(Originally written February 2014)
Tusks long enough to almost touch the grasslands beneath his feet, Mohammed the Second is a hugely impressive sight. He is one of the oldest elephants in Amboseli, and with the population within the national park avoiding the worst of the poaching in the late 20th century, Mohammed the Second could even be one of the oldest surviving elephants on the planet. We were lucky enough to experience this close encounter with him while driving through the national park, shortly before he expressed his dominance; Mohammed chose to stand in the middle of the road, before walking purposefully toward a bus full of awed MSc students, and forcing it to reverse from his path.
The elephants of Amboseli escaped the worst of the intense and horrific poaching that gripped East Africa throughout the 1970s and 1980s. The Kenya Wildlife Service and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants report that Kenya is believed to have lost over 100,000 elephants to the ivory trade between 1973 to 1989, a loss of 85% of the population. The extent of poaching affecting other areas of the country meant that Amboseli’s population was the only one in Kenya to increase during that dark period. Due to the presence of researchers and the influence of the Maasai in preventing poaching in the area, they remained relatively undisturbed.
Amboseli remains an important area, allowing the elephant population there to live a relatively safe existence, while contributing to vital research that furthers the understanding of elephant behaviour and promotes conservation efforts relating to this incredible creature.
Only one thing on the planet needs an elephant’s tusks, and that is the elephant itself.