Infra-red Masaku

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Bull elephants reach sexual maturity in their late twenties.  Once mature they come into what is known as a state of musth for up to three months a year.  The temporal glands behind their eyes swell and exude a trickle of pungent smelling liquid.  During musth bulls are more aggressive and cover vast distances in search of females.  Waving their sail-like ears serves to waft their pungent scent across the vastness of the savannah.  They also dribble urine constantly which leaves a scent trail for other bulls to detect.  Masaku was 58 years old when this photograph was taken.  Knowing him well I was able to get ahead of him and lie on the ground to get this photograph giving myself enough time to then move away before he came too close.  In 2005 Masaku was very badly injured in a fight with another bull and the warden decided to call in a vet to treat the wounds.  Sadly this resulted in his demise – tranquilizing bull elephants in musth seem to have fatal consequences.  Witnessing the death of this magnificent bull who I had known for many years was one of the saddest days I spent in Amboseli.