Dida, Africa’s ‘largest’ female tusked elephant, dies in Kenya

The matriarch was aged between 60 and 65 years, and died of natural causes, wildlife officials say.

Kenya elephant
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 [Handout/Kenya Wildlife Service]

Dida, an elephant in Kenya believed to have been Africa’s largest female tusker, has died of old age, according to wildlife officials.

Famed for her long tusks and popular with tourists, the majestic matriarch was aged between 60 and 65 years – well beyond the average life expectancy for an elephant in the wild.

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

Popularly known among conservationists and tourists as “the queen of Tsavo”, Dida lived in the expansive Tsavo East National Park in Kenya’s southeast. Tsavo forms the largest protected area in the wildlife-rich country.

“Dida was a truly iconic matriarch of Tsavo and a great repository of many decades worth of knowledge,” the 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.

Source: News Agencies