Tuskless and beautiful! 


by Meha Kumar

Date Published

Have you  heard the famous quote by Thomas Schmidt, “No one in the world needs an elephant tusk but an elephant?”  

Here’s why! Elephant tusks are enormous front teeth that keep growing throughout an elephant’s life. Apart from lifting things and being a tool for defense, elephants use their tusks to strip the bark off trees, enabling other smaller wildlife to access nutrients that would normally be out of reach. During the dry season, elephants dig for water which allows them to survive in harsh habitats, while also providing water for other animals, making  them a keystone species. 

Elephant tusks © Robbie Labanowski/Save the Elephants

But what is life like for an elephant without tusks? Meet Cinnamon. She’s a 56 year old tuskless elephant and matriarch of the Spices family. 

Tusklessness in elephants is caused by a genetic mutation in the X-chromosome and is said to be inherited. But in Cinnamon’s case, all her daughters have their tusks. 

Save the Elephants’ Long Term Monitoring (LTM) team has been monitoring Cinnamon and her herd for close to 20  years. She carries a tender aura with her, leading her family of migrants (elephants that move in between reserves)  across the northern Kenya landscape, teaching them survival skills and how to access the best water and food spots.

Cinnamon in Samburu

Cinnamon, the wise matriarch of the Spices in Samburu National Reserve © Meha Kumar/Save the Elephants

It is remarkable how Cinnamon, born without tusks herself, has been able to guide her herd all these years. We certainly hope that her years of experience and understanding of the landscape is something that her daughters (and grandchildren) can inherit!

Fennel’s calf from the Spice Girls pictured in Samburu National Reserve © Robbie Labanowski/Save the Elephants