Tim the elephant dies in Kenya: Africa loses one of its last giant tuskers

One of Africa’s last and largest “tuskers”, Tim the elephant, died from natural causes after roaming Amboseli National Park for five decades and surviving multiple life-threatening attacks.

Africa has lost its most famous iconic elephant, nicknamed Big Tim, recognised as one of the continent’s largest elephant. The giant bull who roamed the wilderness of Amboseli National Park in Kenya belonged to a clade of impressive pachyderms whose genes produce enormous tusks. He died aged 50, from natural causes.

Post-mortem results show that Tim died from a twisted gut and the only marks on his body were the imprints left by his companion who presumably tried to lift the great “tusker” back on his feet. Meanwhile, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) have retrieved the animal’s body and moved it to the National Museum in Nairobi for exhibition and education purposes.

Big Tim was a benevolent, slow-moving preserver of peace at Amboseli National Park in Kenya © Charlotte Blanchet/Flicker

Tim the elephants touched the hearts of millions

“Our hearts are broken, because Tim was one of Africa’s very few super tuskers, and an incredible elephant whose presence awed and inspired many,” Wildlife Direct, a Nairobi-based conservation campaign group, commented. “He was one of Kenya’s national treasures and we’ll forever miss him”.

In the words of former Save the Elephants field assistant Ryan Wilkie, “Tim was a special elephant not just to me but to hundreds, thousands of people who would flock to Amboseli just for the chance to get a glimpse on him. The giant was so incredibly intelligent, mischievous, yes, but also a truly gentle giant and in that way a real ambassador for his species”.

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Big Tim’s body was transported to the Kenyan capital Nairobi, where a taxidermist will preserve him for display at the national museum © Nature Kenya-the EANHS

He lived to 50 against all odds

“It’s remarkable that Tim had gotten to that age, given that each day he faced just about every threat possible to his species,” according to the Big Life Foundation, a non-profit conservation organisation focused on preserving the wildlife and habitats of the Amboseli-Tsavo-Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

“Within his first few years of life he lost three of his relatives to suspected poaching incidents, followed by his mother Trista, who was speared to death in 1978 by poachers when he (Tim) was only 8 years old. And there was worse, Tim continued to lose more family members as time passed, including his much-loved sister Tallulah, ruthlessly speared in 2003″.

Read more: Southern African states threaten to quit CITES over restrictions on the ivory trade

A night raid nearly took his life

On the other hand, Tim’s ravenous hunger for crops nearly cost him his life: in the last five years on his way to 50, he was speared three times by angry farmers during his routine night-time raids into farmlands. Most recently, in November 2018, Tim got stuck in a mud-pit deep in Kimana Swamp. It took Kenya Wildlife Service, Big Life and Sheldrick Wildlife Trust a monumental effort to rescue him.

Furthermore, this was not the first time Tim’s life was threatened. In 2014 he was spotted limping around the park as he’d been speared in the rump and the wound turned septic. Luckily, the vets packed the injury with green clay, which has antibacterial properties, and he soon recovered.

Read more: Rhino poaching decreases in South Africa for the fifth year in a row

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Famous super tusker Tim rescued from certain death after getting stuck in a mud-pit deep in Kimana Swamp during his night-time raids into farmlands © Big Life Foundation

According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Africa’s elephant population had seen its worst decline in 25 years, mostly as the result of intensified poaching for ivory. In East Africa, elephant populations have nearly halved in a decade. Meanwhile, southern Africa remains a stronghold in which more than 293,000 animals live, or 70 per cent of the estimated remaining African elephants.

Undoubtedly, Big Tim has left a huge hole in the heart of Amboseli, though it’s comforting to think that his genes live on in many of the national park’s other elephants.

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