This impressive bull was named by Dr Ian Whyte after a waterhole situated South East of Shingwedzi Camp, South Africa where he is often seen. Tshilonde’s tusks were almost identical to Dzombo’s, another great bull that roamed in the area, but Tshilonde’s observers recognised him by a distinctive kink in his tail. When Tshilonde was last seen he had broken one of his tusks. Not spotted for a few years, Tshilonde is now presumed dead.
The idea that old elephants will seek out a secret area to lay down and die is a popular myth. It featured in the Tales of the Arabian Nights when Sinbad the Sailor was taken by a group of elephants to an area strewn with elephant bones. More recently, the idea was promoted in several Tarzan movies.
When an old elephant’s last tooth wears down, it finds it difficult to chew food. In its last days it may stay in marshy areas where it can easily find soft vegetation. This means many elephants die in similar locations, often far away from the movements of the main herds, and difficult to spot by humans.
Text: South African National Parks
Photo copyright: Keith Begg