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More African elephants born without tusks in response to heavy poaching - study

25 October 2021 4:52 PM
Tags:
Elephant
Elephant tusks
ivory poaching
African elephants
tusks
tusklessness
tuskless elephants

Afternoon Drive host John Maytham chats to Elephants Alive CEO Dr. Michelle Henley about the prevalence of tuskless elephants.
  • Intensive ivory poaching is leading to an increase of tuskless elephants, according to a new study
  • Elephants Alive CEO Dr. Michelle Henley says the elephants responding to a "genetic bottleneck"

Image: © nightowlza/123rf.com

A new study claims that extreme ivory poaching in parts of Mozambique has led to the evolution of tuskless elephants.

Tusklessness was once a rare genetic condition but it has become increasingly prevalent among elephants in Africa.

The study explores the link between ivory poaching and the rapid evolution of tusklessness.

Scientists have found that intensive poaching during the Mozambican Civil War between 1977 to 1992 resulted in tusklessness becoming more common in the female elephants of Mozambique's Gorongosa National Park.

Female elephants without tusks were not targeted by hunters, increasing the chances that they would breed and pass on the tuskless trait to their offspring.

Elephants Alive CEO Dr. Michelle Henley says elephants with the tuskless phenotype are more likely to survive in the face of poaching.

Henley says elephants have been forced to adapt and respond to "genetic bottlenecks" affecting their survival as a population.

It's quite well-known in the scientific community that, if you subject elephants to excessive poaching or very selective hunting pressure for large tuskers, with time they will actually lose that phenotypic trait.

Dr Michelle Henley, CEO - Elephants Alive

It's quite an amazing way in which they can ultimately increase their survival over time because what we are demanding from them is becoming less and less prevalent.

Dr Michelle Henley, CEO - Elephants Alive

Those females that have tusks are being removed from the population because they are carrying Ivory that people want so then the tuskless females end up breeding more... they perpetuate the tusklessness.

Dr Michelle Henley, CEO - Elephants Alive

Elephants also respond to these genetic bottlenecks that we put them through when we selectively remove a whole lot of them. The response to that is that the tusks become smaller over time... There's a definite response.

Dr Michelle Henley, CEO - Elephants Alive



25 October 2021 4:52 PM
Tags:
Elephant
Elephant tusks
ivory poaching
African elephants
tusks
tusklessness
tuskless elephants

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