News Stories

Horror of Elephant Poaching Could End--Because of Cold War Radiation

The atomic bomb testing of the Cold War years may be long over, but it turns out that some unexpected good has come of the radiation they left behind: it may help put the poachers of elephant tusks and rhinoceros horns in jail, and stop this horrific illegal trade. The reason is that faint trace elements from the bomb tests have worked their way up the food chain into the bones, teeth, tusks and hair of animals, including animals whose remains are now illegal to trade. To know whether or not a tusk is illegal, its age must be determined, and measuring their radiation signatures can pinpoint this age of these tusks to within an accuracy of about 4 to 16 months.

Chemist Thure Cerling says, "Most of the original nuclear weapons testing was done in the US and the Soviet Union at about latitude 40 to 60 degrees north This method could identify whether ivory came from an animal killed before the species was added to the list." Elephants came on the Endangered Species List in 1989, and if an animal died after that year, then it's illegal to sell its ivory.

The sad thing is that the killing of these beautiful animals has nothing to do with any real need. The tusks of the elephant and rhino are made into ivory products of all kinds, and are believed to be an aphrodisiac in China. It is on this basis that these animals are being hunted to extinction.

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