The death of Mountain Bull


Rebecca Sargent, International Intern

Date Published

Last year I wrote a blog about my first collaring operation here at STE. After tracking these elephants’ movements on google earth in October I finally had the opportunity to see the first stage of the process, the fitting of the collar.

What made my experience even more exciting was that the target was Mountain Bull. Having watched ‘The Secret Life of Elephants’ and read lots of news articles about this infamous elephant it was a real privilege to see him in the flesh. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget, and it has now been made all the more poignant by the fact that Mountain Bull has become the latest victim of poaching among our known elephants.

A few days ago it was noticed that Mountain Bull’s collar had not emitted any signal since his last recorded position near Mount Kenya. A search team from Lewa Wildlife Conservancy was quickly despatched to search for him and before long his carcass was found in the Mount Kenya Forest. The carcass appeared to be a few days old and had several spear wounds. His tusks, magnificent even after being shortened, had been hacked from his skull.

Despite his frequent involvement in cases of human-elephant conflict, raiding farms and breaking fences, Mountain Bull was not killed for this rebellious behaviour. He was not killed near a community or on a farm. He was killed simply for being a beautiful and impressive elephant, within the apparent safety of a national park. The death of this legendary elephant has now become another painful reminder that no elephant is safe as long as the demand for ivory continues.

I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to see this giant in his prime. I ended my previous blog with words of optimism about him continuing to use the Lewa elephant corridor and living a long and full life. It feels shocking to read this now, knowing that my hopes did not come true. During my time in Kenya last year, 5 months passed without a single one of our known elephants being lost to poaching. Since my return in February, Mountain Bull is just one of a handful of our identified elephants who have been killed. This has been a heart-breaking reminder to me that despite our optimism this poaching crisis is far from over.

However we must always continue to have hope. While this is a huge blow to conservationists we have to hope that Mountain Bull will leave a lasting legacy. He is an individual who has had a huge impact on conservation in this area of Kenya. He has influenced the construction of the Lewa elephant corridor which opened up the traditional migration route of elephants between Mount Kenya and the savannahs of the north. He has taught us much about elephant behaviour and migration patterns. And not only this; through his media fame he has alerted the world to the difficulties elephants face and has captured the hearts of many with his stubbornness and resilience. Rest in peace Mountain Bull, you will be missed.