Elephants Are Evolving Without Tusks Because Of Poaching

November 25th, 2018

Evolution is an incredible thing.

It’s an entity that can sense the environment around us and help us change over time so that we can better adapt to our surroundings.

It’s a mechanism that wants us to survive and live better.

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Flickr/Dan Erickson Source: Flickr/Dan Erickson

We often see evolution often as a result of changes in an animals environment, however, scientists are saying that animals are evolving because of humans.

Elephants are now being born without tusks as a result of human poaching.

According to National Geographic, 90 percent of elephants in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park were slaughtered during a 15-year civil war.

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Thomson Reuters Source: Thomson Reuters

They were slaughtered for their tusks which were used to finance weapons. Their meat was used to feed fighters.

Consequentially, about one-third of the younger females born to the generation after the war ended in 1992 never grew tusks.

Now some female elephants are born without tusks but that only affects 2 to 4 percent of the population.

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The Ring of Fire Network Source: The Ring of Fire Network

Before the civil war, there were about 4,000 elephants in Gorongosa.

Those number dropped into the triple digits after the war and now there are only 200 know adult female elephants.

About 51 percent of these surviving females elephants, who are 25 years or older, are tuskless and 32 percent of the female elephants born since the war were born tuskless.

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Elephant Voices Source: Elephant Voices

Elephants that didn’t grow tusks have a biological advantage since they don’t have tusks that they can be slaughtered for.

“But once there’s been heavy poaching pressure on a population, then the poachers start to focus on the older females as well,” elephant behavior expert Joyce Poole said. “Over time, with the older age population, you start to get this really higher proportion of tuskless females.”

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Jen Guyton Source: Jen Guyton

The effects of poaching on the female adult population have also been found in other populations.

About 98 percent of the 174 females of Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa has been tuskless since the early 2000s.

“The prevalence of tusklessness in Addo is truly remarkable and underscores the fact that high levels of poaching pressure can do more than just remove individuals from a population,” says Ryan Long, a behavioral ecologist at the University of Idaho and a National Geographic Explorer.

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National Geographic Source: National Geographic

Elephants use their tusks for defense, digging, lifting objects, gathering food, and stripping bark from trees.

So, these functions can be affected when elephants lose their tusks.

Long says that the “consequences of such dramatic changes in elephant populations are only just beginning to be explored.”

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Source: National Geographic