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Tusks and Genes

By Peter Rettig

Mana Pools / Zimbabwe November 2019


This picture shows Mother and Daughter, both are missing their left hand tusk. What happened?
It is not unusual that Elephants broke their tusks while digging, pushing trees, peeling the bark of trees or during confrontations (mainly Males). But to me it looked like these two Elephants never had their left hand tusk. And if true then the Mother may have passed this genetic peculiarity on to her Daughter.


In general I have noticed a relatively high number of Elephant without tusks in Mana Pools (and in Hwange also). Similar to what I had seen in Zambia’s Kafue and South Luangwa. Without any doubts this is a consequence of Poaching first of all but very likely also the consequence of Trophy Hunting the Bulls with the finest tusks. Killing off the prime individuals of a population results in the downgrade of the gene pool.


I have been advised in Zambia a few years back, that every Elephant Population has a percentage of tuskless individuals, something between 5-10%. Within populations with high poaching and hunting pressure this percentage went up well over 20% Zambia. And it seems the same happened in Zimbabwe.


Well, so not having tusks is a big advantage for Elephants? Not really. Elephants need their tusks to dig for water and to get access to certain food (like bark or deep roots) esp. during periods of droughts resulting in shortages of water & food.

Article and photo courtesy of Peter Rettig. Peter is a frequent traveller to Africa and is passionate about its wildlife and people as well as photography.

About Connie V

Constance van Niekerk, (Connie V) is a South African-based Zimbabwean-born creative writer, poet, music lover, spoken word artist, freelance writer, blogger and educator. She has contributed to several anthologies and published her own collection, Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection available for purchase on all Amazon Stores Worldwide. She is also Editor at ZimOnlineNews. Follow her on Twitter : @convanniekerk Connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.

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Connie V

Connie V

Constance van Niekerk, (Connie V) is a South African-based Zimbabwean-born creative writer, poet, music lover, spoken word artist, freelance writer, blogger and educator. She has contributed to several anthologies and published her own collection, Echoes of My Heart: A Poetry Collection available for purchase on all Amazon Stores Worldwide. She is also Editor at ZimOnlineNews. Follow her on Twitter : @convanniekerk Connect with her on Facebook and Linkedin.

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