Poaching Is Causing The Rise In Tuskless Elephants

 | Grace Higgins
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In another survival change of evolution, elephants are increasingly being born without tusks. This is, of course, to protect themselves from ivory poachers who kill them for their tusks. Ivory is a highly sought out ingredient for numerous traditional Chinese rituals.

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In 1930, for example, tuskless Elephants male and female made up only 1% of their population. After decades of slaughter and poaching for their tusks, it looks like their internal mechanisms for survival have kicked it. In fact, many believe the start of the tusk decline was back in 1970. Research done at the Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda during the 1990s showed that tusklessness had already risen to between 9% to 25% of the elephant population.

However, studies are showing that currently nearly 98 percent of female elephants now have no tusks. And male elephants also continue to be born without tusks. This is now a real confirmation that they have undergone a genetic mutation to stop being hunted. Why has this happened?

Over the past ten years, nearly a third of Africa’s elephants have been illegally hunted by poachers. Many have been slaughtered in particularly gruesome fashion. This is all to keep up with the great demand for ivory from Asia, particularly in China.

In China and Hong Kong, ivory is regarded as valuable as gold or other precious metals. It is regularly used for ornaments and jewelry. Also, it sometimes is used as a key ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine. Experts even go as far to say that 70 percent of the world’s ivory is sold in China. Factor in that rich people believe it makes them look more successful and most Chinese people believe that it brings good luck – you have a never-ending demand for ivory.

Is this genetic mutation a good thing? Elephants are potentially putting themselves in more danger by becoming tuskless. Tusks are used primarily for self-defense and also for mating rituals. But also elephants rely on their tusks for digging, they can dig up trees and move them around. Also, dig in the ground for food and water.

Sure it may be better to be tuskless than actually be actively hunted by illegal ivory poachers, but when your natural habitat is the merciless jungle or desert can you really give up your tools?