Elephants are the most majestic animals on Earth. Despite being around 3m (9 feet 107⁄64 inches) tall and African elephants weighing about 6000kg (13,227 pounds) on average, they are gentle giants, known for their empathy and strong family bonds. Unfortunately, there are people in the world that don’t see the gentle nature in the animal when they look at them, they see a profit. ‘Save the Elephants’ report that research conducted between 2002 and 2011 by Maisels et al estimated that the world’s forest elephant population was reduced by 62%. The organization also reports that the growing demand for ivory in the Far East is the primary reason for poaching.
As elephant numbers plummeted through the years, many countries put enormous effort into the conservation of their animals. Tsavo Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service are just a couple from many, and their mission is to conserve and manage the wildlife of the region. The two organizations partnered with a British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas to showcase the beautiful nature and animals in Tsavo.
The photographer recently shared the journey on his blog, detailing the efforts. The key subject of Burrard-Lucas’ photographs, however, was something that truly stood out from the crowd of other elephants.
“If there were a Queen of Elephants, it would surely have been her” Burrard-Lucas explained. What the photographer described is F_MU1, an extraordinary cow elephant with enormous two tusks. She is one of just a few elephants known as tusker (or super-tusker), a type of elephant that has genetic properties granting it great size and large tusks. They are rare and looked after, especially considering the fact that poachers kill elephants for their tusks.
“F_MU1 was skinny and old but she strode forward with stately grace. Her tusks were so long that they scraped the ground in front of her. She was like a relic from a bygone era” the photographer recalled the first time he laid his eyes on the Elephant Queen.
F_MU1 lived for over 60 years and led a peaceful life, managing to evade harm. “Her temperament was gentle and calm. Sometimes she would come so close to me that I could have touched her” Burrard-Lucas detailed his experience with the gentle giant.
Unfortunately, as Will was snapping shots of the elephants, an ongoing drought made it hard for the animals to survive, especially the younglings and elders. Food was scarce and it was probably a big contributor to the Elephant Queen’s passing a couple of weeks later.
Burrard-Lucas’ shots not only showcase how majestic and regal the old tusker looked like, it also celebrates her lengthy and peaceful existence and is a testament to the beauty of life that all the conservations protect. The photographs are featured in Will’s new book titled “Land of Giants” along different shots of Tsavo’s other iconic tuskers. The book is set to be released on 20th March.