As elephant lovers, we all know that poaching is a major threat to the species. Similar to rhinoceroses and their horns, poachers and hunters target elephants for their tusks. The difference between the two animals is that rhino horns actually grow back, but elephants’ tusks do not. Why is this? For today’s EleFACT, we’ll take a closer look.
Unlike an elephant’s tusks, even when completely removed, rhino horns can grow back. They are composed of keratin, similar to human fingernails and hair, and the horn itself can regenerate within three years.
We’ve shared before that elephant tusks are actually their teeth. Acting as their incisors, the tusks are made up of dentin that is coated with enamel. They are so deeply embedded into their skulls, with a nerve running down the center, that once they are viciously removed by poachers and hunters, there’s no chance of them growing back. Unfortunately, there are still people who think that ivory can just fall out harmlessly, similar to losing a tooth.
However, elephant tusks can be trimmed. Elephants in captivity can have their tusks trimmed for multiple reasons, including safety, and can grow back as fast as an inch per year. Because the trimming of the tusks does not affect the nerve or the part of the tusk that is embedded in the skull, the dentin and enamel can regenerate, like rhino horns.
Educating ourselves and others about the harmful effects of poaching is just one way we can aid in the conservation efforts of both species. The main risk to elephants is from humans through poaching and destruction of their habitat. By creating safe spaces for elephants to exist outside of captivity, we hope to help the species thrive safely.
Photo of Lady