Elephants May Be Evolving to Lose Tusks to Avoid Poaching

By Shreya PatroSeptember 14, 2022

Do Elephants Lose Their Tusks to Prevent Being Killed?

We have been successful in sending artificial satellites as voyagers to the end of the Solar System. We have been capable of replicating and cloning genes. We may have also succeeded in making elephants evolve without tusks! This is not a matter of pride. Vehement poaching caused the elephants to deliberately lose their tusks on purpose. The time is not far when elephant tusk will be an extinct feature.


Years of poaching elephants for the false pride and greed of humans have made the elephants evolve without tusks. The natural selection process might have made them think that tusks may be the reason for their extinction. We are the ones solely responsible for such an unnatural phenomenon. How and why? Continuing reading to find out!


What Is An Elephant Tusk?

An elephant tusk is actually a modified tooth that is not used for biting, chewing and cutting. This modification of teeth into tusks evolves from the upper jaw. The elephants use their tusks to dig, carry, or intimidate predators. They also use tusks to show dominance and to defend themselves from imminent attacks.


You will be surprised to know that elephants prefer one tusk to do all the work. It is similar to the right or left-handedness of human beings. In the prehistoric ages, elephants with straight tusks roamed the earth.


Why are Elephant Tusks Interesting to Humans?

The elephant tusks are the source of ivory, a white valuable material used to make jewellery, cutlery, decorative items, etc. The anecdotes and artefacts of the Harappan Civilisation depict that owning ivory items was a sign of affluence and luxury. It was also a popular choice of making costly things.


This trend has been carried on for thousands of years across the world. People consider ivory a valuable material. It is also used to make medicinal formulations in various alternate medicine practices. This is why elephant tusks are so valuable. It is so valuable that we forget the value of the innocent elephants’ lives killed over the centuries.


Do Elephants Lose Their Tusks?

A study done by the biologists of Princeton University on the African Savannah elephants suggests that elephants have started to lose their tusks. It means elephants will not be developing tusks within a few decades of evolution.


One of the prime reasons behind the loss of tusks in Gorongosa National Park is the incessant poaching of elephants for a few decades. More than 2500 elephants existed in this area in 1977. Within 2000, the number dropped to 250 only. Over 90% of the population was killed for these special features of elephants. This happened due to the civil war that broke out between 1977 and 1992. People poached elephants for tusks to gather money for weapons and food.


Due to modern intervention, the population is on the rise. It also shows that female elephants have increased from 19% to 51 %. In fact, it is also found that 1-3rd of the female population are tuskless elephants.


Elephants on The Verge of Losing Tusks


Elephants on The Verge of Losing Tusks


Where Did the Tusks Go?

Now that we know what is the tusk of elephants and its features, we can clearly understand why they have been slaughtered just to feed our greed. The relentless poaching of elephants in different parts of the world, especially in the African Savannah, has resulted in an evolutionary change. The tusks are the things we humans want to make exotic things.


This killing of elephants might have made them evolve in a way to not develop tusks when they become an adult. According to the elephant features, female elephants do not develop tusks. It is the adult males that develop tusks and are hunted incessantly by humans. Due to this development, elephants are about to be extinct in different parts of the world.


Due to this artificial disastrous development, more female elephants are born. The evolution took place to protect the elephants from extinction naturally. Female elephants will not be poached as they do not possess tusks. As mentioned earlier, biologists have found that a large percentage of the elephant population is born without tusks.


It has also been found that elephants can survive without their tusks. In this context, Asian elephants are tuskless and they survive well. The African breeds are prone to poaching due to the tusk formation. However, if the speculations of the research come true then we will find tuskless elephants across the African Savannah within a few decades.


What to Do to Avoid This Evolution?

If we see the elephant tusks images, we find these animals so majestic. Like elephants, rhinos are also hunted for their horns. To avoid the evolutionary development of tuskless elephants, we need to protect them. It has been a grave human error and we are the ones who should rectify it.


The development of sanctuaries and offering armed protection to elephants will increase their population. They will feel safer and start reproducing male elephants. It seems that the safety factor is the triggering cause behind this evolutionary feature.


Saving the Tusked Elephants

Hence, the only way to preserve the great elephants with tusks is to offer them protection. The elephants feel threatened in such an environment where they are relentlessly killed. They have witnessed the heinous slaughtering of their family members with their eyes. They faced terror for decades.


This terror of extinction may be the reason for a sudden change in the tusked elephant’s physiology. The change in their progenies is visible. We can see how things are changing within a few decades. It is not evident but the only possible reason behind tuskless elephants is humans killing them for ivory.


It may be reversed by providing protection and caring for the elephants. They need to feel safer again to resume the formation of tusks in male elephants.