220503 Craig in Kimana SanctuaryIt’s easy to get depressed following the death of an iconic and much-loved elephant such as Tolstoy and be angry at the fact that he died at the hands of man. But there is an antidote to those thoughts, and that is to look around us here in Amboseli.

Tolstoy’s death as a result of human-wildlife conflict is tragic, and we will be mourning his loss for some time. The good news, however, is that such deaths are increasingly rare in Amboseli. Through the whole of 2021, we recorded only 3 human-elephant conflict-related deaths in our area of operation (out of a population of approximately 2,000 elephants).

Big Life’s crop-protection fence has been hugely successful, coupled with the extraordinary commitment of rangers who spend their nights protecting farms from elephant crop-raids in areas that are not yet fenced. Without this fence or these rangers, Tolstoy would have fallen victim to conflict years ago.

The elephant population of the Amboseli Ecosystem is the highest it’s been in 50 years of monitoring. This is remarkable given the threats that the species faces. Furthermore, Amboseli is still home to what is arguably the highest density (relative to overall population size) of large-tusked elephants in Africa. Craig is one of the biggest, and this picture of him was taken just days ago in the Kimana Sanctuary, where he arrived after Tolstoy’s death.

There are many others that will grow to this astonishing size if they are protected, including many of Tolstoy’s offspring. And there are a lot of people working hard to afford them this protection. We appreciate all of our ecosystem partners, including the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. It is thanks to their incredible research work that we know the life histories of Amboseli’s magnificent tuskers, as well as the richness of the social bonds that bind this special population together.

Thank you to everyone who sent messages following Tolstoy’s death.  We truly appreciate it. We are still sad, but as focused as ever on protecting the rest of his kind here in Amboseli, by working together with the communities that share space with them.

Photo: Shaun Mousley