Preventing Elephant Extinction

A tuskless elephant

A Simple Proposal For Saving the Elephant

  

According to a new study, elephants in Africa are slowly going extinct. Researchers estimate that in Central Africa, there has been a 62 percent decline in the number of African forest elephants over the past 10 years.

"The analysis confirms what conservationists have feared: the rapid trend towards extinction - potentially within the next decade - of the forest elephant," said Dr. Samantha Strindberg of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), one of the lead authors of the study. Similar tales abound about the Asian elephant.

Research at the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda, showed that 15% of female and 9% of males in the park were born without tusks. In 1930 the figure for both male and female elephants was only 1%. Similar results are found elsewhere, in 1997 Mark and Deli Owens found that in Zambia's North Luangwa National Park 38% of all elephants were tusk-less. In the last 150 years tusks have shrunk by half in those elephants that do have tusks.

Experts say that tusk-less elephants are due to a chance mutation. Elephant's are loosing their tusks in a rapid evolutionary response to escape slaughter by poachers. This allows them to live, breed more freely, and have more offspring without tusks.

Some conservationists are saying that tusk-less elephants are crippled elephants, as the tusks are used for food and water, knocking down and moving trees and branches, self-defence, and sexual display. The female Asian elephant, which have very small six inch tusks, would tend to disprove this hypothesis. The females go round in groups without males, and yet manage to dig wallows with their forefeet and trunks when no surface water is available. An elephant uses its trunk for breathing, drinking, eating, communicating, smelling, digging, social interaction, and self defence or defence of its young. The trunk is a combination of the nose and upper lip and can suck between 1 and 2 gallons of water into its trunk and then squirt it into its mouth for a drink or onto its body for a shower. The complex muscular structure of the trunk provides both strength and great dexterity. The elephant's trunk is made up of thousands of muscles and does not have any bones. The trunk functions as a tool for picking up small objects using a "finger" projection on the end of the trunk, as well as grasping, and social interaction which includes caressing and disciplining their young.

In 1999 Dr. Dennis Schmitt, associate professor of veterinary medicine at Southwest Missouri State University, made history by being the first researcher to produce an elephant from artificial insemination. We now have the technology to artificially breed elephants without tusks, we could either artificially inseminate them in the wild, or breed them in captivity, for later release into the wild. Costs could be kept down by concentrating on areas of the world with the biggest elephant population drops due to poaching first.

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