Elephants evolving to be born without tusks thanks to ruthless poachers

About 90% of elephants living in Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park were slaughtered for their tusks by poachers during Mozambique's 15-year civil war that ended in 1992. The poachers then profited by selling the tusks to finance weapons. As a result, we're now seeing a growing population of elephants in the country born without tusks. Tuskless females, for instance, have jumped from 2%-4% of the population to around 33%.

According to National Geographic:

Hunting gave elephants that didn’t grow tusks a biological advantage in Gorongosa. Recent figures suggest that about a third of younger females—the generation born after the war ended in 1992—never developed tusks. Normally, tusklessness would occur only in about 2 to 4 percent of female African elephants.

Decades ago, some 4,000 elephants lived in Gorongosa, says Joyce Poole—an elephant behavior expert and National Geographic Explorer who studies the park’s pachyderms. But those numbers dwindled to triple digits following the civil war. New, as yet unpublished, research she’s compiled indicates that of the 200 known adult females, 51 percent of those that survived the war—animals 25 years or older—are tuskless. And 32 percent of the female elephants born since the war are tuskless.

Sadly, this isn't the only population of elephants losing their numbers – and their tusks – to poachers. In South Africa, "fully 98 percent of the 174 females in Addo Elephant National Park were reportedly tuskless in the early 2000s."

Used to defend themselves, as well as for digging, protecting their trunk, and helping them strip bark from trees in order to eat, tusks are enlarged incisor teeth that are essential to their daily well-being. Read the rest

Lions ate suspected poacher

Lions near South Africa's Kruger National Park ate a suspected poacher over the weekend.

"It seems the victim was poaching in the game park when he was attacked and killed by lions," Limpopo police spokesman Moatshe Ngoepe said. "They ate his body, nearly all of it, and just left his head and some remains."

Police found a hunting rifle and ammo near the body.

(BBC News) Read the rest

Peruvian officials seize eight million dried seahorses

Evidently dried seahorse is super popular in China. Fishing for seahorses is illegal in Peru, where eight million of them were seized last June.

Via National Geographic:

Four years ago Peruvian authorities seized 16,000 dried seahorses abandoned on a street near an airport in Lima, the nation’s capital. If you think that sounds like a whole lot of fish, think again. This time they confiscated eight million of the little creatures at the Port of Callao in Lima—the nation’s largest seahorse haul.

Discovered on June 7, the seahorses were on a Chinese-flagged ship bound for Asia, according to China NewsAsia, which cited a government statement. Authorities arrested the captain in connection with smuggling the goods, worth nearly $4 million on the black market.

Read the rest

Cameras embedded in rhino horns to fight poaching

Researchers developed an anti-poaching system for Rhinos that integrates a camera embedded in the rhino's horn with a GPS and heart rate monitors that switch on the camera and guide authorities to the animal's location. Read the rest

Being too cute is hurting the slender loris

Slender lorises are adorable, squirrel-faced primates with huge, sad-looking eyes. Sadly, their cuteness is working against them as poachers have started capturing them for an illegal pet trade and wildlife photographers have taken to capturing and harassing the poor things. Eye-damaging spotlights, sharp, prodding sticks, and people who scoop you up in your usual stomping grounds only to dump you miles away from home — it's hard out there for a slender loris. Read the rest