Elephants are LOSING THEIR Tusks

The Effects of Poaching

Since 2006 around 110,00 African elephants have been lost due to poaching and habitat destruction. Consistent poaching, targeting elephants with the finest ivory tusks has resulted in an alteration in the gene pool and a number of African Elephants now being born tuskless.

During the 15-year war in Mozambique that started in 1975, 90% of elephants were slaughtered in Gorongosa National Park. Poachers disproportionately targetted tusked animals and has meant that over half of female elephants over 35 years of age have no tusks. Although the population is recovering, females are passing down the tuskless gene to their daughters. Since the end of the war, 30% of the population have been born tuskless. When the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa was created in 1931 big game hunters had slaughtered all but 11 elephants. Only eight females survived, four of them were tuskless, now 98% of females in the park are tuskless. In the past only between 2-6% of elephants were born without tusks.

Although not having tusks could possibly save some elephants from the threat of poaching, it could alter how individuals and their communities behave. For example, they may need larger home regions if they are not able to access food as easily.

Elephants tusks are overgrown teeth; however, they are used by elephants for most daily activities including digging for water or minerals in the ground, debarking trees and helping males compete for females.

By toppling or roughing up trees, elephants also use their tusks to create habitats for other animals. A number of smaller animals also depend on the water elephants dig up using their tusks. Although tuskless elephants are finding away round this problem, many conservationists consider an elephant without tusks to be at a major disadvantage.

This account of the effects of poaching on the earth’s largest land mammals is just one example of the devastating impact humans are having on the earth’s wildlife.