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(John Northcott/CBC) There's bad news for Canadians selling elephant tusks illegally – thanks to science, you can no longer pretend ivory is antique and get away with it.

Authorities can now use radiocarbon dating to determine exactly what year an elephant was killed, showing whether its tusks were legally obtained or not.

It gets together with two oxygen atoms to make carbon dioxide, a molecule that plants welcome to transform into fuel.

When animals snack on foliage, they also get a share of this special carbon.

Environment Canada used the new technique for the first time to convict Toronto-based Five Star Auctions and Appraisals, and company director Chun Al Jin, in February, the department said in a news release this week.

The company and Jin were each hit with a penalty of ,375, or a total of ,750, and had to hand over two tusks to authorities.

"This is the first application that's gone to court and was instrumental in the guilty plea that was entered." He now hopes to use it in other countries.

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Uno said this is the first time the technique was used in a true forensics case.Comparing those ratios should therefore reveal how long it’s been since death.For example, if half the original carbon-14 levels are present in a discovered antler, then its owner died 5,730 years ago.It's based on the fact that one form of carbon – carbon-14 – is radioactive and decays over time.Living things are constantly adding new carbon-14 to their bodies, but once they die, the amount of carbon-14 in their tissues declines at a known rate compared to the amount of non-radioactive carbon.If a fourth of the original carbon-14 levels are present, then the animal died happened 11,460 years ago. To prove his theory correct, he extracted pure carbon from ancient samples and built his own radiation detection tool.