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Dionysius

Dionysius was one of the most iconic elephant bulls that roamed the lava beds and swamps of Amboseli National Park, at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro in Kenya. He was well known by the research team engaged in studying elephants there, and was initially known to them simply as number M22.

Dionysius was a very calm and relaxed elephant, even when in musth – a periodic condition in bull elephants, characterised by high levels of testosterone and often resulting in aggressive behaviour. As a result, he was a favourite amongst staff and tourists alike. Besides his docile personality, Dionysius’ spectacular tusks attracted a lot of attention, and due to the amount of time spent feeding in the deep swamps, they were always sparkling clean and white against his dark and often muddy body.

Dionysius appeared to have had a run in with a poacher with a musket at some time as his right tusk seemed to have a crack and a chip close to the lip. In another encounter with a Maasai tribesman, Dionysius was sadly speared in the head and in the front leg, while straying out of the Amboseli Park. He was immobilised and treated three times, but seemed unable to recover and died in 2004 at an estimated age of 63 years.

— Special Thanks to Dr Ian Whyte for text and image