Africa’s largest female tusker elephant has died. Dida, who is considered the matriarch of Tsavo East National Park in Kenya, died from natural causes this week, Kenya Wildlife Service said. She was believed to be between 60 and 65 years old.
“Dida was a truly an iconic matriarch of Tsavo and a great repository of many decades worth of knowledge,” Kenya Wildlife Service said. “She shepherded her herd through many seasons and challenging times.”
Dida was a tusker elephant, meaning she had tusks so large they scraped the ground. There are only about 25 or so tuskers left in the world, most of which reside in the Tsavo Conservation Area, according to the Tsavo Trust, which was founded in 2013 to help protect tuskers, which are extremely rare and at risk from poachers.
These large tusks are especially noteworthy on females, so Dida stood out as an iconic matriarch in the park.
Last year, the Trust lost track of Dida and thought she might have wandered to an “elephant graveyard.” While it said these are not the “dark, haunting” places depicted in “The Lion King,” older elephants will sometimes separate themselves from the herd when they are dying. “We are unsure exactly why this happens and it certainly isn’t a rule that all elephant follow as they approach their end, but it definitely does occur,” the Trust said.
Their hope for Dida was restored when a tourist snapped a photo of her last May. The elephant appeared to be in good health and was seen with others, even playing with a young elephant.
“She lived longer than many of us thought she would. To us, allowing an elephant to live its full life is something we are very proud of,” the Trust wrote in a statement about Dida’s death on Instagram.
The Trust said it didn’t have data more recent than 2016 about the state of elephants in Africa, but was “encouraged by the positive anti-poaching results” recently reported by neighboring Tanzania.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature attempts an African elephant report every 10 years. The most recent report in 2016 showed the were 415,000 elephants in Africa — decreasing by 93,000 since 2006, but this number could vary because some elephants are unaccounted for.
CBS News has reached out to Tsavo East National Park and the Tsavo Trust for more information on Dida and is awaiting response.