Update on Echo’s Family

Fri, 2010-03-19 08:51 by cmoss
The EB Family Together Ella

The EB family is back together after nine months of separation. Echo died in May 2009; Ella and her eight left shortly before or after her death and were not seen for about four months. We have no idea where they went but it must have been an area with some food because when they did return to the Park they had not lost either of their young calves. Elettra’s calf born in 2008 and Emma’s born in 2009 were there. Over 40% of the calves born in this age group died in the other families.

The other part of the EB family did not do as well as Ella did. The four youngest calves died: Eudora’s ‘08, Enid’s ’08, Eleanor’s ’09, and Ebony’s ‘09. In addition Ebony’s older calf, Etienne, born in 2005, died from the drought. The EB females, however, did better than many of the other Amboseli families. Not one adult female died. In some of the families as many as five adults succumbed to the drought.

In the months after Echo’s death and up until the rains finally came in early January, the major section of the EB family was in disarray. They were in small sub-groups and never all together. For awhile Eudora, the oldest at 37, was completely on her own and I thought sure she would die because often a female will move alone before she dies. In this case though she went back to her daughter and calves and they tended to move as a small group of five for the next months. In the meantime, the others were also in small sub-units. Enid, Echo’s 27-year-old daughter, moved with just her youngest calf and stayed close to where Echo’s carcass was. She lost a tremendous amount of weight and looked in very bad shape. I didn’t think she would make it. Echo’s 24-year-old daughter, Eliot, led a small party of young adults and calves. Eliot has always been a caregiver and the orphans, such as E-Mail and Erica, stayed close to her. Echo’s granddaughters Edwina, Eleanor and Echeri and their calves, as well as Ebony, sometimes moved together, sometimes individually. It was clear that everyone was simply trying to find food and use up as little energy as possible. Somehow Edwina managed to beat the odds and keep her youngest calf Elif, an ’08, alive.

When rain finally came to the Park and vegetation began to grow the elephants slowly recovered. Within a few weeks they looked like completely different animals. The adults walked with a sprightly gait and the youngsters began to play again. It was a wonderful sight for all of us.

It took quite some time for the sub-groups to come together. By February all of the EBs, except Ella’s lot, were moving as two groups: one with Eudora as leader and the other with Enid and Eliot as leaders. By March they amalgamated into one group of 24. Before Echo died the family had reached 40 in number. With her death and the loss of the five calves they were reduced to 34. Enid’s son Ejac went independent which brought the family down to 33. So there were 24 with Eudora and Enid and nine with Ella.

In the meantime, we saw Ella back in the Park but she was not with the others. However on the morning of March 16 when Soila, Norah and I went out together we found all of the EBs in one group. There was Ella right in the middle of the family. It was impossible to tell who was acting as matriarch. It will take many hours of just sitting with the family to see who is determining their movements and activities.

Much to our delight there was a new member of the family. Erica, the orphaned daughter of Erin and granddaughter to Echo, had given birth to a tiny female calf. How she kept her pregnancy going during the drought is a wonder, but the calf looked healthy and active. The older female calves in the family were very busy helping Erica take care of the new baby.

Seeing them all together like that was somehow symbolic to us of the end of the drought. It was by far the worst year we had ever had in Amboseli and we hoped never to see anything like it again. At the same time the new calf seemed symbolic of renewal and hope for the future.

update on Echo's family

Mon, 2010-10-18 17:56 by savethem

Thanks for the update. Bittersweet news. It's a tough life for all wild animals. Hopefully, a severe drought like that is rare.

Echo's Family

Wed, 2010-03-24 05:12 by 2colleens

What wonderful news to hear that Echo's family have found a way back to each other. It will be interesting to hear who becomes the Matriach. Yes it is sad about the calves who didn't make it but most of the family got through. Thank you Cynthia and your team for keeping us informed.


Mon, 2010-03-22 05:05 by janette collins

It is wonderful to be able to read your words that enable us to participate in the lives of the elephants..thank you..Echo's family may have finally found a way forward.. together... after their loss and grieving....how sad for all the elephant mothers who lost their calves to drought and Ebony..to lose 2 children....poor girl....they are precious families that we can learn so much from..and I often think about your words describing how they play together, especially Echo's family and how this would contribute to their closeness and loyalty and joy they share in each other..it is something we can apply to our human families...
Thank you Cynthia, through your eyes we see their world and we know how important it is for us as humans to conserve this for them any way we can..

You can't imagine

Sun, 2010-03-21 11:46 by Massago

Cynthia, you can't imagine how we are so happy to read your words about Echo's family. To get informations, to follow them through your eyes, it is so great, specially after to have read your book.
I also hope never a drought will come again like the one in 2009. I hate to hear elephants and other animals died because of the drought. I know that is a natural event but to imagine how elephants have suffered makes me to feel bad.
Now, another time has started with new stories that we will be happy to read through all the year.
We really understand elephants are differents than most of animals. The way how they behave, the way how they separate for this or that reason and how they join together again. So many people think that we know everything about animals behaviour but it is not true. To learn about them needs time, and because of you, we know more and more.
So I want to say thank you for your work and your love for elephants.
Thank you to Hans for his explanations about family group.

The EB's

Sat, 2010-03-20 18:23 by Pete666

Thank you Cynthia, for the update on the EB's. While it's very sad to hear that some of the young one's didn't make it through the drought it's good to know that the adults have and are back together.

I did wonder if perhaps Ella wandering off with her family was perhaps a tacit admission that the family was becoming too big and she thought it was easier to find sufficient food for 9 elephants rather than 40. Is there any natural limit on family size?

All the best to you and the others at ATE.



Sat, 2010-03-20 17:41 by Alison1962

Thankyou Cynthia, for this update on the EBs, i have always been wondering what was going to happen to their herd.
I thing it is great they have all come together and to hear about the birth of Ericas calf after the most terrible time for them is truly amazing, as has already been said prehaps a symbol of new hope and luck within the herd and park, i truly hope so.
I am coming back to Amboseli next week and spending some time around the area, i really hope to see them still united and happy.
Thankyou again.
Alison x

Herd or family group

Sun, 2010-03-21 08:30 by Hans

Here's a little comment on the word "herd". It is used in connection with elephants, but "herd" is less specific than another expression that signifies a stronger bond between the individuals.

A group of elephants that always stays together is often called a "family group", perhaps because the word herd tends to imply a casual, non-permanent gathering of many unrelated animals, while the elephant family group is a stable, permanent unit of a certain number of mostly related elephants.

Elephants sometimes gather into much larger congregations, particularly when the going is good, i.e. when there is much food and water. Here the word herd fits well, unless one wanted to be more specific and call out the family groups in the herd.

I guess the typical ungulate herd stays together mainly for mutual protection in two ways:

  1. More eyes to spot predators.
  2. More prey individuals per predator, so lower individual risk. A lion or a hyaena can only eat so much.

Apart from these two reasons and the temporary search for mating partners there is very little cohesion among the herd animals.

The elephant family group differs greatly from that, because each member knows each other "personally", they care for and protect each other, and they stay together permanently.

Another macabre example for the difference would be that, if you shot an individual in an ungulate herd from afar, the others could hardly care less. They would look up briefly, then continue grazing right next to their dead comrade.

But you can imagine how an elephant family group would react, although we really don't want to imagine that. The difference could not be bigger.

This difference, of course, occurs not only because the elephants in a family group know and care for each other, but also because elephants are intelligent enough to understand what death means, of which ungulates are totally incapable.

I also see another expression being used. If talking about a matriarch, like Echo, it is easy to say "Echo's herd", because then it is clear that this most likely means the same as "Echo's family group", but is a little shorter and perhaps also hints at a big group.

Hope I got that right, not being an elephant researcher myself.

Ok Thanks

Sun, 2010-03-21 22:49 by Alison1962

Thankyou Hans for your explaination it makes perfect sense when you explain it that way. I still have a lot to learn Alison.

We are all learning

Sun, 2010-03-21 23:21 by Hans

Particularly about elephants. We may still have a lot to discover and learn about them.

Hope & New Beginnings

Sat, 2010-03-20 10:46 by Anna Martinsson

What an uplifting update, I was looking forward to an EB update but did not even think I would see them altogether in one picture again, even the sight of almost a pair of crossed tusks to the right (not sure if this is Enid?) brings back memories of truly happy days! They are a strong group of elephants these mature EB females and I hope Eudora, Echo’s daughters and the late Erin’s many daughters will stay in close proximity of each other. Maybe first time mother Erica and the little new miracle of a baby elephant will give them that little bit more of a reason to stay on being a strong and stable group within Amboseli. Thank you so much for this post and like you say after last years many tribulations this is a sign of hope. Significantly maybe that they did unite, as did all of the worlds leading elephant conservationists ahead of the crucial CITES meeting taking place this week and what the final outcomes there could mean for all the elephants long term future…

Crossing tusks

Sat, 2010-03-20 15:08 by cmoss

The female fourth from the right is Ella who is now 45 years old so an experienced older female. DNA analysis shows that she is Echo's sister.

Thank you so much for the updates

Sat, 2010-03-20 04:51 by hge

Wow. Thank you Cynthia! Although sad to learn that 5 EB calves didn't make it, it is very encouraging to know that Erica had her first calf! For she was the most effected by Erin's tragic death. I remember months after Erin died, she was still very sad. She managed to get through the drought with a new life inside her was incredible. It is also great to figure out that Elliot's only daughter survived and the "loner" Eleanor back to the family. Edwina did a great job too. I am very sorry about Ebony. She lost both of her calves. Hope she rebounds soon and have more calves. With the common English names used up, now it is hard to tell the gender of young calves by their names!
Is there any news about Obama the elephant who was born on Nov 4th, 2008? Did he make it? Is there any news about how are my beloved TAs doing?


Fri, 2010-03-19 21:50 by Donna

Thank you, Cynthia. I'm thrilled that they are back together. It will be interesting to know what happens next: if they stay together, who becomes the matriarch, etc.

Has anyone seen Uncle Riley and Donna? Each of them has been on my mind a lot now that there is food again in Amboseli.

I thought you were at the CITES Meeting?

Best wishes


Sun, 2010-03-21 02:06 by velvet

Speaking of Uncle Riley,
What are Renata's two girls and granddaughter's names.
And also what are Eclipses' calves names.
What is Velvets history, mothers name, calves(besides Vinex and 2007 calf), what are her grandmothers, aunts and cousins? When was she born?
Is Denise, Dinah's daughter, still living? What are her siblings and calves names? what are her grand calves? When did Penelope die?
When was Renata born. What are all of Orlanda's calves names besides Olwen. What are Olwen's three boy's besides Obama.

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