Experts use CT scan to nail fake ivory sellers (India)


Bosky Khanna , Deccan Herald

Date Published
Using Computerised Tomography technology (CT scan), three Bangalore doctors have helped the police ascertain that six tusks, which were seized from two people, were fake.
It all started when the Wilson Garden police nabbed the two people trying to sell the tusks on KH Road (Double Road) in March 2014. To book the duo under the Wildlife Protection Act, the police wanted to verify whether the ivory was genuine. They approached the Indian Institute of Science (IISc). 
The institute was helped in the task by three Bangalore doctors. It was confirmed that the pieces were fake and made of Plaster of Paris and metal.
Gayathri Hospital physician Dr Sunil Mallesh told Deccan Herald, “I am a member of Friends for Animals, a group of volunteers and conservationists working on elephant conservation. During an interaction, I learnt that a team of experts was looking for technology to check the genuineness of seized tusks, I volunteered to help.
 I then spoke to my colleagues Dr Sandeep Ballal and Dr Suresh Reddy, Chief Radiologists and Directors at Radocs Diagnostics and Imaging Private Limited, Chamarajpet. We then decided to do a CT scan and it worked because it helps check the bone density and mineral capacity.”
The team conducted multiple scans and after three months, concluded that the ivory was fake. However, some minor tests will be done to ascertain if there are any traces of genuine ivory in it.
Normally, this technology is used for humans to ascertain injuries, including blood clots, fractures, tumours and infections. The method is also used to ascertain bone density. Doctors and conservationists found it best suited to be used in this case to find out whether the ivory was fake or genuine. 
While this method was used for the first time without damaging the structure, experts say there are chemical-based methods of testing too, but they damage the piece and take a long time. Conservationists and the Forest department get around a dozen cases annually, of which around 90 per cent turn out to be fake.
 Prof R Sukumar, elephant expert at the IISc Centre for Ecological Sciences, said that in case of Asian ivory, there are many fake cases, but that is not true in case of African ivory. Trade in ivory is a banned practice.