“You’re right, this is pretty rad!” My tanned, plainly elated friend chimed as she grabbed the bag of chips from my hand seeing as I had overstayed my turn with the snacks. “What’d you say his name is again?” Yea, grasping names was evidently not Merle’s forte.
Against a Mt Kilimanjaro backdrop, renting the air was a melange of the stupefied gasps of onlookers, the click-snap sound of camera shutters and the revving of tour vehicles coming to a stop. In all likelihood, this was the ultimate safari experience, besides witnessing one of the big iconic savanna cats go at it on a gazelle for dinner or early breakfast.
At this point, I am not sure what is more insanely phenomenal; that we are within a hair’s breadth, at the reigns of the ‘deadliest bull elephant’ in Kenya or that we’ve turned off the engine, indifferent to a possible charge from this Jumbo. Nonetheless, the sight of his imposing magnificence, coupled with his discernible curiosity and devil-may-care spirit. My motionless stupor is interrupted by an unhoped for elbow strike from Merle. “TIM! HIS NAME IS TIM!” My throaty growl attracts angry stares from the elephant’s audience. Aware of my unsolicited reaction, I ashamedly look away fixing back on Tim.
Its not long after that the immensity of this jumbo disarms me back into my daze. Even though I had heard about Tim, it was not until I stood before him that the his actual enormity became apparent in such a glaring manner. Prior to this, social media had been awash with #gentlegiant doing more rounds than any celebrity gossip could. The circulating memes had induced my appetite for an up close rendezvous with You-Know-Who. Now my first safari to the Amboseli had served my dish on a silver platter. Nothing in my wildest dreams. If only I could speak elephant!
His versatile, multipurpose trunk reached out for an acacia twig. You’d be forgiven to think that he would only nib at the budding edges. But no! His trunk ripped that thorny branch much as one would peel a banana. All the while, Merle and I, were in growing state of dismay – our eyes peeled and gleaming, letting them have a feast. “How can anyone stoop so low as to poach such lovable creatures?” The loathe in Merle’s voice was palpable.
We had been privileged to have the Senior Warden on our game drive and he cut in rather matter of factly, “poaching has actually been fairly contained, ‘shida sasa ni wakulima kuziua zikiingia kwa shamba huyu kwanza amedungwa mshale juzi.'” I loosely translated the Swahili to Merle, “the problem is now retaliatory killings from farmers when they encroach farms. Actually, this one was recently speared.
On the margins of Amboseli National Park, in Southern Kenya, at the border of Tanzania, this is no novel story. Famed for his huge tusks, Tim is the quintessence of elephants’ newest menace today – habitat destruction. The scars on Tim’s body are a clear testament of the spear attacks he has braved from enraged farmers.
Feisty, smart, confident and charismatic; this is how most who have interacted with Tim describe him. Tim is not an unfamiliar name especially among tourists. He is not your typical unassuming, peace-loving elephant. Not in the least! He certainly has a flair for attention and the spotlight. Born in 1968 to his mother Trista, Tim recently hit his fifth decade. His name was coined from the ‘T family’ where he hails.
Fifty years have accorded him the dexterity that is prerequisite for such skilled raiding. Tim has come close to his death, not once, in some gruesome encounters with his agro-pastoralist victims. He terrifies even the macho Maasai morans.
Tim swigs those vegetables and maize with much relish from the farms on the periphery of the park. It is no wonder then, that the younger males in his entourage are seemingly developing a propensity for crop raiding. Like most herbivores, Tim is a man of the night – a scene that the residents have to contend with.
The African elephant (Loxodanta africana), is one of the few animal species that kindles staggeringly different emotions. To those who inhabit the fringes of wildlife protected areas it evokes fear and animosity. These are the people who directly bear the cost of conservation. Fortunately for Tim, he is now under 24/7 surveillance with his movements being tracked for the last 2 years since a collar was strapped around him.
Unlike poaching, this threat bears no hard and fast rules to its alleviation. Even those who rave on about the injustices against elephants are oblivious to the reality of their part in perpetuating this cause. This is a call for compatible land use and sound policies and management of wildlife dispersal areas to save more like Tim.
Main image credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters/Flickr.
About the Entry
A sustainable rangeland management enthusiast pursuing MSc Range Management at the University of Nairobi. I am also the co-founder of Bustani Safari Company in Kenya that seeks to promote local tourism among the young citizenry and educate our clients on conservation matters. I have always had a knack for writing on topics that fascinate me and wildlife conservation is top among them.
- Site name | envirosolutionsblog
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- Why should someone visit your site? My pride consists in the fact that through my tiny way, I can inspire change. However, I will be immensely pleased if this change will have a ripple effect even on generations to come. My tiny passion for our drylands in Kenya, and Africa, for that matter, may fuel the much concern and attention needed to confront head-on the treacherous monster that is desertification. My heart has carved out a remarkable desire, not so long ago, to educate my audience on the urgency of wildlife conservation. The heritage we are bound to waste away in our oblivion and indifference much to the detriment of posterity.
- Entry Number | 78
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