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Journal of the South African Veterinary Association

On-line version ISSN 2224-9435
Print version ISSN 1019-9128

J. S. Afr. Vet. Assoc. vol.79 n.1 Pretoria  2008




Estimating exposed pulp lengths of tusks in the African elephant (Loxodonta africana africana)



G SteenkampI; W H FergusonI; S C BoyII; S M FerreiraIII; and M N BesterI

IMammal Research Institute, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002 South Africa
IIDepartment of Oral Pathology and Oral Biology, School of Dentistry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, 0002 South Africa
IIIConservation Ecology Research Unit, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002 South Africa




Captive and wild African elephants frequently suffer tusk fractures. Several institutions shorten the tusks of captive elephants to reduce fractures and injury as a result of behaviour within enclosures. Fracturing or coronal amputations that expose pulp lead to pain for the elephant. Estimating coronal pulp lengths may thus help to minimise the risk of pulp exposure during amputations. We aimed to determine the length of the pulpbeyond the lip margin from an external tusk characteristic. Tusks collected from elephants in Namibia and the Kruger National Park had similar morphological relationships. This statistical property allowed us to correct for missing data in our data sets. Pulp volume and pulp length correlated with tusk circumference at the lip. Even so, the circumference at the lip could not predict the length of the pulp in the crown external to the lip. Our findings suggest that tusks, irrespective of sex or age, amputated further than 300 mm from the lip should not expose pulp.

Key words: African elephant, captive populations, free-ranging populations, tusk amputation, tusk fractures, tusk pulp, tusk pulp treatment



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Received: June 2007
Accepted: January 2008



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