I’m an American Midwesterner without the training to take this anywhere. My local zoo doesn’t even have elephants.

I absolutely agree with the main objection to the idea of staining tusks as expressed by Prof Wasser (see the post of his email to me). In short, we cannot stain elephant tusks if we must knock elephants out even once to do so. Too dangerous to the elephants and prohibitively expensive.

This objection might be overcome with the right dye. I have the nerve to pursue this idea because if the right dye exists, I think it will come from specialists who could never imagine their professional paths crossing an elephant’s. Think cancer researchers who label (that is, dye) bone and marrow or cosmetic dental surgeons who study how our teeth get stained to learn how to unstain them. This blog hopes to be a crossroads.

Please comment

If you can suggest people or organizations to contact or avenues to explore to find or even invent a dye, let me know or pursue them yourself.

If you’re skeptical, tell me what won’t work. If the idea is a complete non-starter, explain.


5 thoughts on “About

  1. The same idea occurred to me after reading this morning’s piece on the NY Times website.
    Glad you raised the notion already and started the dialogue. My guess is that researchers for the companies involved in the massive tooth-whitening industry would have more information. If they could come up with a pill that whitened people’s teeth, I assume it would be on the market. Hopefully they’re working on such a thing.

  2. I thought of your idea…until I realized you had it first…..this is a good idea….elephant ivory is very porous, easily stained and hard to clean.

    I will try to research out some safe compounds that might work… hopefully safe enough to be sprayed on the elephant without the need to sedate it.

    • Thanks for writing. The idea has been around a long time. I’m just trying to get people like you to push it along.

      Keep us posted on your research. I do argue that the dye cannot be sprayed on. It will have to be ingested.

      Without using tranquilizers, we’re not going to be able to get close enough to wild elephants to spray their tusks.

      Spraying also won’t reach the third of the tusk that is inside the elephant.

      Finally, staining from the outside in will make it hard to determine if the tusks have actually been stained through and through. On the other hand, if we stain from the inside to the outside and if we determine that the surface of the tusk would be the last area to absorb the dye then verification is a simple visual check and can be done at a safe distance.

    • Interesting choice. Eosin is derived from fluorescein and might be worth researching as well.

      Some things to figure out –

      Is fluorescein indelible beyond a few weeks? Given the growth rate of tusks, a dye should last 2 or 3 years before re-staining.

      Is the large amount of fluorescein required to stain the tusks toxic? The amount used in eye exams or for cell labeling is miniscule by comparison.

      Has fluorescein been used on bone or teeth?

      Are elephants able to distinguish colors in the yellow to orange spectrum? If so, would staining the tusks such colors disturb them?

      Tusks on elephants in the wild are often a dirty yellow or brown. How bright or intense would the yellow orange dye have to be for it to be readily distinguishable enough to ward off a poacher? Could a paler shade of another color that requires less dye work better?

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