Rogue elephant of Aberdare Forest

Rogue elephant of Aberdare Forest

The rogue elephant of Aberdare Forest was a bull African Bush Elephant which terrorized several villages in the vicinity of the Aberdare Range in British East Africa in the early 20th century, destroying crops and killing at least one person. The bull was reportedly so cunning, that it never struck the same village twice. It was killed by J. A. Hunter. The exact date of the event is not known, though it was published by HarperCollins in 1952 as part of Hunter's "Hunter" memoirs.

First hunt for the elephant

The elephant first came to Hunter’s attention when the animal attacked two men in a nearby village one evening and killed one of them. It was thought that the man’s red cloak was what incited the elephant to chase him. Runners from the village found Hunter in the Aberdare forest hunting for bongo with two Canadian sportsmen. Being a friend of the village chief Ngiri, Hunter accepted to hunt down the elephant after being given permission by the Canadian sportsmen. With his Wakamba gunbearer Saseeta, Hunter set off for Ngiri’s village, where the chief told him that the elephant had been terrorizing his and neighbouring villages for months, destroying crops with impunity, leaving the people to hide in their huts for fear of attack. Together with Saseeta, Hunter found the body of the red cloaked native, completely crushed and with his limbs torn off. Ngiri told Hunter to wait another day before starting the hunt, stating that the elephant would doubtlessly strike again, thus giving Hunter a fresh track. A few hours before dawn, a runner from a village five miles away arrived breathless, saying that the bull had passed through his village that night and gorged itself on their crops. Following the trail, Hunter saw that it led to the deepest parts of the Aberdare Forest. Within, they found the elephant’s dung and a large impression left of its large body when resting. They soon found the elephant feeding on bamboo. Aiming with his .475 Jeffrey #2, Hunter was unable to make the shot, as the elephant caught his scent and left.

econd hunt for the elephant

The next day, the elephant was seen in a village three miles from Hunter’s location, devastating a crop of Shamba trees. Upon arrival, Hunter and Saseeta were greeted by several runners who offered to guide them through the Aberdare Forest. Following a trail of crushed bamboo and upturned bracken roots, the party came across the elephant eating bamboo shoots. Upon getting their scent, the elephant immediately charged. Hunter quickly aimed the right barrel of the .475 Jeffrey #2 for the centre of the elephant’s skull and fired. The elephant fell, screaming loudly, being finished off by a shot to the back of the neck.


Upon examination, Hunter noted that the quality of the bull’s ivory was very poor, being only 40 pounds per tusk, with a good elephant usually holding three times that much. The base of the right tusk was found to have a musket bullet lodged into its nerve centre. Hunter suspected that this was done by an Arab ivory hunter, and the pain of which was what drove the bull to act unusually aggressive.


* "The Rogue Elephant of Aberdare Forest", From "Hunter", J.A Hunter, HarperCollins, 1952

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