- The last photos of one of Africa’s great “tusker” elephants have just been released.
- The photos were taken by British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, who last month photographed a rare African black leopard for the first time in more than 100 years.
- The elephant, named F_MU1 and whom Burrard-Lucas called the Elephant Queen, died of natural causes shortly after Burrard-Lucas photographed her.
- It’s estimated that there are fewer than 20 tusker elephants, which are often hunted by poachers because of their long tusks, left.
In February, a rare African black leopard was photographed for the first time in more than 100 years.
The photographer who captured the images, Will Burrard-Lucas, seems to have a knack for spotting creatures of this ilk. He’s just released another series, this time of a majestic “tusker” elephant, of which there are thought to be fewer than 20 left on Earth.
The Elephant Queen, as Burrard-Lucas called her, died soon after he took the photos. She was known by the code F_MU1 and lived in the Tsavo region of Kenya.
African elephants are referred to as “tuskers” or “big tuskers” when they have tusks long enough to reach the ground. There are so few left because ivory poachers target them for their valuable tusks.
“Super tuskers are very rare these days, precisely because their big tusks makes them prime targets for trophy hunters,” Mark Jones from the Born Free wildlife charity told the BBC.
“Because these animals are all too often taken out before they have reached their reproductive prime, super-tusker genes are being bred out of elephant populations, and we could very well be seeing the last of them.”
Just two years ago, poachers killed a 50-year-old tusker elephant living in the same region.
It is remarkable then that this elephant lived to be over 60 and died of natural causes.
“She had survived through periods of terrible poaching and it was a victory that her life was not ended prematurely by a snare, bullet or poisoned arrow,” Burrard-Lucas wrote in a blog post.
“If there were a Queen of Elephants, it would surely have been her.”
In collaboration with wildlife-conservation organisation Tsavo Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service, Burrard-Lucas was able to track down the elephant after several days of searching with a car and spotter plane.
Burrard-Lucas used his self-developed, remote-controlled BeetleCam to get close-up pictures of the elephant.
“I looked down at the live view on my wireless monitor and had to pinch myself,” he wrote.
“It was a feeling of privilege and euphoria that will stay with me forever.”
Burrard-Lucas will publish images of F_MU1 and other tuskers in his book “Land of Giants,” coming out on March 20.
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