World's first app to detect illicit ivory
published : 17 Dec 2015 at 15:22
writer: Apinya Wipatayotin
CHIANG MAI - Researchers at Chiang Mai University have developed the world's first software application to quickly distinguish between Asian and African ivory, offering an effective tool to combat the trade in illegal ivory.
Team leader Korakot Nganvongpanit, head of the Department of Veterinary Biosciences and Veterinary Public Health at Chiang Mai University, announced the achievement at a media conference in Chiang Mai on Thursday.
He said the app is compatible with the Android operating system and could identify the geographic origin of ivory by analysing the earth minerals in it. The mineral composition of the two continents is different.
The app can detect 10 minerals, including magnesium and silicon, chosen as indicators to identify the source of the ivory. Portable x-ray fluorescence analysers are used to scan the ivory and the technicians feed the data into the software program for processing.
"We can say that the accuracy is 93%," Mr Korakot said.
Chatchote Thitaram, head of Chiang Mai University's Centre of Excellence in Elephant Research and Education, said the app was developed at the request of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, which needed a means to efficiently differentiate between illicit and legal ivory being sold by shops.
The application shows the result in four minutes, while DNA examination takes about two weeks and requires that some of the ivory be pulverised, he said.
Kanita Ouitavon, chief of the Wildlife Forensics Unit of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation, said the development was a significant step up in efforts to deal with the illegal ivory trade in the country.
Thailand is one of eight countries of primary concern for involvement in the illegal ivory trade, according to the standing committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and thus risks a ban on its flora and fauna trade.