Tuskers are animals who bear tusks which are elongated, continuously-growing, protruding teeth. Tusks take various shapes, sizes, colours and perform different functions. Ivory tusks have a unique colour and strength and therefore is in demand for carving. The most precious ivory is worn by African and Asian elephants.
A reason for why this great spices is in danger is that they have lost their natural habitats due to human activities. With the civilization of mankind they started clearing the forests for their cultivation and the rate today have become so high that most of the animals, including the elephants are in great danger of losing their habitats. Elephants tend to find food in the cultivations, an easier place to hunt for food than far away in the forest. Sometimes when the people are attached by the elephants, being angry, people tend to trap or shoot at the elephants which makes the issue worse. Construction of roads and railways across the natural habitats of animals to fulfill the transportation requirements of human beings has also contributed a lot for the drastic reduction in the number of elephants.
Both male and female African elephants wear tusks. Those are elongated incisor teeth. Ivory is in heavy demand for piano keys, religious icons, motifs, sculpture, statues and ornaments such as trinkets and amulets. Ivory carving industry is well-established in China. It is said the Chinese demand should be held responsible for endless poaching of elephants in Africa. Whether it is in Africa or Asia, elephants are an integral part of the habitat they live in; they modify their habitat upon their feeding behaviour. Elephants are tagged as forest engineers and their presence is essential for the survival of their own habitats.
Statistics says as many as 8% (36,000) African elephants are poached annually for ivory. Slaughtering is done in the most brutal manner. Spears or automatic weapons are used to kill the animals. Immobilizing chemicals too are used to freeze them. The poachers hack the tusks off, sometimes from the animals dying in pain! AK-47 rifles were used for the elephant massacre in Cameroon’s Bouba N’Djida National Park in 2012, where more than 300 elephants were slaughtered within just three months.
10 million elephant population in 1900 in Africa has been reduced to only 470,000 in 2007 which gives a clear sign of the pathetic situation the species is in.
Why do we need to bother about the issue? Poaching adult elephants results in orphaned young elephants. Healthy tusks usually belong to strong animals of the population. Removing dominant genes from an animal population makes the subsequent generations weaker than their previous generation. The presence of elephants in their habitats is a must for a balance ecosystem.
Tusker in the Asian context is different from Africa. Tuskers are all male animals, but not all Asian male elephants are tuskers. Yet the situation with the Asian elephants is of no difference to the African elephants. Population of 100,000 Asian elephants in 1900 has reduced to 40,000 to 50,000 in 2007. Sri Lanka has the highest elephant density among the Asian countries. But it is only less than 5% of the male animals bear majestic tusks in Sri Lanka.
Country’s elephant population was said to be about 12,000 at the turn of the 20th century but today it is reduced to 5000. Habitat loss, ever escalating human- elephant conflict, train accidents and poaching take the toll of about 250 elephants every year. Around 40 calves are found orphaned annually.
Sri Lanka, throughout the history of thousands of years has treated elephants as a symbol of tradition. Although they have a high value internationally as well, they are in the great danger of being extinction.
Awareness on this issue matters and it should be attempted through all possible means. Here’s a wonderful opportunity for the ICT community to play a role to raise awareness. You can help conserve your precious wildlife through discussions like ‘Hanthana Tusker release’. Remember, ivory is most beautiful only when they are worn by the elephants!
Credits: We highly appreciate the help rendered by Mr. Chandana Weeratunga and Dr. Deepani Jayantha by providing valuable photos and information.