African elephants are famous for their huge ivory tusks, which has made them targets for poachers. Despite many acts to prevent poaching, the already endangered African elephant population continues to decline. However, it appears that savannah elephants are evolving to save themselves- even if it comes with a cost.
Many African elephants are no longer carrying large ivory tusks. In order to obtain more ivory, poachers consistently hunt elephants with the largest tusks, eliminating them from the gene pool. This means that following generations of elephants will likely have small tusks. “As the greatest living targets for poachers, great tuskers are extremely rare in Africa today,” Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton told the African Wildlife Foundation.
Being born with small tusks isn’t the only response to poaching. Tusklessness is becoming common among African elephants. Around 98% of females no longer have tusks in Addo Elephant National Park, which is located in South Africa. By the time the park was established in 1931, there were only 11 elephants remaining in the area, with half of the females tuskless.
The growth of elephant without ivory may prevent poaching, but it can also hurt the species. Elephants use their tusks to lift objects, strip bark from trees, protect their trunk, defend themselves, and attack predators. In times of drought, elephants use their tusks and trunks to dig holes in dry riverbeds for water. Without tusks, elephants are going to have to find new ways to survive.
Poaching is still a large issue even with the loss of ivory tusks in African elephants. Organizations like the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and SOS Elephants are working to put an end to poaching, and they can use all the help they can get.
Perhaps, we could help indirectly by not buying trinkets made from ivory.
Garrigan, Kathleen. “Going Tuskless.” African Wildlife Foundation. N.p., 02 Apr. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
Sedger, Lauren. “African Elephants Are Being Born Without Tusks – and It’s Our Fault.” One Green Planet. N.p., 28 Dec. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
England, Charlotte. “African Elephants Are Being Born without Tusks Due to Poaching, Researchers Say.” The Independent. Independent Digital News and Media, 26 Nov. 2016. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
Shoshani, Jeheskel (Hezy). “Elephant.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 0 Mar. 2015. Web. 17 Mar. 2017.
Author: Myna Chintapalli
Editor: Lav Chintapalli
Myna Chintapalli is a 7th grader from Austin, TX. She loves the arts and has a particular interest in drawing and theatre. She is also a runner, reader and aspiring writer.