Echo's Family - August 3, 2009

Mon, 2009-08-03 11:52 by cmoss

It is exactly three months since Echo died. In some ways I’m glad she doesn’t have to go through this horrendous drought, but I would still rather she was with us and leading her family. They are definitely suffering, both from lack of leadership and from the drought.

I am in Amboseli now and spent the morning with the EBs. They are still spending their nights among the trees in the old fenced area and moving to the swamp in the daytime. However, there is so little left to eat in the swamp that they are going later and later. Back in May they often went as early as 7:30am. Now it is closer to 11:30am. There are still acacia trees to feed on inside the fence but only the adults and older calves can handle that kind of vegetation.

Two of the EB calves have died: Enid’s (born November ’08) and Ebony’s (born January ’09). Seven calves in total were born to the family in 2008 and 2009. It’s possible that all of them will die. This is not the worst thing that can happen to a family. It is horrible to watch, but all these mothers will be able to conceive again after the rains come. Far worse is losing a matriarch and any older females in the family. We are keeping our fingers crossed that all will survive in the EBs and in the other families as well.

This morning when I was with them the main body of the family consisted of 25 members. They were all less than 500 metres from each other but they were very spread out in little subgroups. Eudora and her daughter Elspeth were in a group of six; Eleanor went off in a group of three; Emily Kate was completely on her own; and Ebony and her remaining calf were the farthest away feeding on an acacia along with Ejac. Echo’s daughters Enid and Eliot started off together but then split up. They all eventually went to the swamp but again they were very spread out. I have the feeling that if Echo had been there they would have all coalesced and crossed to the swamp together.

With the death of Echo and the two small calves, there are 37 members remaining. Ella and her group of nine have not been seen since before Echo died. For the EBs to split in this way is highly unusual. Ella would sometimes go off for a few days in the dry season but not for over three months. We have no idea where she is and we worry about her. Edwina has remained separated from the main group, but interestingly, her two oldest daughters have left her to stay with the others. So Edwina is in a small group of three. She continues to stay in the area near our research camp.

So the family of 37 looks like this now:

Enid, Eliot, Eleanor, Eudora, Elspeth, Echeri, Ebony and their calves; plus Echo’s orphans, Emily Kate and Esprit; and Erin’s orphans, E-Mail and Erica; and Edwina’s two, Europa and Elaine, make up 25.

Edwina, Elana and Elif are three.

Ella, her calves, Emma, her calves and Elettra and her calf Evaline are nine.

They have three months to go before we can expect rain. I dream about the day when Amboseli is lush and green and the calves can play again.

Thank you

Tue, 2009-10-13 09:02 by suji

Hi Cynthia,
Thank you so much for this blog and the site.

Under which elephant's care is Esprit. My heart goes out to her. Who is taking care of Emily Kate since she too is not yet 10.

It is really sad that Echo has passed away. She has a world wide family. My understanding of Elephant family comes from African elephants like Echo brought into our homes by you. They have shown such courage, love and family togetherness. Hats off to Echo and her clan, I simply love them and will miss dear Echo for a long time. I wonder if Asian elephants behave the same way. Thank you for all your hard work.

I hope we can get another update from you on Echo's family soon. Have the rains arrived yet?


Mon, 2009-09-14 02:47 by usjag_18

Dear "Echo",

Nice knowing you all this while thru the documentaries. Thank you for letting me know that there are others in this world got the intelligence to protect their families.

May you Rest in Peace.

Thank you,

P.S.: Is it possible that Ella will re-group the family or will they break into subgroup forever?

Echo's final resting place - in the wild please

Sun, 2009-08-30 15:54 by LizJones

Hi Cynthia
I do hope you will read this comment and allow Echo to be buried in her natural home.

In a previous blogg it mentionned putting Echo's skeleton in a museum.
I am horrified that you should even consider this. It's like putting her in a zoo, confining her. She should, indeed must, be laid to rest in her favourite resting place in her natural habitat. Even though she is dead she should still be in the wild, natural as she has always been - for herself and for her family. Her family are visiting her at the moment and in the TV films you recorded the sensitive behaviour of elephants around the graves of family members, even for many years after. You have supported and defended the right of Echo and the others to a natural life. Why would you now be considering removing Echo from the wild? She is a wild elephant and it will be continously upsetting to think of her in a museum.

Kind regards
Liz Jones

Echo's Family

Sat, 2009-08-08 05:52 by 2colleens

Hi Cynthia, Thanks so much for another update. It is sad to hear that the family is all so scattered and that Ella's group has been missing for so long. I hope they are all safe and they can find a way to come back together. It is also really awful to think of them having to go through another three months of drought. Then of course there is no guarantee that the rains will come then. I will be saying some prayers for them. Also could somebody tell me if the Animal Planet series will come out on DVD. I would love to have it.
I think of you and your team often and of all the elephants in Amboseli. It is my dream to one day visit the park before I get too old.

Estrous cyclicity during drought

Thu, 2009-08-06 12:26 by TinaLDow

Cynthia, thank you very much for your updates. I know that technically elephants are not considered seasonal breeders, that they do in fact cycle year around. However, during drought have you ever witnessed breeding opportunities or anything that would allow you to conclude that cows are still coming into estrus? I realize that during a drought when resources are hard to find elephants can drop body conditioning quite dramatically, and that in a variety of other species a severe drop in weight can cause females to become acyclic. Along those same lines, do you still see bulls come into musth during drought times? I would imagine there is a threshold body conditioning that has to be lost before cessation of reproductive function.

Estrous Cycling & Musth

Sat, 2009-08-08 09:12 by cmoss

Tina, our studies show that females cease to cycle during droughts when they are in very poor condition. I suspect they need a certain body fat reserve in order to cycle as many other mammals, including humans, do. There was a bad drought in Amboseli in 1976 and low rainfall in 1975. Only two calves were born in 1977 and then no calves for another 17 months until the end of 1978. I suspect we'll see something similar this time with very few calves born two years from now in 2011. Males usually don't go down in condition as quickly as the females: 1) because they're not lactating and 2) because they can feed on vegetation that the females can't reach. Therefore, sometimes males can come into musth during a drought but what often happens is that they start their regular musth cycle and begin searching for females but soon find that there are no females in oestrus and then go out of musth. In very bad droughts males too will go down in condition and be unable to come into musth.

Dear Cynthia, Thank you so

Wed, 2009-08-05 05:51 by vikram

Dear Cynthia, Thank you so much for the update. In fact, when I left Amboseli last on the 14th of May this year, it had rained quite heavily, and it sure looked as if the drought had ended. The lake had partially filled up and i clearly remember remarking that the rains had finally arrived. But this is really disheartening news. Like you rightly pointed out, losing calves isn't the worst thing to happen to the family. Losing one of the elders would be nothing short of a catastrophe. Our prayers are with them.

Echo's family

Tue, 2009-08-04 01:25 by Donna

Dear Cynthia, Good to see a report. I've been wondering how things were going with the EBs. Do you remember a worse drought than this? Three months until the next rains is so long. We have had better than usual rains here. I keep wishing I could send them to you, too. How are Uncle Riley and Donna? I have been concerned about them and their families. How much condition have the eles lost? Has the poaching slacked off? Lots of questions here as usual.

Echo's Family questions

Tue, 2009-08-04 13:29 by cmoss

Donna, Thanks for your concern. No I've never seen a drought as bad as this one. I don't know how Uncle Riley and Donna are doing. All but about 100 elephants are spending their time outside the Park and we haven't seen these families for a long time. Donna will be six next month so I think she'll be fine. Uncle Riley will be nine next month and he is certainly old enough and big enough to get through the drought. Yes, all the elephants have lost condition. Some are very thin. Poaching is continuing and it is very worrying. It could escalate very quickly. That's why we're trying so hard to outfit the scouts so they can be out in the bush.

Echo's Family update

Mon, 2009-08-03 21:28 by Jude

Thank you for the update Cynthia - it must be really hard watching the family splinter like this, leaderless. The Matriarch is the cohesive being in the goup and with Echo gone - the others are abviously floundering. Sad that the calves have died, understanding though what yu say that this happens in times of drought - still the loss is a sadness on top of echo's passing. Have been thinking about Echo's kin and hoping for the best.

Thank you!

Mon, 2009-08-03 17:36 by Shuger66

Thank you Cynthia for the update. My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who works so hard and all others who are trying to survive these incredibly harsh conditions. Three months before the rains come sounds like a long time when already starving and thirsty.

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