Scientists studying the natural behavior and lifestyle of wild African elephants are finding something peculiar about newly-born elephants… they’re either being born without any tusks, or are being born with tusks so small they aren’t worth the hunt.
Poaching, the practice of killing the animals to yank their valuable ivory tusks, has been a real problem for elephants in the region for decades, and now scientists believe that artificial selection could be taking its place in the species, willing them to be born without any tusks at all to help ensure their survival.
This comes from the fact that being born without any tusks is an inheritable trait, and those with either no tusks or small tusks make up the largest group of the gene pool, which means they’re mating together more so than elephants with great-sized tusks.
There are pros and cons to elephants that are born without large tusks; the benefits include not having a target on their back and this improves their odds of beating human-driven extinction. But because elephants have long relied on their tusks for self-defense among other reasons, being born without them puts their way of life at risk.
On the other hand, because more and more exist today without any, there could soon be a day where having small or even no tusks at all becomes the dominant trait among elephants. This could eventually lead to a day where virtually all of the creatures are born without them.
Ivory, which is valuable in many parts of the world, continues to be traded illegally worldwide despite international bans on trading. Regardless of attempts to put an end to ivory trading, and even the destruction of millions of dollars worth of confiscated ivory stockpiles, poachers continue to kill the creatures for their tusks.
Perhaps if this continues, poachers will have to stop their ways in the way nature commands it. On the other hand, elephants born without tusks lose their ability to defend themselves effectively, so will it have a negative impact on the species in addition to a positive one? Only time will tell…