The majestic image of the elephant, with its large ears and peaceful gait, often awakens in us a feeling of respect and fascination. However, beyond this idyllic picture, the stories of Ahmed the Kenyan and Hamed the Ivorian reveal to us more complex realities of the life of elephants in Africa and the challenges of cohabitation with human beings. This article aims to weave the stories of these two emblematic pachyderms, both symbolizing in their own way the greatness and tragedies of their species.
Ahmed of Kenya: The “King of Marsabit”
The Rise to Stardom
Ahmed is one of the most famous elephants in Kenya and perhaps even Africa. Born around 1919 in the Mount Marsabit region, it gained its fame thanks to the impressive length of its tusks which almost scraped the ground. His exceptional status as “King of Marsabit” emerged in the 1960s, when hikers discovered him and he became a media sensation, stimulating public fascination and high-level political interest.
In 1970, alarmed by Ahmed’s risks of poaching, then-Kenyan President Jomo Kenyatta took the unprecedented step of placing him under continued armed protection. This act of conservation put Ahmed in the international spotlight and elevated his status to that of a national icon. Thanks to this protection, Ahmed died of natural causes in 1974, thus avoiding the cruel fate that poaching could have reserved for him.
The “King of Marsabit” is kept at the National Museum of Kenya, where a life-size replica erected in front of the museum reminds visitors of the importance of nature conservation. Wolfgang Schenk, the taxidermist who worked on its conservation, ensured that its grandeur remains a testimony for generations to come.
Hamed from Ivory Coast: Symbol of Delicate Coexistence
From Affection to Aggression
Thousands of miles away, another elephant has gained notoriety, this one more divisive. Hamed, an elephant from Ivory Coast, first aroused the sympathy of the residents of Guitri, who nicknamed him that. Initially, Hamed was seen as harmless and playful, but as he grew up in humanized territories, he became increasingly aggressive and destructive.
Conflicts and Consequences
The Ivorian elephant has caused significant property damage, disruption to daily life, and has even developed a taste for alcohol, adding a level of complexity to its management. Efforts to place it in an appropriate environment have been put in place to ensure the safety of both the animal and neighboring human communities. Despite several attempts to keep him away from populated areas, Hamed continued to escape and return, highlighting the challenges of cohabitation and wildlife conservation.
Reflection on Conservation
The stories of Ahmed and Hamed are not simple anecdotes, they reflect themes widely present throughout Africa where men and elephants must share increasingly contested territories. Elephants require large spaces to live, and their presence in humanized places is not without consequences. Their protection raises ethical and practical questions for wildlife conservation.
Contemplating the stories of Ahmed and Hamed, it is clear that the journey of African elephants is strewn with challenges and admirations, conflicts and celebrations. These stories remind us of our responsibility towards these majestic creatures and the need for harmonious coexistence between wildlife and human communities. By protecting individuals like Ahmed and seeking solutions for elephants like Hamed, we are taking valuable steps toward the global conservation of these living symbols of African nature.