- British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas took the stunning images in Kenya
- The ‘big tusker’ elephant was known as F_Mu1 and died of natural causes
Standing majestically against the wild Kenyan landscape with tusks so big they graze the ground, this is one of the world’s rarest elephants.
There are now less than 20 of these elephants, known as ‘big tuskers’, left on the earth. They live in remote, inaccessible areas and each of their tusks weigh in excess of 100lbs (45kg).
British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, took stunning images of the creature, known as F_Mu1, and said that ‘if ever there were a Queen of Elephants, it surely would have been her’.
He captured the animal while working in Tsavo, shortly before she died of natural causes, aged just over 60
Recounting the moment he clapped eyes on the magnificent creature, Burrard-Lucas told MailOnline Travel: ‘F_Mu1 was skinny and old but she strode forward with stately grace.
‘Her tusks were so long that they scraped the ground in front of her. She was like a relic from a bygone era.’
The cameraman said locating the beast was like ‘looking for a needle in a haystack’ and he worked with conservationists from the Tsavo Trust to find her.
The wildlife experts used a spotter plane to conduct a search of the area and then they guided Burrard-Lucas to the right spot via radio.
Continuing his account of meeting F_Mu1, Burrard-Lucas said: ‘When I first saw her I was awestruck, for she had the most amazing tusks I had ever seen.
‘If I hadn’t looked upon her with my own eyes, I might not have believed that such an elephant could exist in our world.’
Burrard-Lucas used one of his BeetleCams – a remote-controlled buggy with a camera mounted on top – to capture unique, close-up shots of F_Mu1.
He said of his subject: ‘She always proved to be the most exceptional subject.
‘Her temperament was gentle and calm. Sometimes she would come so close to me that I could have touched her.’
The images he took were among the last documenting F_Mu1 and she passed away shortly afterwards, with ongoing drought in the area contributing to her ailing health.
Although he took the images in August 2017, he has only now released them to the public.
He notes that F_Mu1 wasn’t widely known outside of the Tsavo conservancy, and details around her were kept under wraps in a bid to prevent poaching.
Tsavo, which is home to the largest elephant population in Kenya, covers about 16,000 square miles and is a major challenge for rangers to patrol.
The photos of F_Mu1 are part of a larger series published in a magnificent coffee table book called Land of Giants.
It documents the elephants of Tsavo and the work of the Tsavo Trust.
The book features 150 previously unseen black-and-white photographs, taken over the course of an expedition in 2017 and two expeditions in 2018.
The aim of the book is to support the Tsavo Trust, Burrard-Lucas said, and to communicate an ‘inspiring message’: that these amazing elephants are still out there and it is not too late to save them.
For the book, staff from the non-profit helped Burrard-Lucas track down and photograph two female ‘big tuskers’ – one being F_Mu1 – and four males, including ‘LU1’, the largest of all.
The species is rarely photographed.
Burrard-Lucas concluded: ‘Photographing F_Mu1 was a feeling of privilege and euphoria that will stay with me forever.’
Burrard-Lucas’ book, Land of Giants, will be released on March 20 and is available to pre-order from WildlifePhoto.com and Amazon UK. You can find out more about the tome here.