Topeka Zoo Elephant Breaks Tusk

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- Following controversy over whether the Topeka Zoo elephants should be moved to a sanctuary, one of the two elephants has broken part of her tusk.

Zoo Director Brendan Wiley released a statement Friday morning, saying Tembo, the 42-year-old African elephant, was playing with a log in her exhibit when she broke about 10 inches off her left tusk Thursday around 5:00 p.m.

Wiley says the log is a tree trunk that is four feet in diameter, and is one of Tembo's toys.

"We're not sure what she was trying to do with the log," Wiley said. "She is an elephant. She tends to think she can do what she wants with it."

The zoo press release explained the ivory that makes up an elephants tusk is very dense, hard and sometimes brittle. "Their prominent structure often makes them predisposed to injury."

Wiley also says the break was to the tip of Tembo's tusk and did not hurt her, as tusks don't hold nerve endings. He likened it to a human breaking a fingernail. "Cracks, breaks and splinters are commonly seen in the tusks (of) both wild and zoo elephants," the statement says.

In 1990, Tembo broke her right tusk. The break left a crack going into the gum line and a decision was made at that time to remove the entire tusk. Wiley says this situation is not like that one.

The zoo's veterinarian rounded off the edges of Tembo's broken tusk while the elephant munched on celery.