Get your tissues out, elephant lovers.
Video surfaced recently of a baby elephant in South Africa’s Kruger National Park with no trunk. Experts are not sure whether it was severed off by a predator (such as a crocodile) or by a poacher’s snare. And experts are similarly unsure of whether the adorable youngster will be able to survive without its appendage.
Elephants use their trunks to “breathe, bathe, transport water to its mouth, and grasp objects for eating,” notes National Geographic, which first reported the story.
The trunk is also important for elephants to bond with others in their herd. By not having a trunk, reported Lad Bible, “there's a risk that it will become alienated from the herd and leave itself even more vulnerable to attacks from predators.”
National Geographic consulted two experts for their perspectives on the calf’s future outlook.
One, George Wittemyer, an elephant expert at Colorado State University, said it was “highly unlikely” that the calf will make it to adulthood.
But Joyce Poole, co-founder of Elephant Voices — an animal-advocate organization that is also a Moving Giants “Elephant Champion” — is significantly more optimistic.
“It looks like that wound has healed,” she said. “So it’s had it for a while and is in very good condition. The calf is not thin, so it is getting enough nutrition somewhere.”
While this clearly is the result of an injury to the elephant, the insidious creep of poachers has led to a horrifying genetic change to elephants: those born without tusks.
Researchers aren’t sure why some elephants are born with tusks and some are not, but the gene pool of elephants with tusks is getting so depleted, many more elephants are now being born without them.
As the UK’s Independent reported, “An increasing number of African elephants are now born tuskless because poachers have consistently targeted animals with the best ivory over decades, fundamentally altering the gene pool. In some areas 98% of female elephants now have no tusks, researchers have said, compared to between 2 and 6% born tuskless on average in the past.”