Extra Protection for the Last Giants of the Elephant World:


working in support of KWS anti-poaching efforts



Have you ever seen an elephant with tusks that reach all the way down to the ground? These huge elephants, a few of which still exist in remote reaches of Africa, are in peril. They need our help.


Historically, elephants carrying tusks weighing in excess of 100lbs (45kg) per side were known as ‘hundred pounders’ and were much sought after by hunters and poachers alike. Today, at least 12 of these giants remain in Kenya’s greater Tsavo Conservation Area, and it is their protection from ivory poachers (alongside the protection of other impressive bulls that will become Tsavo’s ‘hundred pounders’ of the future), which provide the rationale for TSAVO TRUST's Big Tusker Project (formerly known as our ‘Large Elephant Monitoring Project’).


At over twice the size of Israel, the greater Tsavo Conservation Area is a vast, wild area of awe-inspiring natural beauty and incredible biodiversity. The area boasts Kenya’s single largest population of elephants – famously red in colour due to Tsavo’s rusty earth tones – numbering 11,000 animals at the last census (February 2014). This might sound like a good many elephants – but not when you consider that in the late 1960s there used to be 35,000 in Tsavo, and that the numbers have dropped by 1,500 since the last count three years ago. Among the surviving population is arguably the world’s last viable gene pool of elephants carrying exceptionally large ivory.


In recent years, the poaching of elephants for their ivory has increased alarmingly across the African continent. One single atrocity accounted for 12 elephants, gunned down in cold blood along Tsavo’s Tiva River in January 2013, indicative of the pressures these magnificent creatures are under across their range in Africa. The incident made headlines and appalled people around the world. Then in May 2014, tragedy struck again, when the iconic Tsavo tusker known as Satao was killed by poisoned arrow. Read our report here. One thing is certain: if Tsavo’s ‘hundred pounder’ elephants are not secured today, they and their gene pool will soon be gone forever.

Poaching is reducing continent-wide elephant populations by more than 8% annually, although some countries are being hit much harder than others. This level of off-take is unsustainable and will have serious ecological consequences given the keystone role elephants serve in African ecosystems.
— Samuel K. Wasser PhD, Director - Center for Conservation Biology, University of Washington


Working in close collaboration with the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and alongside research and conservation partners including Save The Elephants, TSAVO TRUST monitors the elephant populations of Tsavo, with a specific emphasis on the large ‘tuskers’. Richard Moller, TSAVO TRUST’s Chief Conservation Officer, carries out this monitoring, with the indispensable help of our light aircraft, 5Y ACE, which has spent a long lifetime flying for conservation over Tsavo and other Kenyan National Parks. This aircraft was kindly donated to TSAVO TRUST by Kenyan conservation supporter, Stuart Herd, who has generously supported TSAVO TRUST from its inception. In such a huge, remote place as Tsavo, an aircraft is a vital conservation tool, providing an additional ‘eye in the sky’ in conjunction with KWS’s own aircraft.

As well as contributing to scientific data collation, the reports transmitted real-time from TSAVO TRUST's aircraft can assist KWS in mounting an appropriate response to any identified threats to Tsavo’s elephants. To that end, the KWS team on the ground has warmly welcomed TSAVO TRUST'sparticipation in their conservation efforts. Considering the sheer size and geography of the area being surveyed, no single effort can ever be a ‘catch-all’ solution – as was so tragically demonstrated by the Tiva poaching incident and the death of Satao - but the TSAVO TRUST aircraft can make a measurable difference to the safety of elephants in Tsavo – and so can you by helping us to do this job.

In response to the escalating poaching situation, TSAVO TRUST has started extending our Big Tusker Project to include a ground follow-up capacity to bolster KWS anti-poaching efforts. Working alongside KWS in a supporting role, we boost patrol numbers on the ground, locate elephant carcasses, determine the cause of death and recover tusks, as well as locating poachers’ platforms, hides, camps and illegal charcoal kilns, and assisting to patrol Tsavo’s rhino sanctuary and free release zones.


Protecting Tsavo’s magnificent ‘hundred pounder’ elephants is not just a question of conservation. These giants among giants also represent a significant economic asset to Tsavo and to Kenya. Tourists coming to view Tsavo’s wildlife are staggered when they encounter one of these mighty beasts, and just knowing that they are there draws many people to Tsavo, bringing with them tourism dollars, employment and wider business opportunities. From a biodiversity perspective too, these animals are rare specimens, the pinnacle of their species.



It costs TSAVO TRUST £5,500 / $8,000 each month to keep our aircraft flying over Tsavo, monitoring Tsavo’s last great tuskers and famous red elephant herds. Your donation can help provide extra protection for these awesome giants of the animal kingdom, while safeguarding people’s livelihoods that depend on wildlife tourism.

Please donate online via our JustGiving page. Thank you.

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As long as ivory is valued as a commodity, every tusker is at risk from poachers, and only where anti-poaching efforts are sufficient will elephants survive.
— Ian Redmond, OBE - Wildlife biologist, Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species
killed for ivory - a poached elephant in the greater tsavo ecosystem
poached elephant killed for ivory in greater  tsavo ecosystem


The African Environmental Film Foundation (AEFF) made these three short one-minute films to raise awareness of the ivory trade and how it affects elephants and people in Africa.

Please click the rectangle in the bottom right corner of each screen to view a larger picture.

Kenya’s Vision 2030 shows tourism as a major vehicle in getting Kenya onto the developed countries’ path, and wildlife is a key player.
— Kenya Wildlife Service - Community Enterprise Strategy 2012-2017


Today, we are witnessing an ‘ivory rush’ fueling a poaching frenzy, unchecked by weak legislation in many countries (though in Kenya, legislation has been strengthened with a new Wildlife Act) which provides little deterrent to poachers, while the Far East lusts - seemingly insatiably - for more and more ivory. Tsavo’s last surviving ‘hundred pounders’ and the elephants following in their footsteps are in peril. They need all of our help. Once the ‘big tusker’ gene is gone, it is gone forever.

Project Leader: Richard Moller – TSAVO TRUST Chief Conservation Officer and Co-Founder - brings eleven years of conservation management experience at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy followed by two years in Tsavo prior to co-founding TSAVO TRUST; Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Honorary Warden, a member of the KWS Elephant Management Committee for the Tsavo Conservation Area, and full time Tsavo resident.

And certainly if we are not today thinking much about the global implications of poaching in Africa, I can guarantee that we will be if it goes unabated...How shockingly destructive and historically shameful it would be if we did nothing while a great species was criminally slaughtered into extinction.
— John Kerry - US Secretary of State


We are careful never to reveal the exact location of the large tuskers that we monitor and photograph, as this could jeopardize their security. Saying that "somewhere in Tsavo, these magnificent animals exist" does not give potential poachers any helpful clues, for the size of the entire Tsavo ecosystem is 42,000 square kilometres (16,000 square miles). Conversely, we believe that highlighting the presence of these incredible elephants helps to garner support for Tsavo and to attract visitors who generate vital revenue for the National Park and conservation initiatives.