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The world says goodbye to Africa's iconic jumbo Tim

Wednesday March 18 2020
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Majestic Tim attended to by rangers at Amboseli National Park. PHOTO | COURTESY

By ALLAN OLINGO

He came from a family of ‘T’s, having been born to an elephant cow named Trista Since in December 1969. Majestic Tim's grandmother, Teresia was the leader of Amboseli’s TD family.

On Tuesday morning, Tim died of natural causes in Mada area of Amboseli National Park, having towered through the plains of the Amboseli for over 50 years, becoming a global tourist magnet for his huge tusks.

His record age, which made him the world’s longest running scientific study of the species.

MAJESTIC TIM

Majestic Tim, as he was fondly known, came to be one of Africa’s last big tusker elephants and an African Elephant ambassador.

Named Tim by Cynthia Moss, founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, the giant tusker awed many and attracted world class photographers, videographers and tourists to Amboseli.

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Outside of his huge tusks that drew tourists to Amboseli, Tim was known for terrorising local farmers, through nocturnal raids with his gang of about 12 other males, a feat that made conservationists to collar him.

In 2016, farmers attacked the elephant with spears for invading their farms and destroying crops.

Tim had developed great appetite for tomatoes and maize and would sneak in the dead of the night to invade farms around Amboseli National Park.

This forced rangers, under a special project comprising the Save the Elephants, Amboseli Trust for Elephants, Big Life Foundation, Kenya Wildlife Service, and the community to fit him with a radio collar. This enabled the rangers to track him down.

“Tim is a very cool during the day. I mean, he’s very relaxed and very approachable. At night, he can be a bit more aggressive,” Ryan Wilkie, a conservationist with Save the Elephants said in a past interview.

EVADE RANGERS

Using all tactics, Tim would often evade the rangers.

“He’s definitely incredibly smart. I mean I’m enamuored with this elephant — just trying to understand how he’s thinking … He’s certainly a very intelligent and strategic thinker,” Mr Wilkie then said of the giant tusker.

The team would always use information from his collar to create an elephant corridor to reduce human-wild life conflict in Amboseli. Tim was also said to be gentle and extremely intelligent.

“Tim surprised everyone, he was a crop raider but he was a gentle, calm and intelligent being. His size was breathtaking, and he seemed to know it,” Paula Kahumbu, the chief executive officer of Wildlife Direct said,

“We was glad Tim did not die from a hail of bullets like other elephants in recent years but instead died of natural causes,” Wildlife Direct said in a statement.

STAR ATTRACTION

His big tusks were also star attraction for tourists, with one weighing 72 kilograms, while the other weighed 73 kilograms, according to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS).

“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.

Mr Paul Udoto, the KWS corporate affairs manager said described the animal as ‘benevolent slow-moving preserver of peace at the Amboseli and was well known and loved throughout Kenya and beyond.  

 STUCK IN MUD

“Elephant families are matriarchal and males are solitary when they reach sexual maturity. But Tim was always welcome to travel in the company of females and their families. He was unassuming, unpretentious and laid back,” Mr Udoto said.

Despite his run-ins with local communities, Big Tim was loved, and because of his profile and stature in the conservation world, KWS and Big Life Foundation Rangers gave Tim a 24-hour surveillance and protection. Two years ago, the big tusker cheated death after getting stuck in the mud for several hours before being rescued by rangers.

“Tim brought so much joy to many people,” Dr. Kahumbu said.

Big Tim will be preserved through taxidermy for education and exhibition purposes at the Nairobi National Museum, KWS said.

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