An icon in the 1960s and 70s, Ahmed roamed the forests of the Marsabit National Reserve in Kenya, where his tusks were presumed to be the longest and heaviest in Africa.
Legends surrounded him, including a tale that his tusks were so long that he had to walk up hills backwards. As such he was at huge risk from poachers. Wherever Ahmed went he was protected by two smaller bull elephants, acting almost as bodyguards, guarding him and charging at any potential threat. Ahmed's notoriety grew after he featured in three documentary films in 1970 which led to an international letter-writing campaign by schoolchildren to Kenya's first president, Jomo Kenyetta, asking him to protect the great mammal. Kenyetta responded rapidly, declaring Ahmed a living monument and granting the elephant presidential protection: five armed rangers were appointed to guard him round the clock.
This solution proved immensely successful. When Ahmed finally passed away from natural causes four years later, it was estimated from the weight of his enormous tusks that he was at least 65 years and, from the antique Martini-Henry bullets found during his autopsy, that his life had been at risk since his birth in 1919.
Shepherd's majestic portrayal of Ahmed was painted in 1971 at the height of his fame when his name would have resonated around the world as an emblem of man's relationship with the elephant: both as threat and protector.