A breathtaking photographic tribute to Africa’s last great tuskers
magine a quiet corner of Africa where an elephant can live to more than 60 years of age, growing long in the tooth until her tusks sweep the ground before her. Imagine that elephant dying not from a bullet, snare or poison, but from natural causes, wrinkled and dignified. Sounds hard to believe in this day and age… And so we welcome a new book that celebrates not only the life of the ‘Queen of Elephants’ but other big tuskers of Kenya as well.
Land of Giants, by UK photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, is a rare treasure. Less than 20 of these extraordinary creatures – bearing tusks each weighing in excess of 100lbs (45kg) – are thought to remain, and half of them live in remote, inaccessible tracts of Tsavo. Burrard-Lucas joined forces with the Tsavo Trust and Kenya Wildlife Service to find and photograph individuals such as the legendary F_MU1 (pictured).
“When I first saw her I was awestruck,” he recalls. “She had the most amazing tusks I had ever seen. If I hadn’t looked upon her with my own eyes, I might not have believed that such an elephant could exist in our world. She was like a relic from a bygone era.”
That sentiment is reinforced by Burrard-Lucas’ use of black and white photography – the 150 images in this suitably hefty 36x28cm large-format book might, at first glance, be seen as an historic collection of fantastical creatures retrieved from a dusty archive.
But once you’ve got over the initial amazement at seeing those long, sweeping scimitars of ivory, and realise that these pictures were taken just a year or two ago, you begin to appreciate not only the artistry but also the technology that has gone into creating them.
A specialist in remote and camera trap photography, Burrard-Lucas deployed his own invention, BeetleCam, to take many of the book’s images. By guiding the all-terrain ‘4WD camera buggy’ to the edge of waterholes and game trails, he was able to capture remarkable, ground-level views to emphasise the scale of these incredible giants.
Nowadays elephants tend to make headlines for all the wrong reasons, but here is a book with an inspiring message: that these amazing creatures are still out there and it is not too late to save them.