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Why do elephants have tusks?

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Did you know? Just like humans can be right or left-handed, elephants can be right or left-tusked! The one they use more is often more worn down.

Tusks are actually really big teeth. They are incisors – like those pointy ones you have at the front of your mouth for biting food (the ones that look like vampire fangs). Unlike our teeth, tusks grow throughout an elephant's life, getting longer as they grow older. This means that the size of an elephant's tusks can be used to tell how old it is.

Tusks are one of the easiest ways to identify an elephant, but not all of them have tusks. Male and female African elephants both have tusks, but only some male Asian elephants have them. Tusks can do so many things! Elephants can use them like a shovel to dig and discover water under dried-out riverbeds. They can strip bark from trees, which they eat for the yummy, valuable fibre. They can use tusks like swords, as a defensive weapon to keep them safe from attacks. They can intimidate rivals and protect their families.

And of course, tusks can be used to carry heavy objects. Sometimes elephants would even rest their trunks on their tusks if they're feeling tired. What a handy pair of tools to have attached to your face!

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