Kalume was born in 1965 and became one of the best known and studied bulls by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (Kenya). A couple of big notches on his left rugged ear are easy marks for his identification but that is not what got everyone’s attention when they were encountering a bull of Kalume’s beauty. His tusks were a thing to be adored, they were incredible, large and well proportioned.
During his musth period (a period of heightened sexual and hormonal activity), he walked around with a beautiful swagger just like all musth bulls do but equipped with such beautiful white sparkling tusks, Kalume was beating all the other males. He was also a very calm bull and not aggressive even when in musth, which often is a case. The research team never had to be alert when close to him.
Despite their beauty, Kalume’s impressive long tusks also proved to be a disadvantage to him: he was walking target to poachers and hunters, but at the end that was not the reason of his death. The Amboseli Trust of Elephants (ATE) team had noticed that Kalume’s health had not been in good shape toward end of 2008. His walk was not steady – as if possessing pain in the joints. It was suspected that he might be suffering from ‘twisting disease,’ which is a disease that hits elephants after they feed on certain plants and leaves have side effects on the joints, causing them to walk in a twisting manner. Normally elephants who have suffered from this, always recover after two weeks, but it took Kalume a lot longer to recover.
ATE had to assume the worst as Kalume’s condition became worse day by day, and his feet began to swell; developing some cracks in the skin, rendering him immobile. As Kalume’s condition worsened, he was unable to walk very far, and so he became thinner and thinner. In the end, he may have died from malnutrition.
Text & photo credit: Amboseli Trust for Elephants