Big Tusker from the North dies

Matt was one of Kenya’s Big Tuskers and a well-known elder. He appears to have died from natural causes after a 52 year life roaming huge distances across Northern Kenya. He was tracked by Save the Elephants, and they reckon he may have travelled further than any other elephant nearly circumventing Mount Kenya from Meru all the way to Laikipia – which is a loop of approximately 245km.

Matt measured 10 foot tall at the shoulder and weighed in at a massive 6 tons +. Thanks to Save the Elephants collaring him in 2002, he was not only studied for his behaviour but also monitored to protect him from poachers. With his large tusks and impressive bulk, Matt survived and in fact thrived during a high risk poaching epidemic a decade ago, which is testament to his intelligence, adaptation and local knowledge. During that decade, an estimated 100,000 elephants were killed across Africa in just three years (2010 – 2012).

Matt was a curious bull, with a knack for shredding his collars which meant that STE researchers were always kept on their toes! His last collar was fitted in March 2016, and this helped position him every hour for the last three years. As a dominant bull, Matt would trek from his resting area near the Matthew’s Range to Samburu to find females for a frolick. He appeared in a number of nature documentary series including “This Wild Life”, “The Secret Lives of Elephants” and “Nature’s Epic Journeys” all by the BBC.

Save the Elephants was founded by Elephant Researched Iain Douglas-Hamilton, who had this to say about Matt:

“Matt’s movements were highly original, and taught us that far separated protected areas could be linked by nighttime dashes through dangerous territory,” said Douglas-Hamilton. “This ability to make large movements under cover of darkness revealed previously unknown corridors, all of which which will give conservationists and government planners the chance to understand and manage the vast ecosystems of northern Kenya. When he was in his prime Matt dominated matings so his genes were spread far and wide in the elephant population through the many calves he sired in northern Kenya. When he grew old he moved less and he was peaceful towards human beings. He became well known by the Samburu people living in the village of Serolipi.”

He will be missed, but we are so chuffed that he was able to live out his 52 years in relative peace and safety.

News from Save The Elephants.
Image credit: Eldemond Williams