A Tribute to Tim the Tusker of Amboseli National Park, Kenya by the EPI’s Dr Winnie Kiiru
I got to know about Tim’s death through social media on Tuesday morning. I now understand why sad news received this way makes one feel helpless and lost. I immediately called Norah from Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) and she told me she was with Cynthia Moss, the founder of ATE, the longest running study of wild elephants in the world. They were on site with Tim’s remains.
I could not bear to talk to Cynthia who I had just spent a wonderful evening with in Amboseli that Saturday. I knew that Tim’s death was devastating. My greatest fear was that Tim was a victim of poaching. Thankfully Norah assured me that as far as they could see, Tim had died of natural causes.
Cynthia and Harvey Croze first spotted Tim’s family in 1973. By the end of 1974, they had figured out that the large family which Cynthia named the Ts was made up of four distinct families: TA, TB, TC and TD. Tim belonged to the TDs and was only 5-6years old then. The family was led by Teresia, a beautiful wise matriarch with straight tusks. When she was about 62 years of age, irate farmers killed her due to escalating human-elephant conflict.
Tim had his share of problems with farmers. He moved very early in his life to the farming dominated Kimana swamp area away from the safety of the Amboseli National Park where he would hang out with his handsome brothers, Teddy and Tolstoy. Tim suffered injuries and spear wounds from irate farmers and in 2016 he was found with a spear protruding from his forehead. Tim was saved by a group of veterinarians because he knew to stumble towards Amboseli National Park where he could find help.
Indeed in 2016, Tim was fitted with a radio collar to help track his movements in the ecosystem in an effort to keep him safe. I remember this particular event as Tim’s majestic frame rose from the ground as the tranquilizer wore off and we all stood ready to take off lest he charged. Tim in his characteristic way surveyed the team and slowly walked away almost aware that we had his best interests at heart.
Tim was impossible to miss. He had massive tusks and a friendly way about him. I sometimes listened to driver guides and community members exchanging information about Tim’s whereabouts and one would have been forgiven for thinking that they were talking about a family member.
Tim died aged 50 years old. He was a successful male and is probably the father of many calves in Amboseli. He leaves a great genetic pool and a wonderful legacy.