand for ivory increases in some Asian countries.

Statistics show that 96 elephants were killed everyday in 2012, and last year large scale ivory movements were 20% higher than in previous years.

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