As promised in my previous post about Amboseli here is one dedicated to the elephants of Amboseli National Park.
Amboseli is home to about 1200 (2011 figure, down from 1,600 in 2008 due to severe drought and poaching) elephants. The population is Amboseli is among the most studied in the world. I have always been fascinated by elephants but what got me interested in the elephants of Amboseli was a BBC documentary titled Echo the Unforgettable Elephant.
At the age of 23 Echo became the matriarch of her family and in 1973 she was fitted with a radio collar and thus begun the study of her life. She was named Echo because of the sounds her collar was making. She was an exceptional matriarch, in her lifetime she saw one daughter murdered and rescued another from a kidnapper. She helped her son fight back from a crippling illness and even fostered her orphaned grandson. Echo died in 2009 but her memory and legacy live on.
The elephant population in Amboseli includes 58 families and close to 300 independent adult males. Families are led by matriarchs who are generally the oldest and largest adult female members.
Families consist of one or more related adult females and their immature offspring.
When elephant families come together they are termed a bond group. Like the family, bond group membership is also usually determined by genetic relatedness. The next social level is a clan. Clans are defined as families who share the same dry season home range, when resources are scare they share the same foraging area.
Elephants have the longest gestation period of any mammal; the average period is 640 to 660 days. At birth calves weigh about 120 kg.
New-born calves may consume 11.4 litres of milk a day. As a minimum, the African elephant calf is entirely dependent (emotionally and physically) on his/her mother for three to five years.
Females spend their entire lives in their family but males depart from their natal family anywhere from 9 to 18 years of age – a process that can take anywhere from 1 to 4 years.
Independent males are often seen in small, all-male groups and they form lasting friendships with certain individuals, although these are looser arrangements than among female elephants.
At an average of 4.8kg the elephant brain is the largest among living and extinct terrestrial mammals. Elephants are very intelligent and studies have shown that elephants can reliably discriminate between two different ethnic groups that differ in the level of threat they represent. Researchers played recordings of human voices from 2 different tribes, the Maasai and the Kamba for elephants at Amboseli National Park in Kenya. All were saying “Look, look over there, a group of elephants is coming.” When the recordings of the Maasai were played the elephants displayed defensive behaviour (Maasais frequently come into conflict with elephants) but when the recording of Kamba were played to elephants they showed no concern.
Elephants are wonderful creatures and Amboseli is one of the best places in Kenya to view them in the wild.
How to get there:
Distance from Nairobi is approximately 270 km via Emali and 280 km via Namanga.
By road: Transfer by road from Nairobi takes approximately 4 hours.
By air: Flight time approximately 30 minutes from Wilson Airport Nairobi.
All info on how much it costs to enter the park can be found here.
Cost per game drive (if staying at Amboseli Serena)Kshs 4500 ($49) per person per game drive
Carry warm clothing if you intend to go for an early morning game drive. The mornings are quite chilly.
This trip was facilitated by Serena hotels as part of a media tour.
Recommended reading- The History of the EB Family
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