British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas photographed a remarkable female elephant just before her death in Kenya. Her tusks were so long that they scraped the ground in front of her as she walked.
“If there were a Queen of Elephants, it would surely have been her,” says Burrard-Lucas. She died of natural causes. “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,” adds Burrard-Lucas.
It Took Several Days to Find the Elephant Queen in a “Wilderness the Size of Switzerland”
The photos were made in August 2017 with BeetleCam, a remote-control camera buggy first developed by Burrard-Lucas in 2009 to capture close-up photographs of potentially dangerous African wildlife.
“I was unable to find products that would allow me to achieve my vision, so I started to develop my own devices,” says Burrard-Lucas.
The photographer spent part of his childhood in Tanzania and lived in Zambia for a year in 2012. African wildlife is his primary focus. He then founded a company called Camptraptions specializing in remote photography.
A team from Kenya-based Tsavo Trust, who sponsored Burrard-Lucas’ work, and the photographer took a Land Rover along a narrow dirt track flanked by bush while Richard Moller, the founder of Tsavo Trust, circled them in a small spotter plane and using the radio guide the photographer toward a cow elephant known to Tsavo Trust by the code F_MU1.
“Kyalo swung the Land Rover off the dirt track towards the circling aircraft and started weaving left and right as he sought an unobstructed path through the bush. We eventually emerged out into a dusty clearing and Richard’s voice came through on the radio, ‘She’s heading your way, you should be able to see her,'” says Burrard-Lucas.
The Elephant Queen
It is Estimated There Fewer than 20 big Tuskers Left
In response to a surge in poaching, Tsavo Trust’s “Big Tusker Project” was established to secure a future for the tuskers, so the elephants are not lost to extinction.
Tsavo in Kenya is home to some of the last remaining “big tuskers” – elephants with tusks weighing in excess of 100lbs on each side. It is thought that there are less than 20 of these elephants left on Earth, and almost half of them are in Tsavo. Many of them live in remote, inaccessible areas and are rarely photographed.
These photographs are part of a larger series documenting the elephants of Tsavo and the work of Tsavo Trust. The full series is published in a new book titled Land of Giants, published March 20, 2019.
For Land of Giants, Tsavo Trust and Will Burrard-Lucas tracked down and photographed two cow tuskers and four bull tuskers, including one coded LU1, the largest of all.