Elephant Avoids Poachers & Makes it to her Golden Years
It is not often in this day and age of rampant poaching that one finds an elephant having died of old age. But that is exactly what the BHAPU (Bumi Hills Anti-Poaching Unit) rangers found on patrol recently.
A previously known elephant carcass, probably an old female, most likely to have been a herd matriarch, was initially found in December 2015. Her carcass, which was submerged under a stream in which she had died – was largely inaccessible then, so was revisited now with the lower water levels.
The lower jawbone (which is routinely collected by field staff for aging research criteria) showed, remarkably, that this elephant had lived a full and long life – thus escaping the ravages of poaching.
Elephants have six sets of molars during their lifetimes, each erupting at a particular age and wearing down at a particular rate. These six teeth (all molars) are situated in each side of the upper and lower jaws, but only two sets are in use at any one time.
As an elephant grows older, the molars move forward in the jaw and eventually the one at the front breaks off in sections and falls out. Often, pieces break off the front of this tooth before it falls out. As the teeth move forward, another molar is erupting at the back of the tooth row. Each new tooth is larger than the one before it.
The photos above show her peaceful resting place, the team examining the area and the lower jaw and what remains of the sixth molar, which is well and truly worn down to gum level literally. It can also been seen that there is no other tooth erupting behind it.
And so she ended her long life and one cannot help but wonder what she had seen and experienced during her long life…