UW professor tracking down elephant poachers

Gary Chittim — KGW.com

August 29, 2012

When World Wildlife Fund posted video of an elephant slaughter in Cameroon, many people took a little time to let it sink in, but for University of Washington Professor Samuel Wasser, it was time to go to work.

Wasser is an expert on endangered animal scat. He has made several discoveries using specially trained dogs to sniff out dung of animals that Wasser then analyzes. He can find out what the animal eats, if it is healthy, even if its hormonally stressed.

Wasser and his crew have collected dung samples from the elephants herds of Africa.

Give him a dung sample and he can tell you which herd it came from, where they are and how they are doing. Give him a sample of seized, illegal ivory and he can match the DNA to a dung sample and bingo, he knows where the ivory tusk came from.

If he gets the samples early enough, Wasser says he can alert rangers that poachers are operating in their area.

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