LOVED TO RAID FARMS

Tim, the celebrity jumbo, to be preserved for all to see

One of the last great elephants in the region, tracked by poachers, protected by wardens

In Summary

• Tim, the majestic super tusker of Amboseli died aged 50 early Tuesday morning or natural causes, it is believed. His intact tasks weighed more than 45kg each.

• He will be preserved by taxidermists at the National Museums of Nairobi in Nairobi and stand for 100 years.

 

Tim, the majestic elephant with stupendous tusks. He died on Tuesday at the age of 50 at Amboseli National Park..
TIM: Tim, the majestic elephant with stupendous tusks. He died on Tuesday at the age of 50 at Amboseli National Park..
Image: COURTESY
Tim in KWS truck heading to Nairobi for preservation. Tusks removed for safekeeping.
TIM: Tim in KWS truck heading to Nairobi for preservation. Tusks removed for safekeeping.
Image: NATIONAL MUSEUMS

Scientists were racing against time on Thursday to rush the majestic Tim, deceased celebrity elephant, to taxidermists in Nairobi.

Tim, age 50, stood more than four metres tall and his intact tusks weighed more than 45 kg each. He died early Tuesday morning at Amboseli National Park, apparently of natural causes.

"We have to race against time to remove the skin as it is very sensitive," taxidermist Bernard Agwanda said.

Taxidermy involves creating lifelike models. It involves the removal, cleaningpreserving and filling the skins of dead animals with a special material to make them look as if they are still alive.

Tim's body is being preserved for educational and exhibition purposes.

The elephant was one of Africa's last great tuskers roaming southern Kenya, mostly in the Mada area.

He was a favourite with tourists but not with farmers who shambas he raided. As a result, he was fitted with a GPS collar to notify Kenya Wildlife Service wardens of his whereabouts so they could divert him.

Some years back, Tim the patriarch of Amboseli National Park, was struck on the head with a large rock.

He was pierced through the ear with a spear that was embedded in his shoulder.

Following the injury, Tim worked his way to the headquarters of the Big Life Foundation, a non-profit outfit, and the African Wildlife Foundation dedicated to the conservation of elephants in southern Kenya.

Tim, it seemed, had sought out humans who could assist him.

Tim was sedated, treated and taken back to the Amboseli marsh in fairly short order.

Agwanda has been doing taxidermy for more than 18 years and loves his job.

His profession is very specialised and based on wildlife materials that are government property.

Not many people would like his job.

"I sometimes take days looking for dead wildlife in the bush. Some people also do not like looking at carcasses but I'm gratified once I have preserved them and they look beautiful. That is what keeps me waking up," he said.

On Thursday, Agwanda was wearing a long white coat and wielding a knife.  

Tim's remains arrived at National Museums of Kenya at 7am, Thursday aboard a KWS flatbed truck.

Tests were immediately run to determine if the body is suitable for taxidermy.

By the time Tim's hide was being removed, his huge tusks had been removed and stored safely by the Kenya Wildlife Service.

According to Agwanda, the mounting exercise will cost Sh2 million to Sh3 million.

The preservation will last for 100 years.

"It will educate Kenyans on the need to protect wildlife,' he said.

Bones, some hide and other organs will be preserved for study.

The hide that will be mounted on the skeleton will on public display, with copies of his tusks.

Agwanda said various chemicals can preserve the skin. Some are acids, salt-based, others absorb fats, he said. 

The removal of the skin was expected to take the entire day on Thursday, while extraction of the bones could take another three days.

Tim now joins Ahmed, another huge tusker. from Marsabit. A life-sized Ahmed look-alike is on display.

The two were also being tracked day and night by poachers but protected by wildlife wardens. Tim's GPS always told his whereabouts.

Agwanda also showed the media other wildlife preserved at the museum, including a lion that died of natural causes at Nairobi National Park, now 70 per cent complete.

A buffalo that used to charge at people at Nakuru National Park is a work in progress, 2o per complete.

(Edted by V. Graham)