Ahmed the Elephant: The King of Marsabit

Learn more about Kenya's legendary elephant through the lens of photographer Mohamed 'Mo' Amin.

Elephant by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Africa's biggest tusker

Today, a handful of “Tuskers” roam Africa’s wilderness with the most well known called Tim, arguably the biggest Tusker in Kenya, who lives in Amboseli National Park. He is commonly found in the company of bulls, who always seem to surround him, shielding him from danger.

Elephant by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The legend who climbed hills backwards

But legend recalls a story of an Elephant whose tusks were so long that he could only climb hills by walking backwards! 

The Legend who climbed hills backwards by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The King Of Marsabit

Never was this tale ever documented, but in the 1960s and 1970s there was an elephant known to many as “The King Of Marsabit”, who lived in the forests of the Marsabit National Reserve on a mountain rising out of the scrublands of northern Kenya. 

Ahmed, the elephant by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Ahmed was seldom seen, better known by reputation than by sight, and often was in the company of two smaller bull elephants who stood beside him to protect him and his treasure.

Ahmed, the elephant by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The longest and heaviest tusks in Africa

They charged perceived threats as the old gentleman ghosted back into heavy bush, concealing his colossal tusks. This Elephant was named Ahmed. His tusks, the longest and heaviest in Africa, weighed over 150lbs each.

The Legend who climbed hills backwards by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Ahmed - the movie star

In 1970 Ahmed shot into the limelight featuring in three films -- the ABC series “The American Sportsman”, “The Search for Ahmed” and a French documentary on the work of renowned conservationist Iain Douglas-Hamilton. 

Kenyatta looks at herd of elephants (1963) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Under protection by the President

He got further attention when a 1970 letter-writing campaign by school children to Kenya’s first President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, requested him to protect this national treasure. 

Elephant skulls by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Ahmed - a living monument

Kenyatta placed Ahmed under his protection by Presidential Decree, an unparalleled occurrence in the history of the country and the only Elephant to be declared a living monument.

Elephant by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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Protected day and night

The giant was watched day and night by two armed game rangers, ensuring security and surveillance at all hours. Ahmed got used to the presence of his guards and continued to roam Marsabit Park. 

Elephant and White Rhino by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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A giant falls

One morning in 1974, after having waited in vain for Ahmed to reappear from the bushes he had disappeared into for the night, his personal bodyguards decided to go and look for him. 

A young elephant murdered (1970) by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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They eventually found him, but he had already passed away. He was not lying flat on his side but in a peaceful repose against a tree, still looking like he was sleeping.

The Legend who climbed hills backwards by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The security had worked and he lived a full life, succumbing to natural causes at the age of 55. President Kenyatta declared Ahmed be preserved at the Nairobi National Museum for future generations to be able to admire this giant of nature. 

Ahmed, the elephant by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

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The chief taxidermist at Zimmermann’s Ltd, Wolfgang Schenk, took care of Ahmed, and today the “King of Marsabit” still stands proudly at the Kenya National Museum in Nairobi.

Elephants by Mohamed AminMohamed Amin Foundation

“I remember my Dad telling me how they were charged by Ahmed as they took what turned out to be the last pictures of the King. They had been following him on foot all day and, when his patience with them eventually ran out, he charged the camera team. My father and his colleague Peter Moll were running away and decided to run on opposite sides of a huge tree, not realizing they were still attached together by the sound cables and Peter was whipped back around the tree narrowly missing the giant tusks!"  
Salim Amin


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