Ivory may not always be illegal, scientists have discovered, after finding woolly mammoth DNA while carrying out genetic work on the origins of elephant tusks.
The DNA was discovered in trinkets in Cambodian shops alongside items made with ivory from endangered Asian and vulnerable African elephants.
The finding poses a conundrum for conservationists because woolly mammoths have been extinct for around 10,000 years and are not covered by international agreements on endangered species.
Dr Alex Ball, manager of the WildGenes Programme, based at Edinburgh Zoo, who is carrying out the Defra funded research, said: “It was a surprise for us to find trinkets made from woolly mammoth ivory in circulation, especially so early into our testing and in a tropical country like Cambodia.
“It is very hard to say what the implications of this finding are for existing elephant populations, however we plan to continue our research and will use genetics to work out where it has come from.”