You may remember last month that a rare African black leopard was photographed for the first time in 100 years.
It seems the British photographer who captured the images, Will Burrard-Lucas, has a knack for spotting creatures of this ilk as he’s just released another series, this time of a majestic “tusker” elephant, of which there are thought to be fewer than 20 left on Earth.
What’s more, the elephant died soon after his images were taken, meaning they are among the last photographs ever taken of her.
“Tuskers” or “big tuskers” are so named when their tusks grow long enough to reach the ground and weigh more than 100 pounds each. They are incredibly rare because of the value they hold to poachers, who come for the precious ivory found in their tusks.
“Super tuskers are very rare these days, precisely because their big tusks makes them prime targets for trophy hunters,” Mark Jones from the Born Free wildlife charity told the BBC.
“Because these animals are all-too-often taken out before they have reached their reproductive prime, super-tusker genes are being bred out of elephant populations, and we could very well be seeing the last of them.”
Just two years ago, a 50-year-old tusker elephant living in the same region was killed by poachers.
It is remarkable then, that this female elephant lived to be over 60 years old and died of natural causes.
“She had survived through periods of terrible poaching and it was a victory that her life was not ended prematurely by a snare, bullet, or poisoned arrow,” Burrard-Lucas wrote in a blog post.
“If there were a Queen of Elephants, it would surely have been her.”
She was known by the code F_MU1 by wildlife conservation organisation Tsavo Trust and lived out her days in Kenya.
In collaboration with Tsavo Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service, Burrard-Lucas was able to track down the cow elephant using a spotter plane.
Using his self-developed BeetleCam, Burrard-Lucas was able to come within touching distance of the giant creature via remote control.
“I looked down at the live view on my wireless monitor and had to pinch myself,” he wrote.
“It was a feeling of privilege and euphoria that will stay with me forever.”
Images of F_MU1, who the photographer calls the Queen of Elephants, will be published in his new coffee table book “Land of Giants” along with several of Tsavo’s other iconic tuskers.