Kenya has been listed as one of the three of African countries with a wide network of ivory trafficking rings.
A study published in the journal Science Advances says a DNA sampling technique on elephant tusks exposed the rings.
The study was led by Samuel Wasser , a director of the University of Washington Center for Conservation Biology.
Together with his team, he sampled 38 large ivory shipments seized around the world between 2006 to 2014.
They matched information from the DNA samples taken from multiple shipments to their port of shipment to expose the cartels.
Those samples were matched to tusks in a seizure being exported out of Mombasa after transiting Entebbe, Uganda.
The study noted that the same seizures also matched two other seizures made in Entebbe.
According to the study, those that matched multiple others may be particularly strategic for understanding the criminal networks being investigated.
In Togo, samples of ivory seizures made in 2014 were matched to a large shipment in Malaysia.
The Malaysia seizure passed through the Mombasa and Togo ports, and included tusks with matches in two other seizures at each of those ports.
Those combined matches also link together the major export cartels in Mombasa and Togo.
One of the Mombasa seizures with matches to the Malaysia case also included tusks that matched three other seizure, which potentially connects the Mombasa cartel to the Entebbe cartel.
When referring to seizures, the study used the following identifiers: location of seizure, month and year of seizure, and weight of seizure (in metric tons).
According to the study, poachers are presently being prosecuted for single seizures, but linking smuggling networks to larger seizures would help law enforcement officers.
Elephants have been hit hard by a global poaching epidemic that’s emptying the planet of an array of wildlife. As many as 33,000 elephants are killed for their ivory each year.
Illegal hunting spiked in the three years to 2012 when about 100,000 elephants were killed, the equivalent of more than 33,000 a year.
In the 1970s, Africa had about 1.2 million elephants, but now has 400,000 to 450,000. The situation for rhinos is more precarious.
But rhino horn prices are still rising, conservationists say. Armed patrols of sanctuaries and other measures have helped curb some illegal hunting but the animal’s future remains grim.
Kenya alone had 20,000 rhinos in the 1970s, falling to 400 in the 1990s. It now has almost 650 black rhinos.
It is protecting the last three northern white rhinos as scientists race against time to find artificial reproduction techniques.