The Death of an Icon – ‘Tim the Greatest Tusker’
The Iconic Tim
Tim the Greatest Tusker

Tim was one of the last remaining great tuskers in Kenya; with tusks so long that they touch the ground. This is the term used to describe African elephants – usually male – whose tusks are so long that they reach the ground. The great tuskers are an irreplaceable symbol of our continent’s unique natural heritage. Their magnificent tusks are in some countries trophies for hunters thus putting these elephants at risk.

In the mid-1970s the first research of the Amboseli elephants was begun. To make things easy for the researchers they named each of the elephant families with a two-letter code starting with the letter T, like TA, TB, etc. Then each elephant was given a name that began with the letter T. Thus, the son of Trista and grandmother of the indomitable Teresia became, Tim. Tim was named by Cynthia Moss, founder of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, as part of what has become the world’s longest running scientific study of the species.

In 2014, two of Kenya’s most iconic great tuskers, Satao and Mountain Bull, were killed by poachers, thankfully Tim survived an attempted poaching via a poisoned spear attack. A team of rangers found him and were able to cure the nasty infection of the spear attack. In 2016, Tim was again wounded by a spear and a blow to the head by a huge rock hurled by angry farmers.

Tim did what every intelligent being would do and took himself to the medical facilities to get himself fixed up! In 2016 the researchers needed to add more protection for Tim and to curtail his trips to the farmers market in Kimana, and so he was given a GPS collar. The authorities were always alert to his location at all times and mobilize security to the farmlands.

Tim was not only known for his tusks but also his friendly and charismatic personality. He was also known to be a prolific father much sought after by females in oestrus and spent his adult life passing on his genes to elephant population in Amboseli. He died in February, 2020 at the age of 50 from natural causes. He was over 11 feet tall and weighed over 12,000 lbs. The 150,000 bundles of muscle fibers in his trunk can lift about 800 lbs.

A postmortem on the elephant revealed that he died of a twisted gut, which is a natural cause of death for elephants. Tim’s body was rushed to taxidermists in Nairobi. Taxidermy involves creating lifelike models. It involves the removal, cleaning, preserving and filling the skins of dead animals with a special material to make them look as if they are still alive.

Tim’s body is being preserved for educational and exhibition purposes. The iconic elephant was one of Africa’s last great tuskers roaming southern Kenya, mostly in the Mada area.

Tim’s remains arrived at National Museums of Kenya aboard a KWS flatbed truck. Tests were immediately run to determine if the body is suitable for taxidermy. By the time Tim’s hide was being removed, his huge tusks had been removed and stored safely by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

The preservation will last for 100 years. It will educate Kenyans on the need to protect wildlife. The bones, some hide and other organs will be preserved for study. The hide that will be mounted on the skeleton will on public display, with copies of the elephant’s tusks.

Tim now joins Ahmed, another huge tusker from Marsabit. A life-sized Ahmed look-alike is on display. Other wildlife preserved at the museum include a lion that died of natural causes at Nairobi National Park and a buffalo that used to charge at people at Nakuru National Park both undergoing taxidermy.








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