What does elephant skin feel like? “It’s rough,” Wilkinson says. “In the morning, the elephants typically come down in the swamps to drink and cover themselves with mud, which is their sunscreen and protects them from ticks.” This elephant is wearing his S.P.F. “With the way he’s lighted,” she explains, “you can see that he’s under the midday sun. It’s very, very hot, hence the importance of the mud.”
“This elephant is in Amboseli National Park, Kenya,” Wilkinson says. “The park is known for its elephant population because it has these huge swamps where the elephants congregate—they drink at least 80 gallons of water a day. The swamps are fed by the water that comes from the snows of Kilimanjaro.” The mountain can be seen in the photograph. “The snows of Kilimanjaro have been receding at an incredible rate because of climate change,” says Wilkinson.
“These are male elephants—bulls—from Chyulu Hills in Kenya,” says Wilkinson. “These guys are big and old, and they have big ivory. It’s coveted by the poachers and by the rising middle class of Asia, particularly the Chinese.” Christo explains how they captured the shot: “We walked along one or two of them, on foot, with a Waliangulu hunter named Kaneh (that’s a phonetic spelling) who used to hunt elephants years ago.”