Kalume Kisses Goodbye

Tue, 2009-05-26 16:17 by nnjiraini
Kalume's body 1 Kalume's body 2

It is with sad emotions that I regret to announce the death of Kalume – born in 1965 and one of the best known and studied bulls by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. To be honest, I have mixed emotions toward Kalume's death. As fate would have it, it is hard for a bull of his quality to spend his entire life time and finally to die from a disease or other natural cause, in this world of inexorable hunters targeting old big bulls, claiming that they have already surpassed their 'prime time' and are no good for breeding any more.

The ATE team had already noticed that Kalume's health had not been in good shape for the last nine months. His walk was not steady – as if possessing pain in the joints. We thought that he might be suffering from 'twisting disease'. (Twisting disease hits elephants after they feed on certain plants that have side effects on the joints, causing them to walk in a twisting manner.) According to our studies, elephants who have suffered from this, always recover after two weeks, but it took a lot more time for Kalume to recover, and we had to assume the worst – Kalume was nearing his death.

He was always spotted in the southern part of the park, feeding and drinking from the swamp. His health was becoming worse day by day; 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, but we suspect that something else was troubling Kalume. We realised that we had seen conditions similar to his on two previous occasions – in another large adult male and in a calf. Both of these elephants also died. Kalume is too young to die of old age. We need a vet to come to do a post-mortem on Kalume and others to solve the riddle of these mysterious illnesses.

From the images I have posted above – in the first image you can make out the amount of dung that came from him as he was struggling to his last breathe, an indication that he died in tremendous pain. His death was realized in the morning of May 24th '09, and that is not all, the position where his body lies is more or less unreachable. The last image illustrates the standpoint of the photographer, followed by the swamp that is famous to be the favourite habitat for hippopotamus. As you can see from all the images, the swamp covers the whole perimeter surrounding the body.

Amboseli KWS are keeping the body on watch day-in, day-out, until the concerned parties come up with a way of uprooting the tusks.

I salute this worthy ele-warrior

Sun, 2009-08-09 12:20 by sivaram

Yes.. a prime bull like Kalume is indeed a warrior.. Actually, I can see that he was born in 1965, just one year before my own birth in 1966...

But the challenges that I have faced in my human life to come this far to the age of 43 pales like a micron in front of the insurmountable odds that Kalume would surely have faced in those unforgiving wilds in getting through his 44 years of action packed life: constant threats from poachers, pestilence, drought, ambitious rival bulls ever intent to climb the ladder of dominance in bull society, attacks from ambitious hungry rogue male lion coalitions longing to get a piece of Kalume during his calf years (one mistake then by his matriarchal herd when confronted by the brutes of the African night and he would have gone and not even experienced the power of adult bull-hood, the heady feeling of invincibility in musth, the mating jousts and other rights as a prime bull), or as happens so many times in these wilds, just plain misfortune that sometimes cuts short so many promising prime-lives even before they begin....

Even though this great ele-warrior fell short of at least one more decade of life in these African wilds, I still salute this worthy warrior.. for even making it this far... Only his own deep inner thoughts, his ele-conversations that he had over the years with the herd matriarchs and other prime bulls and his prodigious ele-memory embossed in his brain that have now sadly departed with him carries the full impact of his great life.. How are we mere mortals with our finite intelligence to know what the great bull saw, heard, and felt through his own senses..what were his lessons in life.. what was the invaluable wisdom that he had garnered from the wilds when he lived...and was this knowledge far superior to what the eco-scientists of today know??? one wonders..

We Hindus (I'm from India) worship the elephant as a God... the elephant headed God GANESHA who represents timeless WISDOM and who is the CONQUEROR OF ALL OBSTACLES and now I reverentially pray.. OM SHRI GANESHAAYA NAMAHA... (salutations to the elephant god)..in honor of the departed Kalume..

Shiva Iyer
Thank God Ganesha for helping me find this great discussion forum on elephants. Honored to be a member here .....


Sun, 2009-08-09 12:26 by cmoss

Thank you so much for this beautifully written and heartfelt posting. It is so good to know that there are people out there that understand and care about elephants the way you do.

Re: Ele-warrior

Sun, 2009-08-09 12:39 by sivaram

Thanks for your comments... but how can we ever compare to the thankless work (actual field work) that U have done Cynthia.. Also to add.. We both hail from continents blessed with top notch game (I mean wildlife).. As U know, Just like Africa India too has its big predators and of course the magnificent Asian elephant....The sight of a prime Asian tusker in the Southern Indian wilds is an awe inspiring one..It is constantly humbling..


Kalume's death

Fri, 2009-05-29 06:19 by Johan

I saw Kalume in September last year walking really slowly. I have photographed a lot of these magnificent bulls for my book, Great Tuskers of Africa, and he was no different. These old lords of the wilderness are really something special and we should do everything to protect them. Very few of them remain in the wild; there are probably less than 50 great tuskers in Africa today.
It was with sadness that I learnt of his death, as he was a relatively young bull still. lets hope he has passed on some of his magnificent genes and in time to come our children will see some of his offspring with such beautiful tusks.


Your book

Sat, 2009-06-27 00:35 by Christoph REAeV

Hi Johan,

thanks for the mention of your book here. I didn't discover it yet. The cover with "Tshokwane" looks gorgeous, and I ordered my copy :)
I'm sure it will be a great addition to my elephant book collection.
Kalume's death makes me sad as well. I was surprised that he was only 44 years old. I expected such massive ivory for bulls far beyond the age of 50. It is alarming that the number of really great tuskers is extremely reduced. Historical photos with caravans of people carrying massive tusks give an idea how disseminated great bull elephants have been in the past. The average weight of ivory goes down year by year. Maybe the gene pool for utmost large elephants is extinguished forever. A shoulder height of 4 meters is basically possible - and nearly every elephant documentary tells it - but this one big bull shot in Angola in the 1950th seems to be the last one who reached this height exactly. I think all living bull elephants are lower than 4 meters. Yes, I also hope the remaining great tuskers pass on their genes, and they and their future offsprings get the protection they need.


Great Tuskers of Africa

Sat, 2009-07-04 07:16 by Christoph REAeV

In the meantime I received my copy of "Great Tuskers of Africa". It is a stunning and highly recommended book. Excellent in text, graphics and quality of print. The artwork of David Hadaway is one of the best I've ever seen. And BTW - it's nice that "Dionysus" is honored in this great book as well :))

Chris of "Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V." www.reaev.de

Great Tuskers of Africa

Sat, 2009-07-11 09:05 by ylukito

Yes, I bought this book about 4 months ago. It's fantastic. I remember Duke from Kruger National Park is one of the majestic great tuskers still alive today. There was also a documentary about Kruger elephants and Tshokwane was featured in that docu. Even the last moments of his life as well as his death were mentioned in the documentary. I can't remember which one though. And coming back to the book, don't you think Ahmed was such a magnificent guy ?


Great Tuskers of Africa

Thu, 2009-07-16 05:33 by Kota Viviers

I have been out of contact for a while travelling back to Namibia but will definately have to get hold of the book. It is sad to read about elephants suffering in the drought, looking around Namibia there's been so much rain and it is beautiful, its been a good year and I understand the Etosha Pan is full of water after many dry years. Will have to visit to see for myself.

Echo and Kalume.

Wed, 2009-05-27 14:58 by Alison1962

Having just returned home from my 3 weeks in Kenya i wanted to tell you how sad i feel on your losses with Echo and now Kalume.
I came to Amboseli for 3 days 1 week after Echo had died and the overwhelming sadness was visible not just by her family, but by all the staff of Ol Tukai and the elephant researchers.
I have followed Echo and her family for some time and have been a sponsor to Esprit.
My main reason visiting kenya was to see them. I would like to thank Kitito for her time and tell her how privilaged i felt to see the elephants and have them identified to me, i hope they will soon be happier and return to a more normal lifestyle back together again. Enid will now have a big place in my heart.
Kalume i didnt know, but i can imagine how you are all feeling.
The joy these Elephants have brought to so many is very special indeed. Thankyou Alison.


Wed, 2009-05-27 10:05 by joannes

What really sad news;-(Kalume was one of the most gorgeous bulls with amazing tusks I've had to copy his picture to my desktop as he was wonderful.) I'm so pleased he never became the target of human greed though, but to natural causes, at least his pain is eased now his spirit will live on out in the big "somewhere".


Wed, 2009-05-27 15:50 by Shuger66

Hi Joanne, yes, what a gorgeous bull, and those poachers did not get his beautiful tusks. He died so young though it must be devastating during this drought for so many animals. Do you have any pictures of Kalume you could post? Thanks, Noella


Thu, 2009-05-28 09:29 by joannes

Hi there, I know what you mean elephants seem to get it from all angles it really upsetting and they sucumb to drought more than most. I don't have any pictures sorry, the one I used was from post about Kalume last year, it looks great on a big screen!


Wed, 2009-05-27 01:35 by Pete666

I'm saddened to hear about Kalume's death, but at least he's free from pain now. I know that Amboseli has lost 2 of it's best known elephants in a short time but as someone else said at least they died of natural causes.

All the best to you and all at ATE.


do you know who Kalume's mother or relatives were?

Wed, 2009-05-27 00:02 by runningstream

Our heartfelt sadness to you and the rest of the research team over the passing of Kalume. With the passing of Echo and now Kalume you have lost two of your nearest and dearest so close together in time. But, again, as you so wisely noted, it appears to be on "nature's" terms and not "man". For this we are also thankful.
Do you have any maternal history for Kalume or will you determine this later, if you can access him and draw a blood sample ASAP?

Thank you for taking time during a difficult time for you to update your interested supporters.

Rene & Ellen


Tue, 2009-05-26 18:48 by niall anderson

Thanks for the post, Nora; I agree with the sentiment already expressed by hge: Kalume was indeed a magnificent specimen and it is sad that his life has been cut short when in his prime - but at least from natural causes. His tusks were phenomenal, and I hope that from your observations and DNA testing you are able to know that he sired calves.

I am very sorry about Kalume’s passing

Tue, 2009-05-26 18:16 by hge

I am very sorry about Kalume’s passing. I was very impressed by your last post about him last year. He truly was a very handsome bull. But like you said, at least he died of natural cause. I am sorry that he suffered so much. The drought and limited food certainly contributed his deterioration.
Thank you for your analysis.


Tue, 2009-05-26 17:06 by jamie1990

How sad to hear that he died in pain, at least his long suffering is over now.

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