Kenya’s largest female elephant dies

Female elephants often live in close-knit families with young calves on their side. — AFP

NAIROBI: A Kenyan elephant believed to have been Africa’s largest female tusker has died of old age, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

Dida was famed for her long tusks and aged between 60 and 65 years, the upper reaches of life expectancy for an elephant in the wild.

“She died from natural causes due to old age,” Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said on Twitter, attaching images of the elephant.

The matriarch lived in the expansive Tsavo East National Park in the southeast of the wildlife-rich country.

“Dida was a truly iconic matriarch of Tsavo and a great repository of many decades worth of knowledge,” KWS said, adding that she was the subject of many documentaries.

“She shepherd(ed) her herd through many seasons and challenging times.”

Female elephants often live in close-knit families with young calves at their side, while bulls tend to be more solitary.

Conservation group Tsavo Trust eulogised Dida as a “true embodiment of an iconic cow” who will be remembered by future generations of elephants.

“She will be better remembered… from the lessons they learnt as they watched their matriarch pass her careful judgement,” it wrote on Facebook.

“An elephant never forgets.”

Dida’s death comes barely a month after another iconic elephant died in Samburu, an arid expanse that like most of northern Kenya is suffering the driest conditions in 40 years.

A mother of seven calves, Monsoon survived being shot five times during a rampant poaching crisis about a decade ago that sent Africa’s wild elephant population into freefall.

Four consecutive rainy seasons have failed in Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, an unprecedented climatic event that has pushed millions across the Horn of Africa into extreme hunger.

Older elephants and young calves are the first to succumb to prolonged drought, experts say.

Kenyan broadcaster NTV on Monday posted a video of villagers in central Kenya watching “helplessly” as an elephant died from extreme hunger.

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