Fantastic Amboseli Visit

Wed, 2008-07-30 05:20 by msowers · Forum/category:
Echo feeding Elana and her little sister Elif EBs under Mount Kilimanjaro Me with my friend OmoR. Farmers with an elephant watch tower With Norah and Cynthia

Earlier this summer I got to make a second visit to my favorite place in the world: Amboseli National Park. On several drives I was thrilled to get to go out with Cynthia Moss, Norah Njiraini, and Katito Sayialel (I was sad to miss Soila for the second time), the best guides an aspiring elephant researcher like myself could ask for.

I hadn't seen an elephant since I was last in Amboseli in 2005, and of course I'm still in awe of the animals I've loved my whole life. I was especially happy to see the little elephant I named, Elana, grown into a beautiful calf of four and a half years. Unlike my last trip, when her great-grandmother Echo and family didn't show up until the day before I left, I got to spend a lot of time with the EBs. The family is big and thriving and very well fed thanks to Echo, the only matriarch who leads her family over the broken-down fence to feed on the trees in Ol Tukai every night. There is real concern for the rest of the Amboseli families with coming drought conditions, but it's good to know that at least the EBs will still have a good food supply.

I had many unforgettable experiences riding along with Norah as she did censuses. One day we were chased by musth bulls Buster and Macaroon at the end of a fight. (We were grateful when they decided to veer in another direction as we struggled to flee over the rough terrain.) Another time we were with Orabel’s OA2s on the edge of the Longinye Swamp. Orabel’s 16-year-old daughter OmoR. walked right up to my window and stood looking in at me, so close I could have reached out and grabbed her tusk. I had never been so close to an elephant before, and looking her in the eye was yet another reminder of why I hope to spend my life learning about and helping these animals.

Winnie Kiiru was also in Amboseli working on her Ph.D. project on human-elephant conflict while I was there, and it was very eye-opening to see “the other side” on a visit to the farms near Loitokitok. Of the 58 elephant families in Amboseli, well under half are actually found within the park boundaries most of the time. The others travel around the larger ecosystem, where they are faced with increasing amounts of land developed for agriculture. As an elephant enthusiast, my first instinct has always been to feel that the farmers were simply intruding on land that should be for wildlife. Seeing the life of the farmers firsthand, though, increased my awareness of the complexity of this problem. The needs of the people need to be balanced with the necessity of conserving habitat for wildlife. There are obviously no easy answers, and this is why the work of people like Winnie needs to continue to find ways to secure important wildlife corridors by controlling the spread of agriculture without taking away the livelihoods of the local people.

I found it difficult to leave Amboseli, a feeling I’m sure many visitors share. Luckily I brought some fantastic elephant memories home with me, which will have to last until I make my (hopefully soon) next visit.

Marks visit to Amboseli

Sat, 2008-08-02 20:16 by Donna

Hi Mark,

I was delighted to read your blog about your visit. I feel the same way about elephants as you do. They are the most magnificent of creatures. I have not been to Amboseli since 1995, but my visit is still fresh in my mind. I'm glad you were able to see Elana. She is beautiful. I have named two beautiful elephants, Uncle Riley and Donna. Unfortunately, I have not seen them in the flesh, so to speak.

I hope you are able to return soon, too.

Best wishes, Donna

Thank you

Thu, 2008-07-31 14:44 by Pete666

It's always a pleasure reading about someones experiences in and around elephants. I would dearly love to visit Amboseli if I could ever afford it.

Nolus Illegitemi Carborundum
If you've got it a TRUCK bought it


Fri, 2009-10-16 07:03 by oltukai


You most definitely can afford a safari trip to Amboseli. And every penny you spend will be so much more worth it - its a lifetime experience that you will not be able to place value to.

I've been to Amboseli (as recently as September 09) and I can tell you, its almost a life changing adventure. You get in touch with nature in a way you only dream of :) and yes, I really do mean it.

Stayed at Ol Tukai Lodge, a nice lodge next to the elephant swamp, in the middle of the Amboseli National Park. I would definitely recommend it.



Wed, 2008-07-30 15:28 by clm1950

Hi Mark ... Thanks for sharing your experience in Amboseli.

Hi Mark

Wed, 2008-07-30 14:41 by Petter

Great to hear about some of your experiences from Amboseli - and great to hear how much you enjoyed your visit! Thank you for sharing!

Good for you

Wed, 2008-07-30 14:07 by hge

Good for you, Mark.
You seem really pleased there. No wonder you were quiet here recently.
Great to know EBs are doing well, thanks to wise Echo.
Sorry to bother you: did you meet the TAs? Does everyone doing fine? I just learned that Tulip was killed months ago and her youngest calf didn't survive. (I was slow, I admit). It was a shock I'm still recovering.
Thanks for any information.



Fri, 2008-08-01 20:07 by msowers

Hi Helen,

I never did get to see the TAs while I was there, but like you, I hope they are doing well after Tulip's death.


Sat, 2008-08-02 01:23 by hge

Thanks for reply Mark. Let's hope the best.

Hi Mark

Wed, 2008-08-13 10:51 by ylukito

Hey Mark, remember me ? This is Julian. I was so happy to be able to join this site today. Glad to hear you enjoyed your visit to Amboseli.

Mark, I really like the name Elana. Just some quick questions: who is her mother ? And was her grandmother Erin ? I notice Elana has a very noticeable tear in her right ear. Do you know what the cause was ?

And also I was wondering if Ella was still healthy. Of course we hope Echo will live many more years but she is indeed a very old elephant and do you think Ella might take over her position when she is gone ?

Anyway, nice to hear from you again Mark...:)


Hello Julian

Thu, 2008-08-14 22:46 by msowers

Good to see you here.

Elana is Edwina's third daughter (of four so far), meaning she is Erin's granddaughter and Echo's great-granddaughter. No one knows exactly what happened to her ear, but it was likely just a thorn or something, the way most of the knicks and tears in elephant ears happen.

Ella is just 43 years old and had a calf in '07 so she is definitely in her prime and going strong. As next oldest female she is obviously in line to be matriarch, but it is in times of leadership transition that families commonly split. So it may be that Ella ends up as matriarch of part of the EBs while perhaps Eudora or Echo's daughters would form a distinct family. But, God willing, Echo will be around to watch over the whole family for some time still.

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