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The incredibly rare 'Elephant Queen' in Kenya

March 19, 2019 08:10 IST

"If I hadn’t looked upon her with my own eyes, I might not have believed that such an elephant could exist in our world."

All photographs: Will Burrard-Lucas in partnership with Tsavo Trust

Towering high above the Kenyan landscape, this female elephant is huge, her long tusks curving right down to the ground.

Known as a "big tusker" she's a rare and extraordinary sight -- it's estimated that fewer than 30 of these animals still exist in Africa.

 

British photographer Will Burrard-Lucas captured these incredible images shortly before she died of natural causes.

The awe-inspiring photos of the giant animal -- known as F_Mu1 -- were taken by British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas during an 18-month project working in partnership with the Tsavo Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service.

Will spent days searching for the elephant, as the national park area she called her home was the size of Switzerland.

-- Please click here for Will Burrard-Lucas' full story on his meeting with F_Mu1

Will was able to capture intimate shots from below using a specially-concealed remote controlled camera buggy known as a 'BeetleCam', which he developed in 2009 to capture close-up photos of potentially-dangerous African wildlife.

Will, 35, has been quoted as saying: "If ever there were a Queen of Elephants, it surely would have been her."

The portraits not only show off her colossal size but also her dignified and noble temperament.

Recalling his life-changing experience meeting the Elephant Queen, Will said he was left "speechless".

He wrote in his blog: "F_MU1 was skinny and old but she strode forward with stately grace.

"Her tusks were so long that they scraped the ground in front of her. She was like a relic from a bygone era.

"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."

Speaking about his time with F_MU1, Will in his blog wrote, "As a wildlife photographer, a subject like F_MU1 is incredibly rare; a creature that is unique -- possibly the most remarkable of her kind -- and yet an animal that few have photographed before. The time I spent with her was a real privilege."

The photographs will be the subject of a book -- conceived by the Tsavo Trust as a means of raising awareness and funds -- called "Land of Giants" and featuring 150 shots of the elephants of Tsavo.

The book -- Land of Giants -- will be out on March 20.

Tsavo is home to the largest elephant population in Kenya and covers about 16,000 square miles.

This makes it difficult to patrol - forcing conservationists to not make F_MU1 more widely known in case she attracted poachers.

Burrard-Lucas hopes the photographs carry an uplifting message.

"I find [the photos] inspiring to look at because it's just very positive and inspiring to think that elephants like this are still out there -- they haven't been hunted or poached," he says.

This isn't the first time Burrard-Lucas' photos have hit the headlines -- he previously took a photograph of a rare black leopard, which was shared widely online.

The photographer says that elephants with tusks like the one are even rarer than the black leopard.

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