Will this pink tusk strategy help to reduce ivory poaching and the killing of elephants in Africa?

Mudassir Ali
Feb 24, 2020 05:00 AM 0 Answers
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Mudassir Ali
- Feb 24, 2020 05:00 AM

As has been pointed out by Paul Stockley, the image of the elephant with pink tusks is photoshopped.

I’ve answered a similar question elsewhere and will incorporate the main points here.

Staining elephant tusks would indeed render them worthless to poachers and consumers putting an end to the despicable business of poaching. However, implementing a staining program would be extremely complicated and more than likely, prohibitively expensive.

First, a dye needs to be developed that’s safe for the elephant as well as the environment.

Researchers don’t yet know whether a change in tusk color will affect the elephant’s physical, emotional or social well-being.

The dye must be capable of staining the entire tusk including the portion surrounded by the pulp, embedded in the skull. Tusks grow continuously throughout an elephant’s lifetime so the dye would have to be reapplied each time new growth appeared. Otherwise, as soon as any new growth becomes visible, the elephant becomes vulnerable again. Even the shortest length of ivory holds value to a poacher.

A delivery method that doesn’t involve tranquilizing or otherwise restraining the animal needs to be found. Tranquilizing an elephant involves risk to both the animal and the people involved. It’s also quite expensive to acquire, transport and provide security for dart guns, drugs, and veterinary personnel. A voluntary, self-administered method would be ideal; something in the form of a regular food source placed throughout high traffic areas.

The logistics of placing a delivery system in the path of herds would be extremely complex. Elephants rarely stay in the same area. They will travel great distances to find food or water. The roaming patterns of every herd within vast areas would need to be mapped out to determine where the delivery method will be most effective.

The method itself would need to be available in several different forms to be effective and sustainable in the variety of environments an elephant travels through.

Elephants move across national borders. Would every country be willing and able to participate in and maintain a staining program?[1]

Finally, even if these hurdles could be overcome, a staining program would not likely result in a significant reduction in poaching.

The majority of large scale poaching is done by violent criminals in the business of making money. They will slaughter an elephant whether it has pink tusks or no tusks at all for the simple reason that they will not waste resources re-tracking an animal that will not result in a profit.

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