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Stunning photos capture an extremely rare ‘big tusker’ – the ‘Queen of elephants’

Standing majestically in front of Kenya’s wild landscape with huge tusks grazing the ground, this is one of the rarest elephants in the world.

She is known as a ‘big tusker’ – and there are only 20 of them left on earth. They live in remote, inaccessible areas, and each of their tusks weighs more than 100lbs (45kg).

British wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, 35, captured stunning images of the creature, known as F_Mu1, and said that ‘if there ever were an Elephant Queen, it would surely have been her.’

He caught the animal while working in Tsavo, shortly before she died of natural causes, aged just over 60.

Recounting the moment he clapped eyes on the gorgeous creature, Burrard-Lucas said: ‘F_Mu1 was thin and old, but she strode forward with stunning grace.

‘Her tusks were so long they scratched the ground in front of her. She was like a relic of a bygone era. ‘

The cameraman said locating the beast was like ‘finding a needle in a haystack’, and he worked with conservationists from the Tsavo Trust to find her. Wildlife experts used a detector plane to search the area and then guided Burrard-Lucas to the right spot via radio.

Continuing the story of meeting F_Mu1, Burrard-Lucas said: ‘The first time I saw her, I was in awe, because she has the most amazing pair of tusks I have ever seen. ‘If I hadn’t seen her with my own eyes, I would not have believed that such an elephant could exist in our world.’

Burrard-Lucas used one of his BeetleCams – a remote-controlled buggy with a head-mounted camera – to capture these unique, close-up photos of the F_Mu1.

He said of his subject: ‘She always proved to be the most special one. ‘Her personality is very gentle and calm. Sometimes she comes so close to me that I can touch her. ‘The images he took were among the last F_Mu1 photos taken, and she passed away shortly after, as an ongoing drought in the area contributed to her ailing health.

Although he took the images in August 2017, he has only released them to the public until now. He notes that F_Mu1 is not widely known outside of Tsavo’s reserve and that details around her are kept secret to prevent Tsavo, home to the largest elephant population in Kenya, covers about 16,000 square miles and presents a significant challenge for rangers to patrol.

F_Mu1’s photographs are part of a larger series published in a splendid coffee table book called Land of Giants. It documents Tsavo’s elephants and the work of the Tsavo Trust.

The book features 150 never-before-seen black and white photographs taken during the 2017 expedition and two expeditions in 2018.

The book’s purpose is to support the Tsavo Trust, Burrard-Lucas said, and convey an ‘inspirational message’: that these amazing elephants are still out there and it’s not too late to save them.

For the book, staff from the nonprofit helped Burrard-Lucas track down and photograph two female ‘big tuskers’ – one F_Mu1 – and four males, including ‘LU1’, the largest of all.

The species is rarely photographed. Burrard-Lucas concluded: ‘Photographing F_Mu1 was a feeling of privilege and euphoria that will stay with me forever.’

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