It is with a heavy heart that the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) joins the conservation fraternity to bid ‘fare thee well,’ to one of Tsavo’s Super Tuskers; the majestic, iconic Lugard, whose life’s candle was snuffed out by advanced age, exacerbated by debilitating drought.
A decade ago, the spirit of collaborative conservation that steers The Service’s mandate, led to KWS and Tsavo Trust pioneering the Tsavo “Big Tusker Project,” to enhance the security and protection of the Tuskers through regular aerial and ground monitoring activities in a concerted effort to better protect these ambassadors of Loxodonta Africana - the African elephant.
Lugard’s three-day old carcass was spotted by Tsavo Trust’s eagle-eyed pilot officer on 21st November 2022, within Tsavo West National Park, during a routine aerial reconnaissance mission. An immediate ground response was initiated by KWS and Tsavo Trust to verify the situation.
The joint team confirmed the carcass to be that of the famous Super Tusker named Lugard: cause of death was natural. Further, both massive tusks were intact and subsequently recovered.
Lugard was first ‘baptized’ and recorded into the Big Tusker Project database on 1st January, 2014. He crisscrossed seasonally between Tsavo East and Tsavo West National Parks via Manyani area, with his movement data and video recordings leading to the establishment of a wildlife underpass beneath the SG Railway, that has since been used by countless elephants.
KWS/Tsavo Trust physically observed Lugard on 373 separate occasions – approximating to a nearly once-per-week sighting of the gentle giant for the last nine years! For all of his many years, Lugard roamed unfettered over his home range - the sprawling 22,000 sq. km Tsavo parks - a sterling example of what continuous, collaborative conservation can conceive: elephants living out their lives to the fullest, as Mother Nature intended. This is a rarity in today’s elephant existence, more so for an elephant endowed with such impressive ivory.
This KWS/Tsavo Trust ‘çollabo’ has the entire conservation fraternity bursting with accomplishment at cracking the code to successfully preserving Kenya’s renowned biodiversity – a salute to the efficacy of the Big Tusker Project.
Lugard was a film star, appearing in several documentaries; photographed and enjoyed by visitors galore who visited Tsavo specifically to see him. He was last seen alive by Tsavo Trust on 10th November, 2022.
The silver lining to losing a Super Tusker - a gem of Lugard’s ilk - to the inevitable circle of life, is that his virility saw him sire multitudes of equally – if not more magnificent – pachyderms to sustain his documented “large tusks” genetics, to continue their reign over the impressive Tsavo ecosystem.
RIP Lugard; you will be sorely missed.