Objects and Stories

Elephant Tusk

What is it?

An ornamental carved tusk from a young female African elephant.


What is it made of?

Elephant tusks are made of ivory. Ivory comes from the teeth and tusks of animals like the elephant, hippopotamus, walrus, mammoth and narwhal.


When was it made?

Around 1970-1990.


Where is it from?

An African elephant.


How did it get to Leeds?

This tusk was taken by HM Revenue and Customs. Ivory is worth a lot of money and this has led to people killing elephants to sell their ivory.Ė endangering elephant populations across Africa and Asia.


In order to protect elephants, the trade in ivory was banned in 1989. Now any ivory brought into this country is confiscated by Customs and the person who brought it can be arrested, fined or even sent to prison. Customs sometimes lend ivory pieces to museums for educational purposes, as with this tusk. 


What is it worth?

The price of this tusk is unknown, but we do know that the poacher would be paid less than 1% of the final sale price.


Interesting fact...

Rhinos have also been hunted for their horns. A rhino horn is made from keratin (like your hair and fingernails) and it grows back. Conservationists have been anaesthetising rhinos, sawing off their horns and releasing them, so that poachers will not kill them for their horns. Sadly, you canít do this with elephants as their tusks have nerves running through them, like teeth.


Anaesthetising - giving drugs to make the animal unconscious so they feel no pain or discomfort

Confiscated - taken away because it is not allowed

Conservationists - people who try to protect animals, especially rare species

Endanger - to put something or someone in danger

HM Revenue and Customs - government department who organise taxation

Ornamental - used just for decoration

Poacher - someone who hunts and kills animals

Release - to let something go

View other relevant My Learning resources or see the teachers' notes page for discussion and activity ideas. 

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Document icon Learning article provided by: Leeds Museum Discovery Centre | 
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