Elephants are, without a doubt, one of the most majestic creatures walking the 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 increasing demand for ivory in the Far East is the primary reason for ᴘᴏᴀᴄʜing.
A British wildlife photographer published touching photos of a “tusker” elephant over the age of 60 before it ᴅɪᴇd of natural causes — a rarity since many become casualties of ᴘᴏᴀᴄʜing. Will Burrard-Lucas, who took stunning images of a black Kenyan leopard, told CBS News on Wednesday that he felt “privileged” to capture the last known shots of Kenya’s “Elephant Queen.”
Burrard-Lucas wrote in blog post about partnering up with the Kenyan Wildlife Service and Tsavo Trust, a conservancy organization focused on protecting elephants of Tsavo, in August 2017 to start up a photography book featuring tusker elephants. Tusker elephants are in high demand by ᴘᴏᴀᴄʜers because of their long ivory tusks and whose world population is believed to be around 20.
With researchers from Tsavo Trust, they set out to find the elephant known by the code “F_MU1.” After several days, while driving in an old Land Rover through a remote area about the “size of Switzerland,” Burrard-Lucas finally came across the s.ᴇ xagenarian creature. He wrote in his blog that he was “sᴘᴇᴇchless” when he came across the extraordinary elephant.
“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 ʜᴀʀᴍ. “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 ᴘᴀssɪɴɢ 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 released on 20th March, 2019.