By Jacob Ng'etich
Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) has moved the body of one of Africa’s last giant ‘tusker’ elephant from Amboseli National Park for preservation at the National Museum.
Popularly known as Big Tim, the elephant roamed the wilderness in Southern Kenya for 50 years before dying on Tuesday morning in Mada area of Amboseli National Park.
“The body is on the way to the National Museum of Kenya in Nairobi. It will be prepared for preservation for education and exhibition purposes,” said Paul Udoto, KWS communication director.
‘Tuskers’ are unique for their long heavy tusks that stretch to the ground, which makes them targets of poachers.
The KWS had a collar on Big Tim to monitor his movements and protect him not only from poachers but from attacks by farmers on whose farms he used to stray.
According to Udoto, Big Tim once survived an attack that left a tip of a spear embedded in his shoulder before KWS and conservationists removed it.
After being sedated and treated, Tim found his way back to the Amboseli where he drew visitors not only for his enormous tusks, one weighing 72 kilogrammes, the other 73, but also his character.
“Elephant families are matriarchal and males are solitary when they reach sexual maturity. But Tim was always welcome to travel in the company of females and their families. He was unassuming, unpretentious and laid back,” said Udoto.
Big Tim was also famous for his intelligence, cleverly dodging teams of KWS rangers dispatched to intercept him on his way to neighbouring farms.
The giant elephant was regarded as one of Kenya’s national treasures and with his image splashed all over the world.
Preserver of peace
“Tim was a benevolent slow-moving preserver of the peace at Amboseli, well known and loved in Kenya and beyond,” he said.
The elephant had appeared to be in good health before its carcass was found near the park’s Kimana gate. It’s not clear what killed him.
“This is a huge loss for Amboseli National Park and for all of us,” said Justus Nyamu, the executive director of Elephant Centre.
Cynthia Moss, founder and director of Amboseli Elephant Trust, described Big Tim as an iconic large male, whose fame catalyzed many conservation collaborations between KWS and conservation organisations.
“He captured the hearts of people around the world who would travel to Amboseli to photograph him. He was a wonderful elephant and an ambassador for his species. He fathered many calves too, and we are happy he got to live a long life in the wild,” said Ms Moss.
The death came two weeks after another 50-years-old tusker, the largest bull in the Kasigau Corridor Project area in Tsavo West nicknamed Julian was found dead.
The carcass was spotted from the air by Wildlife Works pilot, Keith Hellyer, who alerted rangers.
“The bull, nicknamed Julian, was adored by many. You could easily spot him from a herd thanks to his huge tusks that were long enough to brush the ground. His death was deemed to be as a result of natural causes and he was estimated to be approximately 50 years old,” said Nyamu