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