Tag Archives: amboseli

ElephantVoices on Facebook – also for youth

More and more people are on social networks. ElephantVoices is following the trend, with the obvious goal of improving our educational interface towards a global audience. With the current disastrous boom in the trade in ivory and poaching anybody working for the future and interest of elephants must optimize all efforts trying to reduce supply of and demand for ivory. A big job has to be done between now and the CITES conference (CoP15) starting in the middle of March.

ElephantVoices on facebookElephantVoices’ facebook “window” will be were we will post daily updates, viewpoints and comments, while hoping for many from you as well. Join us! We will at the same time continue to improve and expand ElephantVoices.org when it comes to comprehensive information about elephant communication and elephants interests, our multimedia databases, and access to other relevant resources. We will also give news updates through the site, and here on WildlifeDirect, when appropriate.

ElephantVoices 4U is launched to provide a network for youth who want to discuss and work together to secure a kinder future for elephants. We are very grateful for anyone recruiting young people to join!

ElephantVoices is also on Twitter, for people that want to follow our work and updates through this communication channel.

Some of you may enjoy watching a “video” put together by Petter from ElephantVoices’ visit to PAWS in San Andreas, California, in late October 2009. The soundtrack consist of elephant sounds from our collection, in a composition mixed by Gerry Bassermann.

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The elephant in the well – Kibo and his new life

In February we told the story about the baby elephant that fell into a man-made well west of Kilimanjaro, and how she ended up at the elephant orphanage at The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi.

You may read what we just posted on ElephantVoices, and see the video from the rescue either there or below. Sometimes a bad situation ends up ok – even though I’m sure Kibo is still missing his family!

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Matriarch and world renown Echo dies

It is very sad that Echo, the Matriarch of our primary study group in Kenya, has died. She has been the leader of her family for over 36 years and through all of the research, books and media attention that has focused on her, she has become an icon for elephants. You can read the message from ATE Director Cynthia Moss here.  Our thoughts are with Echo’s family – as this will be a disturbing time for them – with Cynthia, Soila, Norah, Katito and Robert in Amboseli, who have kept up with Echo’s daily life for so many years. All of us who knew Echo have been touched by her gentleness and wisdom, and many of us have sought solace in her presence during difficult times.

Echo has been mentioned in a few posts here on WildlifeDirect. Whenever we think of the Amboseli elephants, we think of Echo. During our field visit in December 2007 – January 2008 we did worry about Echo – since she looked thin and weak – and we are convinced that the ongoing drought has contributed to her demise.

We feel priviledged having been able to spend so much time with this gentle, caring, and wise elephant, who has been such an excellent leader for the EB family for decades.

Listen to the voice of Echo in a Let’s Go Call:

Echo and Emily Kate
Echo and Emily Kate in January 2007


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Thank you for your continued interest in the 1,500 elephants of Amboseli – Echo will live on as a symbol of them.

Kind wishes, Joyce and Petter

Amboseli elephant baby stuck in well – and to orphanage

After a early morning recording session last week Blake and I were told by our ATE research assistant Katito Sayialel that an elephant baby was reported stuck in a well west of Amboseli National Park. We decided to go together, and followed behind the cloud of dust from the Amboseli Elephant Research Project vehicle. Despite lots of “shadows” in terms of cellphone contact with the maasai that had called the AERP team it didn’t take long before we found the right location a few meters from the Tanzanian border. Helpful maasai with cows and donkeys were all around, and told us that the baby had been in the well and struggling since last night.

To get a 400 pound elephant baby out of a well is not a piece of cake. And one thing is to get it up, another is to avoid ending up in the middle of an upset elephant family when the baby cries for help. Katito decided that we should try to look for the baby’s family, to find out how realistic it would be to get the baby back to them after a rescue. She also got in contact with Kenya Wildlife Service, to get their advice and assistance.  Baby in well
The well was not deeper than 1,2 meter, but deep enough to make it impossible for the less than one year old baby to get out.

Blake recording
Since Blake’s job for ElephantVoices during a 10 week field stay is to record rare calls, we had to try to get the low and very sad-sounding complaints from the baby on our Nagra digital recorder.

After having tried for quite some time to locate the family, and fearing that the baby could get serious injuries by the numerous attempts to get up, we had to take a decision what to do. Katito had already been in contact with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (their Orphans Project) in Nairobi, and they were ready to come and pick up the baby by plane. We decided to lift the baby carefully up with ropes around the belly together with our maasai friends. Next step was to get him into the back of our rustic Landcruiser – the first elephant passenger ever… Luckily we had a foam-pad (normally used as camera support) to provide as head-rest.

Baby in toyota
The baby was for natural reasons exhausted when finally out of the well, and quickly fell asleep when safe and sound in our field vehicle. In the photo we’re at the Amboseli airstrip waiting for Sheldricks people.

The baby was well fed and looked strong and not too uneasy when arriving at the air strip, and an hour afterwards she was on the way to the orphanage in Nairobi with the very experienced Sheldrick staff that came to pick her up.

I’m of course not happy at all that a baby elephant got separated from her family – but I do think what happened was the best solution considering the circumstances. That Blake and I had a very different day from what we expected is part of our story. We’re crossing our fingers for the baby from the well.

Cheers, Petter

Short update from dusty and windy Amboseli

Amboseli carries all signs of being dry – in the afternoons dust often sweeps over us as grey or brownish fog. There is not much green gras to see, not much to feed on. Several days we have seen rain in the near by slopes of Kilimanjaro, and Loitokitok 1 hour away experienced this week much more rain than what’s normal for this time of the year. Unfortunately most things previously planted have already died – the rain came too late.

The elephants are less active and talkative in a period like this, which is not great in terms of what we’re trying to achieve within our communication study. They are hot and have less energy, but thanks to the Amboseli swamps they are doing relatively fine everything considered. Unstable weather often leads to heavy winds, which our sensitive microphone is not very pleased with. Blake and I are in any case happy to collaborate with the very competent research assistants in the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, both Norah Njiraini and Katito Sayialel have been “in action”.
Photo Blake Murray and Norah Njiraini
Blake Murray and Norah Njiraini in the Amboseli Elephant Research camp.

Amboseli elephant with baby
There are many babies in Amboseli these days – which indicates that 2006 and 2007 where years with enough rain and food. But times are harder now – even though dusting feels good for elephants even in the best of times.

At night we very often hear lions – several are staying near by and sometimes walk so we can see them from the camp during day time. And in and around the camp numerous animals are having a peaceful time feeding on what’s left, they continue to know that we are friends. Outside my tent opening a buffalo is looking at me 8-10 meters away, when I walk over to the dining tent a couple of zebras hardly move out of the path.
Amboseli lion
Male lion resting near by entrance to camp – currently getting all the food that he wants thanks to others being hungry and weak.

Last Wednesday ended up very different and more dramatic than expected – since we had to follow AERP’s Katito to find an elephant baby that was reported having fallen into a well. I will tell you some more, and share a couple of photos, in a couple of days. Right now other tasks need my attention.

Have a great Sunday!

Cheers, Petter 

Some personal notes from day 1 in Amboseli – 22 January

Thursday started with the BIG shopping – going off to the bush for weeks one has to stock up quite a bit. There are no shopping malls anywhere near Amboseli; a weekly supply of vegetables from Loitokitok (one rough hour drive away) and goods brought down with others coming to Amboseli is what we have to rely on.

The drive from Nairobi to the border town of Namanga takes a couple of hours. Some amazing road construction going on over quite a long stretch from Kajiado indicates that the main road to Tanzania will soon again see better days. Having been built properly in the first place this particular stretch of the road has been good for a long, long time, but it is finally falling apart. The ongoing re-construction done by Chinese road builder is, therefore, urgently needed.

I had heard that the road from Namanga to Amboseli National Park’s Meshanani Gate was terrible, but since it had obviously been graded quite recently Blake (Murray) and I experienced an unusually smooth ride. Having just done (more) major repairs on our field vehicle I was relieved to find the road in such good shape.

We brought fresh newspapers (with Obama all over, of course) to Soila and the gang in ATE’s field office, and continued on to the camp. A hot shower rinsed off sweat and dust from a hot journey. It was great to be back again, even though it is very sad to see how extremely dry Amboseli is. The photo below is from our stay in January 2008, but we’re going to see even more dust, dust devils and dusting elephants in the coming few months before we (hopefully) get rain.  Amboseli Elephants dusting
Through a “dongle” connected to the computer I can, for the first time, be online from our (Joyce’s and my) tent –  but the question remains if this is really what I want considering the huge number of incoming mails…which reached closed to 60 yesterday. Anyway – it gives me the option of staying in touch with my family, friends and WD visitors – which is good!

It was blowing hard Thursday night, and it was cold sitting by my desk. To stay warm I tried getting into bed with the laptop … 2,5 meters away ….but that was enough for it to switch to a Tanzanian cellphone-provider. I was forced back to my desk, to avoid roaming.

After I dealt with some urgent emails I went back to my current book, “The Crunch” (guess what it is about), fell asleep, and woke up in the middle of the night with a couple of grumpy old buffaloes in the swamp just in front of the tent and several elephants noisily feeding on the palms surrounding the tent. A little bit further away lions were roaring – a couple of days ago they chased a baby warthog through the camp and into the bushes. It has not been seen since.


Greetings from a sunny and very dry Kenya

While Joyce is back in Norway preparing for her appearance in the legal case against Ringling Brothers Circus, and dealing with other pending elephant-issues, I continue my stay here in Nairobi. I am keeping busy working on our website update and our databases with IT-experts Mark and Fred, and trying to get our field vehicle in shape for the next few months of field work – a continuous job!

In the middle of next week I leave for Amboseli with Blake Murray. Over the next 10 weeks Blake is going to be assisting with ElephantVoices’ communication research by collecting acoustic recordings and video of some of the rarer calls. After a two week intro period with me he will be in the good hands of the very competent ATE research staff members, Norah Njiraini and Katito Sayialel.

Right now Blake is with Joyce in Norway being prepared for his time in Amboseli and picking up the recording equipment, datasheets and so on. Blake, who is currently a student at University of Utah, worked with us for a couple of months in 2003. You will be hearing more from us in the field.
Blake and Petter with the BBs in Amboseli in May 2003.

Based on normal rainfall patterns this time of the year usually represents a productive work period for collecting elephant vocalizations. But this year may be different. Due to the severe drought elephants are likely to be more subdued and just focused on getting enough to eat.

The short rains failed over most of Kenya, which is a troubling fact for millions of Kenyans. The political upheaval last year really had an impact on food production in the country and having the rains fail sets people even further back. Millions of Kenyans are currently faced with hunger – making human elephant conflict even more acute.

Despite the drought, I really look forward to being with the Amboseli elephants again, and we are all hoping for good rains in March and April.


We wish all ElephantVoices friends and WildlifeDirect bloggers and staff a Joyful Holiday and a Peaceful 2009!

We’re getting very close to Christmas and the end of the year, and want to use this opportunity to send warm wishes and a heart felt thank you to all of you around the world who support elephants and our work financially or in other ways. Our best wishes and thanks also go to WD staff, and to all the other WD bloggers who work so hard to protect the many species in need – keep up the good work!

We had a good time during our hectic lecture and fundraising trip in California in November – and we are extremely grateful for all the warm hospitality, good friendship and generosity we experienced during our two week visit. The global financial crisis does not create the best atmosphere in which to raise funds, but the new American President (elect) and a newborn Obama in Amboseli keep us optimistic!
Cooking party Sausalito
Vegetarian cooking party at our friend Coco’s house in Sausalito 8 November, a lively event to promote the interests of elephants and the work of ElephantVoices. (Photo: PartiesThatCook)

From ElephantVoices event in Pacific Palisades
For a second year in a row we enjoyed the warm hospitality of Patty and Doug (and their 6 dogs) during a vegan reception at their home in Pacific Palisades, 16 November. (Photo: Tim Stahl)

It’s been a very busy year, as usual, which you can read more about in our End Year letter. In 2009 we intend to spend about half of our time on our new Sri Lankan project, a quarter on our Amboseli work and the remainder on advocacy. Petter and/or I will be in the field in Kenya in January, and part of February and March, and in Sri Lanka in June and again in September. Manori Gunawardena will be in Minneriya-Kaudulla throughout the year and Blake Murray will be helping us to collect and analyze data in Amboseli. Public awareness and education are elements that runs through all of our work, so you will continue to hear from us whether we are in the field or not.
Captive elephant
As advancements in science contribute to our growing understanding of elephants we continue to put substantial time and effort into influencing welfare policy so that elephant interests are met. The elephant Watoto (Woodland Park Zoo, Seattle) in the photo is blurred due to stereotypical swaying – a behavior that expresses the massive frustration caused by confinement.  (Photo: Alyne Fortgang)
Amboseli elephants
Elephant Sri Lanka

During 2009 we look forward to being with our long-term elephant friends in Amboseli, Kenya, and with our new acquaintences in Minneriya-Kaudulla, Sri Lanka. And, of course, to working with our colleagues in Amboseli and with Manori and our many new colleagues in Sri Lanka.  The survival of wild elephants depends on finding a balance between the needs of people and elephants – a task that requires the collaborative work of people all over the world.

In order to find ways for people and elephants to co-exist in Minneriya-Kaudulla we must start by defining the basic needs of an elephant population that seems to number over 1,000 individuals rather than the previous estimate of 450 – we have our work for 2009 cut out for us!

We wish you all a festive holiday season and a peaceful 2009 for all creatures!
Link to Christmas decoration

Warm Greetings, Joyce and Petter

Elephants and people need role models

Hi all,

One of our readers, Amy Mayers, sent this to us: A Public Service Announcement put out by the US Government that uses lessons from elephant behavior (a paper on which I was an author from 2000) to argue for bettering fathering. Well, the elephants in the clip are from Amboseli (some of my all time favorites, like Dionysus), not from South Africa, and while the behavior it describes is not actually what we see in the video, and it mostly gets the sexes of the elephants wrong, the message is a good one and true for both elephants and people. The youth of both species require good adult role models in their lives. Growing up without them spells trouble.

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Elephants mobbing a predator and calling for reinforcements

Hi all,

I am back for another installment of elephant sounds 101 and we are still working our way through how elephants respond to predators. Since humans are the most dangerous predator an elephant has to face, I have been on the sharp end of some of these reactions, though these frightening assaults have almost all been in places other than Amboseli. If you visit the visual tactile database on our website, and search under the word “bunching”, you can read in more detail how after freezing and perhaps “commenting”, the first response to potential danger by members of a family group is to gather together or “bunch”. Once elephants have bunched together, older individuals at the fore and calves occupying the center, one or more larger individuals may charge the predator while emitting the trumpet blasts or roars that I have already described. Throughout a confrontation with a dangerous predator the bunched elephants may continue to vocalize with noisy, throaty, rolling rumbles, their heads raised, ears extended, temporal glands streaming and trunks reaching out to touch one another. These rumbles have a roaring quality and appear to have the effect of both intimidating the predator and calling in support from any more distant family members. I refer to the powerful noisy rumbles given in this context as roaring-rumbles.

I recorded a lovely example of roaring rumbles in Amboseli one day when I happened to witness a lion pounce upon a year old elephant calf. The calf screamed, which prompted an immediate response from its mother and other allies, who rushed to the calves side, and confronted the lion with a series of roaring-rumbles. The calls attracted the attention of other family members who responded by calling and arriving at the scene minutes later.
Bunched elephants confront a predator.