The Truth about Tusks

The Truth about Tusks

Cynthia Moss explains the importance of an elephants tusks:

“Removing Tusks:

We are often asked: why not saw off the tusks of elephants in order to save them from poachers?

Cynthia explains why:

There are many compelling reasons why it would not be practical, economical or ethical to immobilize every elephant to cut off its tusks.
• It’s logistically difficult. Many elephants live in remote areas, hard to reach and work in. Darting is difficult and dangerous to both the elephants and the veterinarian team.
• It’s numerically impossible. In Kenya alone there are 37,000 elephants. Both male and female African elephants over 2 1/2 years old have tusks, say 30,000 individuals with some ivory. Even if you could immobilise at the world-record rate of 5 a day (which ATE did once in 2011!), the operation would take some 15 years of full-time work. And by that time, the first elephant would have re-grown meter-long tusks!
• It’s expensive. Even if teams of vets and rangers could reach all the elephants, the cost of the exercise would be prohibitive. Among other things the drug is costly and difficult to obtain.
• It would be painful. There is a nerve that runs well down the length of an elephant’s tusk. Cutting the tusk off would be painful, similar to you breaking a tooth. Remember that an elephant tusk is a modified incisor. Cutting beyond the nerve would still leave a third of the tusk in place.
• Finally, elephants need their tusks for feeding and digging and for defending themselves and their calves from predators.”



(this story and photo reposted from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants facebook page)

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  1. From Tuskers to Tuskless in Just a Century | Elephantopia

    […] That might be anthropomorphizing the elephant, but to some extent our driver is correct. Tusks are modified upper incisor teeth used to dig holes to find water, to take off tree bark to eat nutrient necessary for growth, to protect the herd from predators, and to indicate hierarchy: the larger the tusks, the older the elephant, distinguishing the matriarch from the herd or the dominant bull from the bachelors. Elephant tusks don’t just make for another “pretty face,” they are essential for the elephant to live a long and healthy life. (Read more: The Truth About Tusks) […]

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