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Dida, one of Kenya’s last giant ‘Big Tusker’ elephants, dies at 65

One of Africa’s last remaining giant ‘Big Tusker’ elephants has died aged 65, the wildlife service (KWS) has said.

Dida died in Tsavo East National Park from natural causes, KWS said in a statement on Tuesday.

“A matriarch has rested. We are saddened by the death of Dida who was possibly Africa’s largest female Tusker and a Matriarch residing in Tsavo East National Park. She died from natural causes due to old age having lived a full life to about 60-65 years old,” the statement said.

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KWS described her as a truly an iconic matriarch of Tsavo and a great repository of many decades’ worth of knowledge.

“She shepherd her herd through many seasons and challenging times. She served as both the subject to various documentaries and an iconic tourist attraction,” it added.

“Those who got to know her through pictures and videos as well as those who had the exquisite pleasure of meeting her in person will remember her.”

An elephant is technically a “tusker” when its ivory tusks are so long that they scrape the ground.

Usually, only old bull elephants grow their tusks long enough to reach this acclaimed status.

But conservationists estimate only a few dozen such animals with tusks that size are now left on the continent due to poaching.

Dida’s carcass after it was discovered. PHOTO | COURTESY.

Animals with the biggest ivory and elephants with the heaviest tusks are most at risk from poachers.

Dida was one of the park’s most famous big tuskers. Adorned with ivory that stretches down to the ground, she was quite a spectacle. Tusks so big are not found very often in any member of the African elephant species, but they are especially noteworthy on a female.

Tsavo is thought to be home to 12,000 elephants, the largest population in Kenya. In 2014 a famous big tusker, Satao, was killed by poachers in the park using a poisoned arrow, prompting global outrage. Satao II, named after it, was also killed by poachers in 2017.

Poaching has seen the population of African elephants plunge by 110,000 over the past 10 years to just 415,000 animals, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In 2020, Big Tim died in Mada area of Amboseli National Park from natural causes aged 50 years.

Unlike Big Tim, who was discovered soon after his death and his body transported to the Nairobi, where a taxidermist was done to preserve it for display at the national museum, Dida’s caucus had already decomposed by the time she was located.