Elephants born without tusks in ‘evolutionary response’ to violent poachers

This means that while the tuskless trait could be useful for elephants when facing poachers, it could also account for lower than normal breeding rates. There are now about 700 elephants left in the national park.

The news in Mozambique has been accompanied by a huge blow to efforts to keep the world’s most endangered animal from extinction to the north in Kenya.

The future of the northern white rhino now lies with a single female after her mother was retired from a world-first race-against time breeding programme.

Fatu, the daughter of 32-year-old Najin, is now the only donor left in the programme, which hopes to implant artificially developed embryos into another more abundant species of rhino in Kenya.

Neither of the two remaining northern white rhinos can carry a calf to term and there are no known living males.

Northern white rhinos, which are actually grey in colour, used to roam across parts of Uganda, South Sudan, DR Congo and as far west as Lake Chad. But their population was devastated by poachers during the late 20th century.

Scientists, led by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany, hope to implant embryos made from the white rhinos’ egg cells and frozen sperm from deceased males into surrogate mothers.

“This decision was an exceptionally difficult one for the experts as Najin represents 50% of the entire northern white rhino population they are trying hard to preserve, whilst importantly considering her welfare,” Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Central Kenya said in a statement on Thursday.

“Recent ultrasound examinations had revealed multiple small, benign tumours in Najin’s cervix and uterus as well as a large cystic structure in her left ovary,” said the conservancy, adding that they hoped that Najin would continue to transfer social and behaviour knowledge to Fatu, the last hope for the species. 

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