Nairobi, Oct 24 – One of northern Kenya’s largest elephants has died of natural causes, Save the Elephants charity eported, noting that the tusker, named Matt, had survived and thrived during a poaching epidemic a decade ago when an estimated 100,000 African elephants were killed, most of them between 2010 and 2012.
Aged 52, Matt was one of Kenya’s well-known elephant elders and roamed further than any other elephant tracked by Save the Elephants. He nearly circumvented Mount Kenya from Meru to Laikipia, a continuous east to the west loop of approximately 245km. His travels also took him northward across Samburu for a stretch of 220km. His body was found by the Northern Rangelands Trust 9-1 anti-poaching unit on October 7.
“Matt movements were highly original, and taught us that far separated protected areas could be linked by nighttime dashes through dangerous territory,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Save the Elephants founder. “This ability to make large movements under cover of darkness revealed previously unknown corridors, all of 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 mating 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,” said Douglas-Hamilton.
Measuring 10 feet tall at the shoulder and weighing over six tons, Save the Elephants first collared Matt with a GPS tracking collar in 2002 so researchers could monitor and study his behaviour and rangers could protect him from poachers.
Matt’s range turned out to span from Meru National Park on the Tana River, through three national reserves including Samburu, and half a dozen community conservancies to the west of the elephants’ range
He was no ordinary bull — his curiosity always kept researchers on their toes and he was a master at shredding tracking collars that kept him in the spotlight, according to Save the Elephants.
Matt would make yearly journeys from his resting area east of Matthew’s Range to the Samburu National Reserve where he could find females in oestrus.
He appeared in numerous nature documentary series including the BBC’s ‘This Wild Life’ and ‘Secret Lives of Elephants and ‘Nature’s Epic Journeys’. In 2017, Douglas-Hamilton recorded a dramatic scene with Matt after he went to investigate a confrontation between the great bull and another elephant called Edison and found himself stuck in the middle.