Africa: Tolstoy was one of Amboseli’s treasures. There are perhaps as few as thirty elephants like him alive.
‘Super-tuskers’ are elephants that have at least one tusk weighing 100 pounds or more. The genes that give rise to these incredible creatures are gone from most of Africa, systematically eliminated by hunting and poaching pressure. Most of the super-tuskers that have survived live in the Greater Amboseli-Tsavo ecosystem.
Tolstoy’s huge tusks put him at tremendous risk through the worst of the ivory poaching years. Big Life’s rangers worked hard to protect him through that dark time, and to lose him, at age 51, to the human-wildlife conflict was both tragic and a shock.
Tolstoy never meant any harm, and you can be sure that the person who killed him would rather have been asleep in his bed at home than throwing spears at elephants in his field. The farmer probably didn’t even know that it was Tolstoy in the darkness.
If anything, this makes his death even more pointless and upsetting, especially for the rangers who have spent years of long nights patrolling the farmlands that Tolstoy frequented, doing their best to keep him and other elephants out.
Human-wildlife conflict is a battle in which there is no winner, only losses on both sides. Big Life’s job is to minimize those losses and to help keep the peace.