One gi­ant leap: African ele­phants are evolv­ing to lose tusks af­ter decades of ivory poach­ing

The Sunday Post (Newcastle) - - NEWS - By Rus­sell Black­stock [email protected]

African ele­phants are evolv­ing to lose their tusks fol­low­ing decades of ivory poach­ing, ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists.

Un­til the 1990s, about 2,500 ele­phants lived in Goron­gosa Na­tional Park in Mozam­bique but 90% were slaugh­tered dur­ing the civil war from 1977 to 1992 and their ivory used to pay for weapons. A study has now found that nearly one third of the fe­male ele­phants born since the war have lost their tusks.

Nor­mally fewer than 4% of a pop­u­la­tion are born with­out tusks. But be­cause tusk­less an­i­mals were left alone by poach­ers they de­vel­oped a bi­o­log­i­cal ad­van­tage and were able to mate, and pass on their genes.

D’Emille Cor­reia Gonçalves, an ecol­o­gist and con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist from Kent Univer­sity, said: “The key ex­pla­na­tion is that in Goron­gosa Na­tional Park, the tusk­less ele­phants were the ones which eluded poach­ing dur­ing the civil war and passed this trait onto many of their daugh­ters.”

Lu­gard, a 48-year-old bull ele­phant, in Kenya’s Tsavo East na­tional park. The pic­ture was taken by ac­claimed wildlife pho­tog­ra­pher David Yar­row as part of an as­sign­ment aimed at cap­tur­ing rare large-tusked an­i­mals threat­ened by poach­ing. Below: Poached tusks in Kenya

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