Mountain Bull, legendary Kenyan elephant, found dead


CBS News

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Mountain Bull, the magnificent six-ton elephant, featured prominently in our reporting on the poaching crisis in Africa for CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday morning, has been discovered dead.

Perhaps he had been living on borrowed time, but the manner and place of his death is shocking and deeply disheartening to conservationists and Kenyans.

He was a troublesome elephant at least according to human standards – intelligent, wide ranging, and fence breaking with his massive, perfectly matched tusks. During the dry season he would often retreat to the protected and secluded cool forests of Mount Kenya, but in the wet season, he would strike out for undiscovered country far to the north. Fences were but a minor nuisance for him. He knocked them down with his tusks and neighboring crops became a tasty snack for his journeys.

In October of 2012, CBS News producer Jack Renaud and cameraman Wim de Vos travelled with me to Kenya to film a risky capture and partial de-tusking operation on Mountain Bull. Kenya Wildlife Service vets undertook a dynamic operation to dart him and while he rumbled in an anesthetic slumber they fired up a chain saw and sawed off the ends of his tusks while we, awed by his might, crowded in for a gentle touch.

Conservationists hoped this removal of 22 kg of formidable weaponry would make him less inclined to push down fences and perhaps reduce his attractiveness to poachers. Once the reversal drug was given, the giant awoke, and on wobbly feet silently disappeared into the thickets.

As expensive as this operation was, a far more formidable intervention was the building of a massive wildlife corridor — complete with a highway underpass — that allowed him and other elephants to cross between Mt. Kenya and the northern rangelands.

Mountain Bull, ever the undaunted explorer, was filmed using the corridor just days after it had been built far exceeding the hopes of conservationists who wanted to provide a safe passage for elephants through an increasingly human-dominated landscape. His leadership led to whole herds following suit.

Though the tusk “operation” saved Mountain Bull for the time being, our week long stay in Kenya brought us face to face with over a dozen dead elephants in various stages of decay, including six freshly gunned down animals, bloating in the sun, near Tsavo National Park.

In recent days, Mountain Bull had been behaving as conservationists had hoped, staying out of trouble and staying within the confines of well-protected parks.

Last week his GPS-GSM enabled collar installed by Save the Elephants had stopped moving — rare for this restless bull. Conservationist Ian Craig noticed the discrepancy and dispatched a team of rangers who found his body, not in a farm field or near a community as perhaps expected, but in one of the best protected national parks in the country. Mountain Bull had been killed silently with spears within the apparent safety of Mt. Kenya National Park, his massive tusks hacked out of his skull.

In the end, and in the prime of his life, Mountain Bull was killed not for his rogue behavior but simply for being an elephant. He was killed while being tracked night and day with modern technology and within the confines of a fenced national park and World Heritage site just a few hours away from the capital city. His death is another urgent and painful reminder that as long as the demand for ivory continues, elephants, both known and unknown, will continue to die.

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World mourns legendary elephant ‘Mountain Bull’ killed by poachers (Kenya)
Barry Ellsworth, All Voices

May 16, 2014 

Mountain Bull, the legendary six-ton elephant who became the face of the illicit poaching-for-ivory crisis in Africa, has been discovered dead in Kenya, CBS reported Friday.
The tusks of the 46-year-old bull elephant had been ripped out and his body, thought to have lain in the Mount Kenya Forest for eight days, had visible spear marks, the Mirror reported.
The kill occurred despite the fact that Mountain Bull was the symbol of the Save the Elephants charity and was fitted with a GPS tracking device so that campaigners for the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy project in Northern Kenya could account for his whereabouts and re-establish a traditional elephant migration route that had been bottled up by human development.
A Lewa spokesperson mourned the loss of a national symbol.
“Mountain Bull’s death is a great loss to the conservation fraternity,” the spokesperson said, the Mirror reported. “He taught us much about elephant and animal behavior, migration routes and patterns, and to a large extent, left many inspired by his bravery and resilience.”
CBS News and CBS “Sunday Morning” did features on Mountain Bull and in reporting his demise, said that “the manner and place of his death is shocking and deeply disheartening to conservationists and Kenyans.”
Mountain Bull was a troublesome elephant – ripping apart fences was his specialty – but he was also a great explorer and would strike out from the cool forests of Mount Kenya during the wet season and roam in undiscovered country to the north.
He had huge, perfectly matched tusks and in an effort to protect him from poachers, Mountain Bull was captured and, while he was in an anesthetic slumber, veterinarians with the Kenya Wildlife Service chain sawed the ends of his tusks in October 2012.
It was hoped the removal of the 22 kilograms of tusks would also reduce Mountain Bull’s penchant for the destruction of fences.
But in the end, despite being tracked day and night and confined to a fenced national park and World Heritage site, the poachers won.
On the Save the Elephants Facebook page, the tears were almost palpable as the news of the legendary elephant’s death was posted.
“We are devastated to report that Mountain Bull has been found dead,” the post on Facebook said, accompanied by his picture. “Here he is in his prime. RIP, Mountain Bull.”
The big bull’s death underscores just how devastating poaching is and that the fight to stop the world trade in illicit ivory is far from over, despite countries destroying confiscated stocks of elephant tusks.
France became the first European country to grind up and destroy 698 tusks in February 2014, The Guardian reported.
The previous month, China destroyed six tons in a bid to discourage poaching, Fox News reported.
France also hosted a global summit convened to tackle the $19 billion-a-year illegal wildlife trade.
It is big business, and for more on the illicit market, The Guardian has a story on the 10 things you need to know about elephant poaching.
The money also goes to finance terrorists, reported the Washington Times, so it will be a long hard battle to save the elephants of Africa from extinction.