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Ivory tusks a blessing and a curse for elephant survival

Albert the Elephant

Posted August 12, 2014. Photo by Katherine Mast/ABQ BioPark

An elephant’s strong tusks are built-in tools for digging and foraging, for moving large objects and defense, and may also signal virility in males. Tusks--which are overgrown incisors--keep growing throughout an elephant’s life. While both male and female African elephants grow tusks, only the males of Asian elephants bear them.

An elephant’s ivory tusks fetch a high price on the global black market, and that economic incentive has fueled an increase in elephant poaching through parts of Africa in recent years. In 2012, an estimated 35,000 elephants were killed in Africa for their ivory--that’s roughly 96 elephants each day. Wildlife experts say that at this rate, African elephants could be extinct in 10 to 15 years. Though the U.S. has begun implementing stronger laws against illegal ivory imports, demand remains high in cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Help spread the word about the devastating impact of poaching for elephant ivory by joining the Wildlife Conservation Society’s #96Elephants campaign on August 12. Pledge not to purchase products made with ivory and urge our lawmakers to pass more stringent restrictions.

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