Asian or African? There's an app for that.

Asian or African? There's an app for that.

A Chiang Mai University researcher demonstrates the software app that can distinguish between Asian and African ivory. (Photo courtesy Chiang Mai University)
A Chiang Mai University researcher demonstrates the software app that can distinguish between Asian and African ivory. (Photo courtesy Chiang Mai University)

Researchers from Chiang Mai University have developed a software application they claim is the first of its kind in the world to quickly distinguish between African and Asian ivory.

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New app 'detects ivory origin'

Apinya Wipatayotin

CHIANG MAI – Researchers from Chiang Mai University have met great success in developing a software application they claim is the first of its kind in the world to quickly distinguish between African and Asian ivory.

The researchers led by Korakot Nganvongpanit, head of the Department of Veterinary Biosciences and Veterinary Public Health at Chiang Mai University, said it is an effective device to help officials suppress the illegal trade in ivory.

Mr Korakot and his researchers announced the achievement at a media conference Thursday at Chiang Mai University.

The senior vet said he led his team in developing an Android-compatible programme to help identify the geographical origin of ivory by measuring rare earth minerals found inside it.

He said the measurements depend on data showing that mineral levels found in the tusks of African and Asian elephants differ as a result of food sources and their habitats.

The team chose 10 rare earth minerals as indicators to identify the source of ivory such as magnesium, silicon and zirconium, he said.

Mr Korakot said a portable X-Ray Fluorescence Analyser device is used to scan the ivory to read rare earth mineral levels found inside. After that, technicians feed the resulting data into the program so it will help identify whether the ivory is from Africa or Asia.

The most obvious difference between Asian (1) and African elephants can be seen in the ears. But there are differences in the composition of the tusks as well. / From Wikipedia. Original image from Meyers Konversations-Lexikon - The image is from Book 5 of the 4th edition of Meyers Konversationslexikon (1885-90). / Das Bild ist aus Buch 5 der 4. Auflage von Meyers Konversations-Lexikons (1885-90).

"The accuracy rate is about 93%. We can distinguish between African and Asian ivory.

"However, because there is still a 7% accuracy gap in the results, we are working to reach a 100% accuracy rate," he said.

Chatchote Thitaram, head of excellence in the Elephant Research and Education Centre at Chiang Mai University, said the research was conducted in response to a request from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Mr Chatchote said the department told the researchers that it needs more effective ways of verifying the origins of African and Asian ivory so its officials can have a useful tool to examine the geographical origin of ivory items sold in shops.

He said the research team's programme takes around four minutes to produce an initial result, compared with a DNA test that takes around two weeks. Moreover, the program can test whole ivory objects, unlike DNA tests where the ivory must be cut into pieces.

However, he said the program cannot yet distinguish between tusks, bones and teeth so further study is needed to make it more precise.

Kanita Ouitavon, chief of the Wildlife Forensics Unit of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said it is a significant step in the department's efforts in dealing with illegal ivory trading.

Ms Kanita said although the accuracy of the results is not 100% for African or Asian tusks, it is accurate at distinguishing between real ivory and fake ivory. The program at least helps make the authorities' ivory examination work easier.

However, she said even though this new program has been developed, existing DNA testing is still important for finding criminal evidence to take legal action against those allegedly involved in the illicit trade.

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  • accuracy: the state of being exact or correct; the ability to do something skilfully without making mistakes - ความแม่นยำ
  • achievement: something very good and difficult that you have succeeded in doing - การบรรลุผลสำเร็จ
  • allegedly: claimed to have done something wrong, but not yet proven - ที่ถูกกล่าวหา
  • application (app): a program designed to do a particular job; a piece of software - โปรแกรมใช้งาน, โปรแกรมคอมพิวเตอร์
  • authorities (noun): people or government agencies who have the power to make decisions or enforce the law - เจ้าหน้าที่ผู้มีอำนาจ
  • claim: to say that something is true although it has not been proved and other people may not believe it - อ้าง
  • compatible: able to exist or be used together without causing problems - ซึ่งสอดคล้องกัน,ซึ่งเข้ากันได้,ซึ่งอยู่ด้วยกันได้
  • composition: the way that something is formed from separate parts or people - การรวมตัวกัน การประกอบเข้าด้วยกัน
  • conduct: to do something in an organised way; to carry out — - ลงมือทำ, ดำเนิน, ปฏิบัติ
  • criminal: illegal; against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
  • data: facts or information, especially when examined and used to find out things or to make decisions - ข้อมูล, ตัวเลข, สถิติ
  • dealing with: taking appropriate action in a particular situation or according to who you are talking to, managing, etc. - รับมือ
  • Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (noun): an agency of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment responsible for overseeing the country's national parks, wildlife and plants - กรมอุทยานแห่งชาติ สัตว์ป่า และพันธุ์พืช
  • depend on: according to; affected by things that happen - ขึ้นอยู่กับ
  • detect: to find or prove that something is present using scientific methods - พบ
  • develop: to think of or produce a new idea, product, etc. and make it successful; to build new houses, factories, etc. on an area of land, especially land that was not being used effectively before - พัฒนา
  • device (noun): a machine or piece of equipment that does a particular job - อุปกรณ์ เครื่องมือ เครื่องจักร
  • distinguish: to recognise the difference between two people or things - จำแนกความแตกต่าง, แยกแยะ
  • effective: producing the result that was intended - ได้ผลดี
  • efforts (noun): attempts to do something - ความพยายาม
  • evidence: facts statements or objects that help to prove whether or not someone has committed a crime - หลักฐาน
  • examination (noun.): inspection, investigation, looking closely at the facts and details in a case in order to make a decision or judgement - การตรวจสอบ, การพิจารณาอย่างละเอียด
  • excellence: the quality of being extremely good - ความเป็นเลิศ
  • fake: made to look like something real to trick people - ปลอม
  • forensics: scientific methods used to solve crimes and find out who committed them - นิติวิทยาศาสตร์
  • gap (noun): a difference between people or groups - ช่องว่าง
  • geographical (adj): related to location of something on the map - เกี่ยวกับภูมิศาสตร์,ในทางภูมิศาสตร์,ตามภูมิศาสตร์
  • habitats (noun): the type of places that particular animals usually live in or particular plants usually grow in - ถิ่นที่อยู่ของพืชหรือสัตว์
  • identify: to recognise something and understand what it is - ชี้ ระบตัวุ
  • illegal: against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย, นอกกฎหมาย
  • illicit: against the law - ผิดกฎหมาย
  • in response to: in reaction to something that has happened or been said - ตาม
  • indicator: something that shows what a situation is like - เครื่องชี้บอก, เครื่องชี้นำ
  • initial: early; first - เบื้องต้น
  • involved (verb): taking part or having a role in something - เกี่ยวข้อง, มีบทบาท
  • ivory: the yellowish-white bone that an elephant’s tusks are made of - ทนต์
  • legal: relating to the law or lawyers; correct according to the law - เกี่ยวกับกฎหมาย ตามกฎหมาย
  • level: the amount of something that exists in a particular situation at a particular time - ระดับ
  • measurement (noun): the act or the process of finding the size, quantity or degree of something - การวัด
  • media conference (noun): press conference; an official meeting where someone makes a formal statement about a particular issue or event to journalists and answers their questions about it - การแถลงข่าว
  • mineral: a valuable or useful chemical substance which is formed naturally in the ground - แร่
  • origin: the place where someone/something comes from - ที่มา, ต้นกำเนิด
  • original: the first of something - เดิม, แบบฉบับ
  • portable: easy to carry or move, so that you can use it in different places - หิ้วได้, พกพาได้
  • precise: exact and accurate - แน่นอน, ถูกต้อง, เที่ยงตรง
  • public health (noun): the health of all the people in a country, city or community and their health issues; also the name of a government department - การสาธารณสุข
  • rare: not often seen or found - หาได้ยาก
  • rate: the level or speed at which something happens or changes, or the amount or number of times it happens or changes in a particular period - อัตรา
  • request: an act of asking for something in a formal or polite way - การขอร้อง
  • researchers (noun): people who carry out a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it - นักวิจัย
  • result (noun): a thing that is caused or produced because of something else - ผล,ผลลัพธ์,ผลที่ตามมา
  • scan: to look at something very carefully, because you hope or expect to see a particular person or thing - มองกวาด, ดูผ่าน ๆ ตา
  • senior: with a high rank or position - อาวุโส
  • significant: important - สำคัญ
  • source: the place or person or something comes from or starts at, or the cause of something - ต้นกำเนิด, แหล่งกำเนิด
  • source: the place something comes from or starts at, or the cause of something - แหล่ง, แหล่งกำเนิด
  • success (noun): achieving the goals you wanted to achieve or made a lot of money - มีผลสำเร็จ, ประสบผลสำเร็จ, ประสบชัยชนะ
  • suppress: to stop something illegal from happening - ปราบ, ปราบปราม
  • technicians (noun): people whose jobs are keeping particular types of equipment or machinery in good condition - เจ้าหน้าที่เทคนิค, ช่าง
  • trade: a type of business - การค้าขาย
  • trading (noun): buying and selling of goods and services - การค้าขาย
  • tusks: the two very long white teeth of an elephant - งาช้าง
  • verify: to prove that something is true, or to make certain that something is correct - พิสูจน์ว่าเป็นความจริง
  • vet (noun): (short form of veterinarian) a person with a medical degree trained to take care of the health of animals - สัตวแพทย์
  • veterinary: relating to the care of animals that are ill or injured - เกี่ยวกับสัตวแพทยศาสตร์
  • wildlife: animals, birds, insects, etc. that are wild and live in a natural environment - สัตว์ป่า
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