What we can learn from the life of Tim the Tusker
Earlier this month the EPI Foundation was saddened to hear of the death of one of the best known "tusker" elephants. Tim died of natural causes aged 50, in Amboseli National Park, Kenya - one of our 20 EPI member states.
Our very own Dr Winnie Kiiru reminisces; ‘Tim was impossible to miss. He had massive tusks and a friendly manner. He was a successful male and is probably the father of many calves. He leaves a great genetic pool and a wonderful legacy.’
Tim was "well known and loved throughout the country" said Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). He was known not only for being a tusker - his tusks had grown so long they reached the ground - but for his mischievous, crop-raiding behaviour.
As Winnie says; ‘He had his share of problems with farmers. Very early in his life he moved to the Kimana farming area, away from the safety of the Amboseli National Park. Tim suffered numerous injuries and spear wounds from irate farmers. In 2016, Tim was hit with a spear to the forehead, he knew to make his way back to the safety of Amboseli National Park, where a group of veterinarians saved him’.
The KWS collared Tim in 2016, to keep both him and the locals' crops safe. Whilst Tim lived to a good age, his somewhat troubled relationship with farmers reminds us of the challenges facing wildlife and humans. In order to protect the lives and livelihoods of the people who live in wildlife areas, and preserve precious biodiversity, it is necessary to focus our collective attention and resources on addressing human-wildlife conflict.
Although Tim died of natural causes, some 20,000 elephants are killed each year – mostly for the illegal ivory trade. The overall number has declined by about one third over the last decade and many now live in small and isolated populations. If current trends continue, they will be wiped out in the next decade.
The EPI Foundation has been working to develop and support National Elephant Action Plans in partnership with its member states. These plans recognise the importance of all elephant populations, even relatively small ones like the one in Amboseli, where Tim lived. These populations are crucial for the conservation of elephants as they often contain unique genetic diversity – in this case helping to ensure that Tuskers like Tim can continue to thrive in the wild.
Dr Winnie Kiiru’s tribute full tribute can be found here