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Update on Echo’s Family
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.