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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Really interesting. I had no idea that elephants were lead by a female in their family. And your photos, amazing. I pinned several of them.
Hi Rachel, Echo’s story is beautiful and touching. Thanks for teaching us about the elephant’s family and social unit. It’s very interesting. They are more intelligent than I thought. That they can distinguished between ethnic groups amazed me. I hope their population thrive and that the poaching be curtailed. And thank you for sharing these glorious photographs.
You should watch the documentary, it is available online. Her story is amazing.
Spectacular photographs! Would love to experience The Elephants of Amboseli in real life one day! Thanks so much for sharing these beautiful photos!
What wonderful photos, and what a great opportunity for them to learn more about these families and their lives. I’m hoping to visit Africa in the next year or so to help a research project on bats, and as it’s out in the bush there will be ample opportunity to see these wonderful animals – and all the rest!
Thank you Rachel. Which country will you be visiting?
WOW. These are totally amazing photographs and Amboseli would be the place to see them.
Thank you Paula
Oh…the little one is so cute!!! I want one ..:-). Seriously, nice to know a bit more about them. I always knew they were intelligent . Your pictures are awesome as usual.
Oh my gosh, that baby elephant!
I also like that bird walking around, like he doesn’t even care that there are these gigantic elephants walking by. That bird is braver then I am.
So glad you posted this! The more I learn about elephants, the more I love them. They are super smart and sensitive creatures with excellent memories. I saw a documentary where two elephants were reunited after not seeing each other for some time and they cried actual tears! Imagine that?! That’s why I absolutely hate to see people riding elephants or elephants performing in circuses – it breaks my heart, and I’m sure it breaks theirs. I’d love to see the Amboseli elephants for myself someday.
Wow. so amazing. The idea of traveling in Africa intimidates me, but I think i need to get over it and plan a safari when my daughter is a little bit older. 11 or 12, maybe.
Oh goodness – how adorable! What enchanting shots.
Just had that aha moment! i never knew this, “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.”
Beautiful animals they are
Such amazing photos. It must have been even more amazing to watch these animals interact. I agree that the baby one is cute, but I ‘d never dare get near it. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. I learned a lot.
Do we know if it is true for sure that some of these Elephant families travel as far as Tsavo West National Park from Amboseli National Park? I have been visiting Amboseli for the last 20 years as a guide…. Great article with beautiful pictures…more insight about elephants and close encounter as well of baby elephants is available at the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage near Nairobi National Park – Its worth a visit when you have the time.