The majestic Tusker they called Tim is dead at 50, and the conservation world is mourning. He died yesterday at the Amboseli National Park of what veterinary doctors termed as natural causes. But why has the death of an elephant elicited such global attention?
Tim was one of a few iconic elephants who possess rare genetic qualities that give them the ability to grow big with extraordinarily mammoth tusks (hence the name tusker). They are so unique only a handful remain in protected wildlife areas around the world, mostly under 24-hour surveillance.
Doctors at the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust who were called in to ascertain the cause of death said they could not find any external injuries to indicate foul play; hence it was assumed he had died of natural causes. He had been a household name who, admired by tourists and scientists alike, had acquired celebrity status – perhaps even becoming the most photographed elephant in history alongside the late elephant tusker queen, Satao. In case you did not know Tim, here are four interesting things about his life and afterlife.
1. Tim Used His 9 Lives Well
Tim had survived countless attacks from poachers in his lifetime. Three times the team from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Kenya Wildlife Service had to come to his aid to treat him for arrow and spear wounds. In 2018, Tim was again fighting for dear life when he fell into a swamp and sunk chest-deep into it. It still took the effort of SWT, KWS and the Big Life Foundation to rescue him from certain death. Ivory poaching of elephants was quite rampant during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It then erupted again between 2009 and 2013, all this time claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of his kin across Africa.
2. He Was an Occasional Crop Raider
Besides using it to collect data to study elephant behaviour, Tim’s GPS collar served another critical purpose – that of preventing him from raiding nearby Maasai farms. By tracking his whereabouts, rangers could intervene in time before his nightly escapades could turn into disastrous human-wildlife conflicts. Still, even with that said, Tim somehow managed to lose his collar two years later.
3. He is Not the Last Tusker
Tim was popular among the ladies in the wild. Every girl in the park wanted a piece of him and the rare opportunity to mother the next generation of magnificent tuskers. So he had been quite a busy fellow this last half-century, sowing his seed in the Amboseli as the mighty Mount Kilimanjaro looked down upon him in approval. As long as the park stands, we can be sure of many more Tims in the coming future.
4. Tim Has Earned a Place in the Hall of Fame
Like Ahmed, the legendary elephant who lived in the Marsabit National park in the 70s under a 24-hour armed guard, Tim will also soon begin his journey to Nairobi where he will be preserved through the process of taxidermy to ‘live’ out his other life at the Nairobi National Museum.