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The term Tusker is loosely given to any elephant bull in Africa who has huge tusks. These elephants are also referred to as '100 pounders' and this comes from the old hunting days, when one tusk had to weigh more than 100 pounds in order to qualify as a trophy bull. Sadly, the hunters always shot the biggest bulls and as a result of this, and of course poaching, there are only a handful of these magnificent beasts left on the continent. For the last few years I have been working on my 'In The Footsteps of Giants' project which has seen me sweeping up and down the continent photographing elephants everywhere, from the Congo basin to the Skeleton Coast. This project received worldwide media coverage for elephants and although the media storm is now over, I still just cannot seem to stop photographing elephants and don't think that I ever will...
A few weeks back a good conservation friend and fellow elephant ambassador, Margot Raggett, posted a picture of a large tusker on instagram. I immediately emailed her to ask who the beast in her picture was and when she told me I felt myself filling with an excited fever, and within a matter of days, I was flying up east coast of Africa on my way to look for this elephant. He has a name this elephant and he is also illusive. I do not want to share his name or his location as this elephant is currently in a lot of danger. He has been speared twice already by farmers and/or poachers. The above photograph I recently captured is of him walking through community land. To see such an incredible beast roaming the continent wild and free and outside of a formerly protected area was both alarming, from a poacher and danger point of view, but also one of the greatest moments of my life. I am just so overwhelmed that such a beast exists. As he swaggered past me I felt like I had seen a dinosaur as his tusks and bulk bore likeness to the mammoth.
Slipping under my subject while he had his massive tusks pointed skywards and enjoying his breakfast of Acacia leaves, was simply a dream come true. All in all I am so grateful I got to meet this incredible animal and long may he just be. Ian McCullum, a psychologist and conservationist, once said to me that wilderness is not a place but rather it is a season and we are in its final hour. I think that knowing that such an enchanting gigantic creature still roams the planet wild and free, helps preserve the wilderness in all of our lives. I hope that these photos, like all of my others, remind us that all is not yet lost.
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