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Identifying Individual Elephants by Analyzing Patterns of DNA Variations

Case Solved!

The seized ivory matches all four markers of the sample from one of the elephants. The chance of a perfect match, just by chance, with these four markers is one in about 90 million—so the odds are very good that the seized tusk came from Garamba National Park. Even so, scientists make much more precise matches by analyzing 16 markers. In the "Frequency Primer," you will learn how the probability of two individuals having the same profile is calculated for different combinations of markers.

In Case One, you linked an ivory sample to an individual poached elephant. In Case Two you will see how DNA profiling is used to trace ivory seized at a Taiwanese port back to a location in Africa. The technique has allowed scientists to determine the origins of the illegal ivory trade.