Fahlo's Bull Elephant: The Notorious Past Of Edison
Tracking wild elephants in the bush can be an exhilarating and unpredictable experience. In 2016, the founder of Save the Elephants (STE), Iain Douglas-Hamilton, had a dramatic and unforgettable encounter with the Fahlo bull elephant, Edison, that encapsulated both the thrill and inherent risks of closely observing wild male elephants.
A Brief History of African Bull Elephant Conservation
For 30 years, STE has been at the forefront of elephant tracking using technology. Iain pioneered the use of radio collars in the 1960s, and STE currently tracks over 400 elephants across the continent. By collecting data on female and male elephant movements, STE gains valuable insights into their lives, behaviors, and needs. This information helps guide conservation efforts, support law enforcement, and protect wildlife connectivity in the face of changing landscapes and infrastructure development.
Elephants Fighting: Matt vs. Edison
Throughout their research, STE's team has observed lone bull elephants like Matt traversing vast and perilous landscapes, following ancestral paths or forging new routes. Matt, known as Samburu's biggest tusker, held the record for covering the longest distance of any African bull elephant in Kenya until his natural death in 2019.
In 2016, Matt found himself in a confrontation with Edison, a smaller but dominant bull elephant known for his aggressive behavior towards other bulls. Iain, present at STE's research camp, noticed the convergence of Matt and Edison through the WildTracks tracking app. Curious about their behavior, Iain drove to the scene and positioned himself near the elephants fighting. He observed Edison, cleverly taking a higher vantage point to intimidate and advance on the larger tusker.
Matt was visibly agitated - the bull elephant kept goring the ground and pushing his tusks into the earth. Edison, in an aggressive mood, started smashing branches and trees. As Iain repositioned his car to observe the spectacle, Edison suddenly emerged from the bush and charged at the vehicle, repeatedly thrusting his tusks into the radiator. Thankfully, the attack ceased, and Iain called for help, eventually being towed to safety. Meanwhile, the bulls continued their fight, with Edison ultimately managing to drive Matt out of the reserve.
You can watch the full video of the elephant bull attacking Iain’s car here:
Continuing to Tracking the Male Elephant
Today, Edison is still muscling his way around as the dominant bull on the reserve and was recently re-collared in Samburu. By tracking his movements, STE hopes to learn more about his behavior, food consumption, and conservation needs. We look forward to his next adventures!
Save the Elephants is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Fahlo is proud to support STE's work, such as tracking and collaring elephants like Edison, to secure a future for this iconic species. By purchasing our Expedition Bracelet we will donate 10% of the profits to STE. And we’d encourage everyone to help make their anniversary year extra impactful with a birthday gift by making a direct donation to STE via their Donate page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are bull elephants aggressive?
Bull elephants, especially those in musth (a periodic condition in bull elephants characterized by highly aggressive behavior), can indeed display aggressive behavior, often driven by competition for mates or resources. However, it's important to note that aggression levels can vary between individuals and contexts, and not every male elephant is consistently aggressive.
What is the difference between a bull elephant and a cow elephant?
A bull elephant is a male elephant, often larger and heavier than its female counterparts, with larger tusks that are used in competitive displays and fights. A cow elephant is a female elephant, typically smaller and lighter than males, with shorter tusks, and is primarily responsible for raising offspring and maintaining social structure within herds.