Elephants Without Tusks Are The Future

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa is home to grandiose mountains, the southernmost tip of Africa and tuskless elephants.

Approximately two percent of female elephants born in the park do not have tusks, which is a trait that has been rapidly evolving in the past century.  

As a result, Addo National Park has also been spared poaching. “Addo elephants might be the biggest success story anywhere,” said the park’s conservation manager, John Adendorff. “So maybe it’s not a bad thing that they don’t have tusks. Tusklessness has helped protect them.”

Similarly, Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park experienced widespread poaching during their civil war in the 1970s to the 1990s, killing off a ton of elephants with tusks. The war resulted in 53 percent of adult females and 35 percent of newborn females to have no tusks, said elephant biologist Joyce Poole.

“Among females then, the poachers were preferentially killing animals with tusks and leaving tuskless ones to survive, so they were breeding and producing more tuskless offspring,” Dr. Poole said.

Elephants without tusks also saw an increase in Zambia, Tanzania and Uganda in recent.

An absence of tusks appears ro be a sex-linked trait that rarely occurs among men, unless injury is involved. In Addo, nearly all male elephants have tusks. A 50 year old male elephant can grow tusks up to 49 km (108 pounds), with a world ivory price of $1,000 per km.

Even though there have been no instances of poaching within Addo, the camp is still prepared for a threat. All 80 of their rangers are armed and have military training and weaponry, a small air ring, high-tech infrared and motion-detecting sensors.

Tusklessness came about because of excessive poaching.

“Maybe tusklessness is the future,” said Mr. Paxton, the ranger. “Our cows have gone a hundred years without tusks and they’ve done O.K.”

A similar trend can be seen in Asian elephants, possibly even before this modern era.

Throughout history, ivory has been a coveted commodity in Asia, and the demand in China and other Far Eastern countries is still the biggest factor in poaching. However, demand has recently dropped in China.

A new problem for Asian elephants has arisen, one that may eventually reach the African ones. Elephant leather accessories and traditional remedies made from their hides is a the new fad in China.

“Now the poachers are starting to come after elephant hides,” said Mr. Adendorff, the park’s conservation manager.

As of now, elephant conservation and population growth remains steady and secure. It has been doubling every 13 years and  numbers are currently over 600.


Featured Image via Pixabay


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