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FILE-- In this May 26, 2005 file photo, an elephant strolling through the dusty in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya. Some African elephant herds are adapting to the danger of poaching by moving out of risky areas, according to one conservation group. The plight of elephants is a key issue at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, which began over the weekend and ends Oct. 5. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo, File)

Elephant poaching is now so widespread, many elephants are being born without tusks


So many African elephants have been poached for their tusks that many new elephants are born tuskless.

The Independent reports that in some areas of Africa, 98 percent of female elephants had no tusks. That percentage was as low as 2 percent in recent years. 

Nearly a third of Africa's elephants have been killed by poachers in the last 10 years. Asia, in particular, has a high demand for ivory. As poachers kill those with the best tusks, the gene pool favors the tuskless.

The problem with going tuskless

While elephants evolving to live without tusks may seem like a safeguard against poaching, there's a pronounced downside - the tusks are also part of the elephant's natural defenses. They're also used to dig for food and to attract mates, the BBC reports.

Joyce Poole, head of the charity Elephant Voices, said almost half the elephants 35 years or older in Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique have no tusks. 

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Many have called for a global end to the ivory trade.

A petition to make the U.K. Parliament debate banning ivory has nearly 70,000 signatures.

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