The new elephant: tuskless

During the current wildlife crisis, it is now becoming more common to see rhinos without their horns, due to the need to take extreme precautions during this desperate time, which means that cutting off a rhino’s precious horn is seen as a necessary deterrent against poachers.

However, are we now entering into a time where elephants will now only be seen without their tusks?

This newly researched statement though, is one that isn’t due to human intervention – well, not physically.

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A recent study has found that an increasing number of African elephants are now being born tuskless, as a result of poachers targeting the gentle giants with the best ivory, which has, in turn, altered the gene pool.

It was reported that in some areas, a huge 98% of female elephants are now born with no tusks, compared to just 2%-6% of tuskless females in the same area in the past.

These statistics certainly are worrying. Because whilst at first this may seem like a good thing, as if elephants have no tusks, the poachers won’t have anything to kill them for, and so surely this will eventually dissipate the ivory market, at the current rate of poaching, there simply isn’t enough time for elephants to adapt.

In just 10 years, almost a third of Africa’s elephants have been illegally murdered by poachers in order to meet the constant demand for ivory in Asia.

At the current rate, one elephant is killed every 15 minutes, and 144,000 elephants were slaughtered between 2007 and 2014. If this rate continues, African elephants will become completely extinct very soon.

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Head of the charity called Elephant Voices, Joyce Poole, has said that she has seen a direct correlation between the intensity of poaching and the percentage of female elephants born tuskless, during her 30 years of tracking and research on African elephant herds.

As the ivory market in Asia is booming, particularly in China, the constant demand for new ivory is keeping the demand for poaching constant. In order for poachers at all stages of the chain, from poachers on the ground to the illegal transportation, to get the most money, they will target the elephants with the biggest tusks.

This is therefore eliminating the big tuskers from the gene pool, meaning that their genes cannot be passed down to their future generations.

In 2008, scientists had even found that amongst the elephants that did have tusks, their tusks were roughly half the size of the elephants a century before.

An elephant’s tusks are crucial for many everyday activities. Tusks are used for digging for food and water, which is especially crucial during times of severe drought, which are common in many elephant’s habitats. They are also used to dig up trees to reach the roots which hold essential nutrients and water for the elephants.

Bulls use their tusks to fight, which could mean that if they cannot fight another male they will not get near the females to mate.

Elephants with no tusks have also been seen in many cases to be more aggressive, due to their lack of tusks to defend themselves, which would be more dangerous for both people and animals.

But as with the rhino, is it fair that we are mutilating the natural look of our animals for the sake of tangible gain in the form of animal products, just before we drive these animals to full extinction?

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And remember, the main thing that you can do to aid the end of the ivory market is to never buy any ivory products, and to continue to spread awareness of the illegal trade as far as you can.

 

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