An increasing number of elephants in Africa are tusk-less. Yes, it has everything to do with poaching for ivory. For the African elephant, this means a life-altering change.

Every body part is of significant use for survival; for elephants, the elongated teeth has been useful to scrape bark off trees, uncover roots, and dig for water during dry spells. That’s not all. Male elephants use their tusks as weapons to compete with each other to win over the female.

When elephants have their tusks removed forcibly by poachers, it dramatically changes the way they live. According to this article, elephants without tusks have higher chances of suffering from diseases, and are less likely to breed; tusk-less males tend to be more aggressive, and may be psychologically stressed.

As observed by Joyce Poole, who has been studying elephants in Africa for nearly 40 years, nearly half of the female elephants who have survived rampant poaching from 20 years ago are without tusks. An inherited condition, it was their tusk-lessness, as it were, that made the poachers spare them.

As a result, paradoxically, it was the tuskless elephants who had a greater chance of survival. And a third of their offspring are without tusks, by virtue of genetic inheritance. Poole’s study comes from Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique. The phenomenon is limited to female elephants, however.