It was only a year ago when a photograph was circulating around the world wide web; that of an elephant standing in the wild sporting bright pink tusks. This stirred the senses, of course, and required a double take. It also begged the question; was this really happening as an elephant conservation effort? Was this photograph real? Was this the latest anti-poaching technique?
While on the surface this may seem to be a brilliant idea, there is one major drawback. This kind of anti-poaching method, this “superficial staining” of the surface of an elephant’s tusks (which are more akin to “a tooth in structure” than, say, a rhino horn) could “easily be sanded down” thus not devaluing their worth to poachers at all.
But this does not mean that those who are devoted to helping elephants, in the fight against poachers, have not been stirred by this creative output from others devoted to the same cause.
Dr. Samuel Wasser (See “GMFER: What We Need to Realize About Elephants : Part 1 & Part 2 ) spoke via email to the host of a website called “Stain Tusks to Stop Elephant Poaching”.
Dr. Wasser’s concern (with staining an elephant’s tusks pink) was the element of time** and the plausibility of administering a “permanent stain” (through the ingestion of a food source) to “400,000 skittish elephants”. It would be virtually impossible any other way (than through an elephant’s favorite meal) as “you can’t immobilize 400,000 elephants to stain their tusks”. (The risk being the effects of any anesthetic used to “immobilize” each elephant as well as the risks taken by those actually darting such majestic creatures.)
**”the time it would take to stain the tusks of the 400,000 skittish elephants and the time it will take for the stain to find its way into the tusk”.
As an alternative anti-poaching method Dr. Wasser has pioneered a way to use “DNA evidence to trace the origin of illegal ivory” seized from “major transnational organized crime syndicates” ( a major source of “all of the large shipments of seized ivory”.) This DNA would then pinpoint the ”primary areas” across Africa where both forest and savanna elephants are killed.
Using this scientific approach Dr. Wasser and his team at the University of Washington are hoping to “nail down (areas) where the major killing is happening and to stop it at the source” (with the assistance of each countries’ anti-poaching task force).
Anne Lambert of the International Conservation Fund of Canada addresses the fact that “darting and applying dye to elephants would involve a huge cost and stress and risk to the elephants” which would then just “divert the poaching pressure elsewhere”.
Select methods of devaluing “the poacher’s prize” have been used for years. Such as The Rhino Rescue Project’s method of infusing a rhino’s horn with “an animal-friendly-but-human-unsafe toxin” which effectively prevents a human from purchasing or handling the dangerously toxic horn at all.
Lorinda Hern of RRP also welcomes such creative ideas (as the hot pink elephant tusks) in that they may well “be the spark someone needs to come up with something that does work” (to end the slaughter of our elephants by poachers).
For as long as poachers continue to annihilate our elephants they should know there are those humans just as determined to save the species (such as Dr. Samuel Wasser).
But time is so crucial when it comes to saving elephants. Contribute in any way you can to help elephants (sending a monetary donation to a reputable elephant charity is an amazing way to show you love elephants). Contribute now before it is too late.
Amboseli Trust For Elephants Donate here
Elephant Voices Donate here
The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Donate here
Images: Pink tusk elephant ; Pixabay Majestic African Elephant Tuskers , Two elephants entwined ; Wikipedia Smiling elephant with tusks ; CC Flickr: Poached Elephant Carcass by US Fish & Wildlife Service
“Pink Tusks Aren’t Real But Still Help Combat Hunting of Elephants For Ivory” by Kelly Putter
“Evidence From Ivory DNA Identifies Two Main Elephant Poaching Hotspots” by Hannah Hickey and Michelle Ma
“A Conservation Biologist’s Take on Dyeing Elephant Tusks” by webhost of “Stain Tusks to Stop Elephant Poaching”
I love the way ideas breed. Pink tusks may not be feasible, but it may spark an idea that is, an idea that could make all the difference in the world to the remaining elephant population.
Thank you, Melissa, for caring about elephants. Like you said there are a number of brilliant minds out there who could very well be on to the solution this very day. For images of pink tusked elephants can lead to great things! This is all for our elephants.
I think it’s encouraging that more and more people are coming to realize that there’s no “one way” to save the elephants, and that no one with their interests at heart should be “poo-poo’d.” Dialogue is where success lies. (I am working on a book called “The Man Who Loved Elephants” which is about someone who was an elephant keeper for 30 years. Although there are some in the world who immediately decry all keepers as soulless monsters who abuse their elephants, that simply isn’t the case. Roger (the subject of my book) approached his with empathy and sought to understand them at the most basic level.
Shirley the elephant had an amazing keeper too. (search ‘Shirley’ on Elephant Spoken Here for all links) The man was Solomon James and he was there for Shirley every step of the way, even as she arrived at her new home (The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee). Just watch the clip of The Urban Elephant: Shirley’s Story and you feel the love he had for that elephant; such a kind man. Looking forward to reading your book: “The Man Who Loved Elephants” by Melissa Crandall.
I’ve seen Shirley and Solomon’s story and, yes, he and Roger share so much. His obvious love for Shirley casts a light on those who say all keepers are bad people. It just isn’t so.