Tributes have been pouring in for Tim – an iconic elephant from Kenya's Amboseli National Park who was found dead on Tuesday morning. Tim's body showed no signs of injury and it's believed that the famed tusker died of natural causes

Recognised as one of the continent's largest elephants, Tim belonged to a clade of impressive pachyderms whose genes produce enormous tusks. Although such giants once roamed across much of Africa, there are only a handful of tuskers left in the world – most of them scattered across southeast Kenya.

"Over the last five decades, Tim became one of Kenya’s most famous elephants and one of the continent’s last great tuskers, with tusks each weighing in excess of 100 pounds," Big Life Foundation wrote in a Facebook update. "They were an astounding burden to carry, not least because they made him an incredibly valuable target for any poacher."

Well-known to visitors of Amboseli, Tim was a marvel for tourists and a symbol of hope for those working to save the last of Africa's great tuskers. The renowned elephant was not loved by all, though. Locals farmers tried on more than one occasion to spear Tim in attempts to put a stop to his crop-raiding habits. In an effort to protect both elephant and crops, Tim was collared in 2016 allowing wildlife official to intercept him if he strayed too close to crop fields (something he did 183 times in the first year following the collaring!). 

His night-time raids landed him in trouble in November 2018 when he became mired in a mud pit deep in the farmlands. The Big Life Foundation teamed up with the Kenya Wildlife Service and the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to carry out a monumental rescue effort to save the imperilled elephant.

When he wasn't dodging farmers' spears, avoiding poachers who's attention he drew courtesy of his huge tusks, or getting stuck in the mud, Tim was wowing Amboseli safari-goers with his calm demeanour and impressive stature.

"Tim was a special elephant - not just to me but to hundreds, thousands of people who would flock to Amboseli just for the chance to see him," former Save the Elephants field assistant Ryan Wilkie told the BBC. "He was so incredibly intelligent, mischievous, yes, but also a truly gentle giant and in that way a real ambassador for his species." 

Tim was recognised as one of Africa's largest elephants. Image © Ryan Wilkie/Big Life Foundation

The Kenya Wildlife Service have retrieved Tim's body and moved it to National Museums of Kenya in Nairobi where it will be preserved for educational purposes. Thankfully, Tim's genes have been passed on to other elephants in the area, so it is hoped that more like him will one day roam the Amboseli plains.