While elephants born without tusks are not unheard of, they normally make up just 2 to 6 percent of the herd population. However, that is not the case at Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park, where 33 percent of female elephants born after the country’s civil war, were born tusk less. While that may appear to be just a coincidence, Joyce Poole, an elephant behavior expert and National Geographic Explorer, has a different theory.
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Poole thinks we may be witnessing an unnaturally created evolution of the species due to the incessant poaching of the mammals for their valuable tusks. Tusks unlike our permanent teeth continue to grow throughout the elephants life, they get longer and thicker with age and while humans continue to use the tusks for ornamental use they are actually essential for the survival of the mammals. While poachers usually first target older males due to their impressive tusks, females are not spared either.
As a result, in areas where poaching goes unchecked for long periods of time, the population of tusk less females increases. This allows them to gain a biological advantage, resulting in a larger than average population of females with no tusks. This is not the first time researchers have observed a drastic change in the population of elephant herds who have suffered severe poaching losses. Thus far, the consequence of poaching has largely impacted female elephants. Poole explains, “Because males require tusks for certain tasks, however very few males are tusk less. For African elephants, tusk less males have a much harder time breeding and do not pass on their genes as often as tusked males.” However,
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