World’s famous big tusker elephant dies in Amboseli

Wednesday February 05 2020
By Pauline Kairu

One of the last surviving super tusked elephants in Africa has died in Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya.

The iconic Tim died of natural causes early Tuesday aged 50 years in Mada area of Amboseli park, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials said.

KWS said park management visited the scene of death and has secured the body which has been transferred to the National Museums, in Nairobi.  

“The body will be preserved through a taxidermy for education and exhibition purposes,” said Paul Udoto, KWS Communication Officer.

He described the pachyderm as “an unassuming elephant that was always unusually welcomed by females and their families.”

Because of his fame, many travelled from far and wide just to photograph him and was considered an ambassador for his species.


Tributes to the elephant poured in on social media from all over the world.

“Tim was one of the largest and oldest majestic elephants in this region,” Ms Sharlene Cohen, a tourist who had the privilege of meeting Tim at the park, mourned the giant on Facebook.


Tim at Amboseli National Park. PHOTO | COURTESY

Elephants can live up to 70 years.

CEO Wildlife Direct, a non-profit organisation aimed at helping the critical species, Paula Kahumbu who has known Tim for over a decade described him as “the magnificent bull of the Amboseli”.

Dr Kahumbu said Tim was one of the last remaining great tuskers in Kenya.

“The great tuskers are an irreplaceable symbol of our continent’s unique natural heritage. But their magnificent tusks act like a magnet for poachers (and in some countries still for trophy hunters) and means that these elephants are constantly at risk,” said Dr Kahumbu

Fear of poaching forced KWS and conservationists to collar the animal in 2016.

The collaring of Tim in 2016 by a group of conservationist groups including Save the Elephants, Big Life, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, KWS and the community has played an instrumental role in saving the rest of his herd at the park from poachers as the rangers always knew his whereabouts and those accompanying him.


Tim attended to by rangers at Amboseli National Park. PHOTO | COURTESY

KWS and Big Life Foundation Rangers provided the patriarch 24-hour surveillance and protection.

In 2018, the animal nearly died at the park when it got stuck on a deep mud for several hours before the rangers came to its rescue.

The giant tusker was named ‘Tim’ by Cynthia Moss, founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, as part of what has become the world’s longest running scientific study of the species.

The elephants name indicates that he is a member of the “T family”.

Since its birth in December in 1969 by an elephant cow named Trista, Tim has been closely monitored by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants.

His grandmother Teresia, was the matriarch and leader of Amboseli’s TD family.   

Justus Nyamu, the director of Elephant Neighbours Centre, termed Tim’s death as a huge loss for the park and the conservation and tourism sector.