Biologists are now finding that the evolution of elephants in Mozambique has been heavily affected by the country’s poaching past. The population of elephants dropped significantly during the Mozambican Civil War from 1977 to 1992, leading to a drop in numbers of around 90% in Gorongosa National Park. Their very valuable ivory tusks and the possibility to feed an army fueled the poaching, and it wasn’t just the number of elephants that were affected.
The percentage of surviving elephants that were naturally tuskless boomed during this period to a surprising extent. The number of female African savanna elephants born without tusks had grown from 18% to over 50%. Because of the serious poaching problem, elephants born with the tooth mutation have been the lucky ones. And because it’s an inheritable mutation, it might just be the future of these large mammals.
Despite the drop in poaching in recent years in Mozambique, it’s likely the effects will continue to hang around for years to come. The rapid change in their evolution happened over only a couple of decades, meaning that we still don’t know what the consequences may be. Not just to the elephant population, but the ecosystem as a whole.