Kenya

Monday, 10 March 2003 10:00

Elephant communication and the SEVP are attracting quite a lot of public interest. TV coverage on BBC and ABC, and various articles in printed and online media, all contribute to the project's outreach objectives.

An article about the SEVP was recently published on National Geographic News. National Geographic Society through their Conservation Trust is one of SEVP’s donors. You can read the article here.

Cheers, Petter

Monday, 10 March 2003 10:23

The beginning of 2003 has been marked by the political initiatives by the newly elected and very promising Kenyan government. Kenyans and Kenya’s fantastic nature deserve a flowering future!

Building  our new research tent in the  Elephant Camp. (©ElephantVoices)In December we had productive meetings with our collaborators at Macauley Library of Natural Sounds and the Elephant Listening Project (Cornell University, Ithaca). We will meet our friends at Cornell also in March and August this year, to strengthen our joint efforts to better understand elephants and their complex language.

We have been on several trips to our field site in Amboseli since the beginning of 2003. One important task, completed in February, was the building of a new field home/office in the Amboseli Elephant Research Camp. A new tent is up under a cooling makuti (palm frond) roof, and the sun is providing us with enough power to give us light and necessary charging capacity for all our equipment during the dark African nights. We chose to use recycled plastic posts (8) to carry the heavy roof construction, to follow up our intentions to let the elephant research camp be in the forefront when it comes to eco-friendly solutions. This alternative to wood should have a great potential in Kenya considering the amount of waste plastic, and the need to preserve and expand the few remaining forests.

Joyce watching elephants outside our new tent in  Amboseli. (©ElephantVoices)We were certainly not alone during our first few days in our new field base - numerous curious, friendly and talkative elephants literally surrounded the tent-site and us. A lot of the scientific work in January and February focused on the demanding task of completing a first version of the comprehensive database of elephant visual and tactile signals mentioned in a separate news-piece. This job has been fascinating and fun, but extremely time-consuming.

ElephantVoices has so far triggered a lot of interest and requests from other researchers – we do hope the presentation of visual and tactile signals will further stimulate the rather international mail-communication related to elephants and their conservation. Amboseli finally had rain in December, and a short but substantial rainfall in the middle of February.

Amboseli is therefore green and beautiful, and its elephants are experiencing a time of plenty. As a result we can expect a lot of newborns in two years time. Hundreds of elephants have been within the boundary of the National Park, and it has been easy to find and follow elephants. The Echo-family has been one exception – and they have been harder to find than usual. Good living conditions may have triggered an interest in breaking old patterns – or maybe our almost 60 year old and famous matriarch is playing games with us? More likely she was on the loose searching for a decent mate. The fact that she was mated just the other day indicates that the gracious lady is ship shape, and that her retirement is still a few years away.

Trumpets, Petter

Friday, 09 May 2003 11:16

The long rains are still not over in Amboseli, luckily enough. During our stay at the Elephant Research Camp from 26 April to 3 May we received quite a bit of rain, but people and animals need much more. Though we will probably receive just about enough this rainy season it will probably be below average.

As a result of the inclement weather we spent a fair amount of time working in the tent on our computers. Even on days without much sun the new solar system (110 watts panel, 120 Ah deep cycle battery) seems to cope very well with our power needs. Proposals and reports, and discussions and ideas related to the challenges posed by human-elephant conflict were among our focus. These challenges were also the main issue when we visited Kimana village an hour’s drive from Amboseli. It is in this direction that more and more elephants seem to be spending their time, some of them coming into conflict with the growing number of farms.

While in February there were literally hundreds of elephants in different parts of the park this time the park was rather bare as most were out of the park boundaries. A few families and some males could be found, and contributed to the ElephantVoices collection. We will return to Amboseli on 12 May.

Cheers, Petter

An extremely excited and playful young female in a posture called Exaggerated-Fear. (©ElephantVoices)The photo show an extremely excited and playful young female in a posture called Exaggerated-Fear.

Sunday, 08 June 2003 15:37

We spent 8 days in Amboseli between 11th and 18th May with a student, Blake Murray, from Seattle working with us. We experienced several close encounters with elephants, some extremely entertaining, some very sad.

As the rains began in late April Echo took her family (the EBs) to the western side of the park, an area she rarely visits. This move proved fatal for Echo’s eldest daughter, Erin, who in late April was speared twice, high on her right shoulder by Maasai moran (or warriors). Since the EBs were inside the park the most likely reason for the spearing appears to have been a show of manhood. Although Erin (or a family member) was able to remove the spears her wounds were extremely deep and became infected.

By early May, when she was first sighted, she was clearly in intense pain and unable to move more than a few steps at a time. The decision was taken to immobilize her, clean the wound and treat her with antibiotics. Although she appeared to make a comeback for a few days, the infection must have been well advanced and so on 15 May she was immobilized and treated again. The Kenya Wildlife Service crew did a great job on both occasions. To make a long and sad story short – a week or so later it was clear that she couldn’t survive – Erin collapsed, unable to stand again. After deliberation between KWS and AERP it was decided to immobilize her first (M99 the drug used to immobilize elephants contains morphine) and then euthanise her. Thus Erin’s pain and life ended.

Erin.  (©ElephantVoices)She was mother to adult daughters, Edwina (21) and Eleanor (17), juvenile daughters, Echeri (8) and Erica (5) and several independent young males as well as grandmother to three calves, Europa (7), Elaine (4) and Elmo (4). Her youngest surviving calf, “E-mail

Sunday, 07 September 2003 12:22

Sarah Benson-Amram. (©ElephantVoices)On 20th September Sarah Benson-Amram arrived in Nairobi to join the SEVP team for one year.

Sarah is originally from Berkeley, California studied Animal Behavior at Cornell University where she earned her Bachelor`s degree in 2001. Following graduation, Sarah worked for one year as a research assistant on two different projects. She spent 6 months in Madagascar studying the vocal communication and behavior of the Silky Sifaka, a species of lemur, and 5 months in Utah, working with Dr. John Hoogland on his prairie dog research. She then returned to Ithaca, New York to work at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology as an audio archivist in the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. This position added to her knowledge of sound recording, sound analysis, and animal communication.

It was here that she met Joyce Poole and Petter Granli and, due to her passion for elephants, was able to set up a meeting to discuss elephant research. Sarah is now analysing SEVP recordings in the lab/office outside Nairobi, and will later be conducting playbacks in Amboseli as part of her job with SEVP.

Cheers, Petter/SEVP

Sunday, 15 February 2004 18:16
Quite a lot of rain has fallen in Amboseli the last 3 weeks, which is very good news for people and wildlife. Much more is needed, but at least the extremely bad drought that we could expect based on the rainfall the second half of 2003 is avoided. The weather is not normal for this time of the year, but based on the unusual climate the last few years we should probably continue to expect the unexpected.

The ElephantVoices team will be back with more updates about recent project achievements when back from a field trip 15. to 22 February.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices
Friday, 05 March 2004 15:36

We were in Amboseli again between 14 and 22 February, primarily for Joyce to work on a film production for National Geographic Television. The January rain had been good for Amboseli, and the elephants were in lively groups of up to three hundred.

In our research camp office much of the time was used in analysis of previous recordings (Sarah), and populating the newly designed ElephantVoices Database (Joyce). Joyce and Amboseli Elephant Research Project’s (AERP) Training Manager, Norah Njiraini, had the pleasure to finalize the selection of two recipients for the Amboseli Trust for Elephants new secondary school scholarship program for Maasai girls. AERP is engaged in numerous community projects, support of local students at secondary (two girls per year) and university level (currently three) being one of these.

Meanwhile, Petter focused on upcoming web-challenges, video recordings as well as the daunting task of trying to answer the many requests and comments that comes in through ElephantVoices.

Quite a few Kilimanjaro elephants visited the camp and it’s surroundings during our stay. The “Kili Eles

Wednesday, 12 May 2004 09:51

Selengei's  class from Waldorf in Nairobi  visiting the elephant research camp.  (©ElephantVoices)We had a special reason to go to Amboseli last weekend, and for once our project was not the main focus. Our daughter Selengei celebrated her 11th birthday with our study elephants, bringing her 6 classmates along on an educational school trip. They observed and counted elephants and other animals, calculated average numbers of each species and graphed the results, they followed individual elephants and worked out activity budgets for different ages and they spent time sketching elephants. The main purpose of the trip was to utilize the skills they had learned in their maths lessons at Nairobi Walforf School in a “real life

Friday, 14 January 2005 12:51

The third film about Amboseli's EB family (our study elephants) is being shown on the BBC's Natural World on Wednesday 19th January, with a repeat on Sunday 23rd. See below.

If you are among those who can receive the BBC we recommend that you take the time to watch the film. The elephant sounds are carefully selected from the ElephantVoices collection.

Many of you may have heard the surprising news that very few animals died in the devastating Tsunami that killed over 160,000 people. The amazing behavior of animals, particularly elephants, has already been the focus of several articles and documentaries. You will find one such article, which includes a few comments by Joyce, on National Geographics website.

This phenomenon has also attracted interest in Norway, and the National Broadcaster NRK (Schrødingers Katt) will include an interview with Joyce about the response of elephants to earthquakes which will probably air on 10 February.

In September 2003 the ElephantVoices team visited Yala East National Park on Sri Lanka's eastern coast. We had a fantastic experience there thanks to our friend Lalith Seneviratne and our extraordinary host, Park Warden R. Myunideen Mohamed. The parks had just been reopened following two decades of civil unrest.

Mohamed's family are among the many who have lost everything but their lives. All the Park's staff saved themselves, some by running side by side with water buffaloes. The elephants had left for higher ground earlier. The park's new headquarters was submerged in five feet of water, but a miracle saved them from major damage.

Mohamed,  Joyce and Lalith in Yala East September 2003 - one of the areas that  encountered the destructive forces of the Tsunami. (©ElephantVoices)

Mohamed, Joyce and Lalith in Yala East September 2003 - one of the areas that encountered the destructive forces of the Tsunami.
Our thoughts are with the Sri Lankan people, and all others affected by the Sumatra quake.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices
Thursday, 16 December 2004 17:49

It has taken more time and energy to establish ourselves in Norway than we expected and for this reason ElephantVoices has been rather quiet lately when it comes to online activities. We are slowly getting there, and have high ambitions for activity on the site in 2005.

On 22 December Joyce will present her work and ElephantVoices in a public lecture in Ketchum, Idaho, at the nexStage Theatre at 7pm. A reception for interested people will follow. Then on 28 December Joyce will be at Iconoclast Books in Ketchum, Idaho to sign copies of her book, “Coming of Age With Elephants

Friday, 13 May 2005 09:38

The fact that is has been rather quiet from us for some time does not mean that nothing is happening within the project. In March and part of April we spent a few weeks in Kenya, but unfortunately not long enough in our field station in Amboseli due to obligations in Nairobi. Meetings with our collaborators took part of the time.

Ebony with  her calf, April 2005.  (©ElephantVoices)Furthermore, for Petter a substantial amount of time went it to the ongoing project “Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflicts in the Amboseli eco-system. This issue is of major importance for the future survival of the Amboseli elephants. After a long dry period it started to rain while in the field, and soon it was difficult to follow our study elephants off-road. The Park very soon received 200mm of rain, and everything became brilliant green. Elephants in groups of more than 200 came into the park in the morning, and walked in the Kilimanjaro direction in the evening. And Ebony in the EB family, not even 11, got a baby. A male. The EB’s are now 30.

Two scientific papers have been published since last newsletter, and right now Joyce is in the US working together with some AERP colleagues on the book The Amboseli Elephants: a long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal, that will be published on University of Chicago Press.

We plan to upload a substantial number of new recordings to ElephantVoices in the next couple of months, and hope you will visit us soon again.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Wednesday, 12 October 2005 14:03

The same day, 29 September, that Joyce returned from a productive 2.5 week field trip to Kenya and Amboseli it was announced that President Kibaki had agreed that Amboseli National Park should be given back to Kajiado County Council. Tourism and Wildlife Minister Morris Dzoro subsequently issued a special Gazette notice downgrading Amboseli from the status of a national park to a national reserve.

Kenya Wildlife Service, the current managers of the Park, were not consulted or informed about the decision, and nor were the many other stakeholders. Since the announcement the media and numerous organizations and individuals have followed and questioned the surprising move while Amboseli has been inundated by thousands of cows. The general impression is that the manner in which the change was executed does not follow Kenyan law.

It is still unclear how Amboseli, a park that has been vital for Kenya's and Kenya Wildlife Service's economy, and famous among international tourists, will be managed in the future. This issue is naturally of great concern for Amboseli Elephant Research Project and ElephantVoices, since it will obviously have consequences for the elephant population in the area. You can find several articles about the situation through a search on Amboseli in the Daily Nation.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Saturday, 11 February 2006 20:19

The ElephantVoices team will be in Kenya between 12th February and 7th March, most of the time with our study elephants in and around Amboseli National Park.

A major part of Kenya is experiencing a serious drought, which has a substantial impact on the lives of people and animals also in the Amboseli ecosystem.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Wednesday, 22 March 2006 14:56
An interview with Joyce Poole and other scientists in New Scientist 18 February edition created substantial media focus. The article entitled, Elephants on the edge fight back, examines the underlying causes of what appears to be increasing aggression directed towards people. Increasing evidence suggests that post-traumatic stress disorder as well as revenge may play a role. You will find the full article here, icon Elephants on the edge fight back (156.69 kB), and some other media coverage here.

Just having arrived back from Kenya Joyce and Petter were very disturbed to learn that a below freezing and snow-covered Sandefjord, Norway, was expecting a visit from a circus with elephants. The local newspaper Sandefjords Blad published their commentary on 21. February. (In English icon here (51.35 kB).

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices
Monday, 13 August 2007 10:51

National Geographic Channel has this weekend shown the Explorer Program "Revenge of the Elephants", where Joyce Poole and ATE's project manager Soila Sayialel has contributed and is interviewed. Part of the footage is from Amboseli National Park in Kenya, our research homeground.  Read more here.

The program was shown August 11 and 12th, and will also be aired Monday August 13 at 12pm Eastern Time (9AM Pacific Time).

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

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Tuesday, 26 December 2006 10:49
During our month long work period based in our ATE field station in Amboseli National Park we have so far (Dec. 26) experienced a lot of rain. The park is green and wet, and we have seen hundreds of happy and playful elephants most days. You will hear more about dynamics and interaction during such type of weather after our departure 7. January.

We wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Best wishes, Petter/ElephantVoices
Tuesday, 03 July 2007 15:19
Joyce was in Amboseli from 12-24 April, mainly working on the new ATE digital elephant ID database and the upcoming Amboseli book.
(©ElephantVoices)
Project manager Soila Sayialel, Robert Sayialel and Norah Njiraini working with the ID database in "Echo Romeo Hotel", ATE's field office i Amboseli

In general the book, The Amboseli Elephants: A long-term perspective on a long-lived mammal, has been close to an all consuming task during the last few months. The book will present the accumulated findings of more than 30 years of research on the Amboseli elephant population. Almost 20 scientists who have been involved in the Amboseli project over the years are contributing to what will be a vital source of information for people interested in or working with elephants.

With our contributions to the Amboseli book soon off our hands we plan to use more energy on the development of the elephant communication database on ElephantVoices.

Elephantvoices' FAQ about elephants in captivity was updated in the beginning of July. The changes are mainly related to the first ten questions/answers. Some more documents are linked, and also included in the welfare documents page. Among these are the resent updated version of ATE's statement about elephants in circuses.

Some good news: Today we learned that icon the statement (161.77 kB) we prepared late last year arguing against the capture of wild elephants for elephant back safaris has been successfully used in a South African court case to protect elephants.

We are on behalf of all elephants also happy that African governments reached an agreement during the last CITES meeting in the Hague that gives a nine year ban on further ivory trade. You can read more about the long and controversial "ivory saga" here.

We are soon off on our summer holiday with our eager seafarer, Malita, and wish you all a pleasant and relaxed summer!


Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices
Wednesday, 23 January 2008 12:16

Our month long field trip was very productive, despite being in a country in turmoil. The situation in Amboseli was quiet, and even more so with fewer and fewer tourists visiting.

With so many of the western and Tanzanian elephant families visiting the central part of the park, we were able to accomplish all of the playbacks we had planned for in good time. Even though the current unrest in Kenya prevented us from completing ATE’s new Elephant ID database, we are very pleased with its development. We expect that it will be ready for field testing in the next few weeks.

During this field trip we used quite a few of our evenings writing and uploading updates from our field work and our activities to our new blog on WildlifeDirect. Photos, sounds and video-clips have been uploaded as part of our reports. WildlifeDirect is founded and chaired by Dr. Richard Leakey, and it's goal is to empower individuals and organizations to help save the worlds wild species by connecting likeminded people through blogging. Through our blog we have reached new people, and have received quite a few comments and questions. Do visit this blog if you want to read more about our playback experiments and other activities during our field trip.

1. Our last days in Amboseli saw more and more dust devils. Rain is much needed – it was flooding at this time last year. 2. Meeting Echo is always a treat and we look forward to seeing her next time. Her 2005 calf, Esprit, is doing fine, but we predict she was Echo’s last.

We continue to follow with deep concern and interest the political and humanitarian crisis in Kenya. A solution that provides the basis for a peaceful and prosperous future, rather than a quick fix, is vital for all. And even if such an agreement can be made, the trust and bonds between Kenyans as individuals and as communities must be rebuilt and strengthened. We are looking at a long process.

The next few months promise to be busy. Analysis of our playbacks (audio and video), writing papers, making additions to our photo library, updating our visual and tactile signals database, educational outreach and selected elephant welfare challenges, will fill our days in the months to come. You will also see some other expansions on ElephantVoices, especially related to sounds and video. In addition there is always a flow of incoming e-mails and elephant related requests that we do our best to respond to.

We hope that you will continue to visit ElephantVoices throughout the year - and might try to tempt you with elephant sounds like these:
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Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

Tuesday, 26 February 2008 09:54

On 30 January we posted a message entitled “Troubled times for people and wildlife

Friday, 29 February 2008 16:14

Around the world people watched yesterday as Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga finally reached an agreement. Kenyans are celebrating - and those of us who love Kenya hope that a foundation for a new and constructive era has been put in place. While the price has been high, we have been reminded about the value of democracy, fair play and long term stability.

Amboseli  baby climbing. (©ElephantVoices)We urge Kenya's leaders to maintain good spirit during the hard work and reconciliation efforts that lie ahead - the current enthusiasm and the desire of the Kenyan people for peace should be of inspiration. Poverty and desperation do not make a viable environment for engendering harmony between people and animals. Agreement between the political camps means that we can all get back to working for a more prosperous future for all.

And what about wildlife conservation in general? In a previous comment on our blog on WildlifeDirect Ann asks what the accurate situation is. In truth it is highly variable, species to species, country to country, and place to place. From our perspective the future is dependent on how people deal with the fact that resources are in limited supply and are dwindling.

Are we individually and collectively willing to put enough aside for other creatures, like elephants, gorillas, and chimpanzees as well as the myriad of less charismatic species that share our planet? It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Amboseli elephants with Kilimanjaro. (©ElephantVoices)

Despite the recent spearings, Amboseli is a success story. The work of Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) over 35 years has contributed substantially to the conservation of the ecosystem's elephants, which today number around 1,500 individuals. The challenges are many for those in Kenya Wildlife Service, the local community and AERP who work tirelessly to achieve this success. While poaching for ivory is not a problem, at least not for now, confrontations between people and elephants can be. It is more than fair that local people feel that a share of the money generated by wildlife tourism helps to improve their lives - which is one reason why AERP and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants has initiated numerous community projects.

For the lives of Amboseli's elephants and the many other species, including people, who inhabit the ecosystem, the conservation struggle is certainly worth the effort. The benefits don't stop there, however, for millions of people from around the world have visited Amboseli and have benefited from the joy of seeing these magnificent animals - and millions more have watched and learned from Amboseli's elephants on TV documentaries.
Elephants on row. (©ElephantVoices)

Studying elephants and being in their presence is a continuous reminder of why elephants deserve our attention and support. Experiencing their affection, compassion and loyality for one another and witnessing their extraordinary teamwork is a humbling lesson in the meaning of humanity - or perhaps a better term would be "elephanity".

'It is not possible for a free man to catch a glimpse of the great elephant herds roaming the vast spaces of Africa without taking an oath to do whatever is necessary to preserve for ever this living splendour.'
Romain Gary, Roots of Heaven, 1958

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce
Elephants in sunset. (©ElephantVoices)

Friday, 30 November 2007 11:51

Hi All

While preparing for our next field trip to Amboseli I am also checking out different publishing options on our web platform. In the field such activities are more of a challenge, and our internet-connection not fiber-optic superspeed-like, so it makes sense to get to know the possibilities before we're in the bush. I have uploaded a video sample from our collection of elephant vocalizations to YouTube - you can read more about our future vocalization database on ElephantVoices here.

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The clip shows what we call a Contact Call. Elephants use Contact Calls to keep in audible contact with one another sometimes over long distances. In a sense an interchange of contact calls queries, "I am here, where are you?" and in answer, "I am over here". Contact calls typically contain a series of at least three calls: The querying rumble by the initial caller, an answer by a second individual and then a confirmation by the initial caller that the answer has been received. Other nearby family members may also add their voice to the second or third phase of the series.

Read more about Contact Calls, and listen to a variety of samples, here.

Cheers, Petter

Thursday, 13 December 2007 08:54

Joyce and Petter here,

ElephantVoices'  field vehicle. (©ElephantVoices)While we frantically prepare for our field trip to Kenya (we depart tomorrow December 14th) we receive a message that our field vehicle, a rugged 1993 model Toyota Landcruiser, desperately needs repair. As you can see from the pictures, it meets some tough challenges in Amboseli. During the last couple of weeks another researcher has been using it, but because of starting problems it is currently "out of business". The long list written by a mechanic in Amboseli makes us despair:

  • Fuse box, which needs replaced due to a short, which results in overheating and the fuses melting
  • Replace rear shock absorbers (x2) as they are very worn and leaking. (TZ recommends the gas type)
  • The universal joint on the prop shaft needs replacing as it is worn and there is a lot of play.
  • Replace the top link bushes, which are both worn and cracked.
  • The rear silencer is very old and worn and in need of replacement.
  • The stabiliser bushes at the front of the car are exhibiting a lot of play and need to be looked at.
  • The oil seal on the transfer box is leaking oil.
  • Both tire rod ends are very worn and must be replaced as a matter of urgency.
  • The hub oil seals are leaking on both thr front right and left wheels.
  • Both rear stabiliser bushes need replaced.
  • Finally, the front arm bushes are worn, especially on the left hand side.

We are arranging to have the immediate problems dealt with as a matter of urgency, but will have to assess the rest of the long list when we are in Kenya. Being an old bush-car we may have to accept some peculiarities... We are extremely grateful for any contribution towards meeting the substantial costs we will have to face - our dear old Landcruiser is vital for our work and the elephants are totally relaxed around it.

And now the final packing before our AM departure tomorrow... You'll hear more about our field vehicle and other issues later!

Best wishes, Joyce and Petter

Friday, 21 December 2007 05:19

Today was spent making arrangements for our trip to Amboseli and meeting up with Mark Mwongela from Intrepid Data Systems who is building a searchable Elephant ID database for the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. Petter and Joyce have taken the lead in organizing the building of the database, defining the protocols and discussing these with the Intrepid team. We arranged for Mark to be driven in our car to meet us: the car broke down and Mark was stuck waiting while mechanics tried to repair it for almost five hours!

Eventually the car was (at least partially) repaired and Mark arrived. We are so pleased with the work that they have done, thus far. The database needs a bit of tweaking here and there, but we expect to have it available to field test in a few days! You have no idea how exciting this is for all of us. For years we have relied on an enormous stack of ID cards that we have to search through one by one to identify elephants (for those of us who don’t recognize all of them).

Having just started on the long list of essential repairs of our Land Cruiser, we were a little concerned about next day’s trip to Amboseli, well aware that the condition of the road would leave us both shaken AND stirred.

Friday, 21 December 2007 05:24

We departed for Amboseli at midday arriving at camp just after 17:00. The dirt road into the Park from the border town of Namanga was really corrugated, and we quickly realized how badly we needed new rear shock absorbers. The back of the car was wallowing back and forth, at times almost sliding off the road. Both Petter and Joyce are used to corrugations, but this was frightening.

The park looked extremely dry and barren. Last year we were in Amboseli during a period of tremendously high rainfall, but there has been very little rain since then. The long rains of March/April failed and it seems that the short rains of November/December have failed, too. One can’t help wondering if the extremes are a consequence of global warming.

It was wonderful to drive into the Elephant Camp – an oasis surrounded by palm trees in the middle of the park – and to meet our old friends, Josephat and Saruni, who are among its caretakers. Karen McComb and Graeme Shannon, with whom we are collaborating on a study of elephant social knowledge, came out to greet us, too.

We had an entertaining evening catching up on elephants and playbacks before Karen left the following morning to return to Sussex University.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007 05:39

Karen departed on the early morning flight and Joyce spent the morning out with Graeme and Katito Sayialel (field assistant of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project), doing playbacks, while Petter and Selengei went out to test our new Canon EOS 5D camera. Joyce had a wonderful morning watching the elephants’ response to a variety of playback stimuli, while Petter and Selengei, sat for almost four hours, in the hot sun in a car that wouldn’t start. Not a very auspicious start!

Surrounded by buffalos, Petter decided not to walk back to the camp… This time it seemed that the problem was the battery. Luckily we were able to borrow a battery from another car. So with rear shock absorbers and a new battery on our list we called Nairobi and arranged for spares to be purchased and sent down.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007 05:54

Most of the day was used to put together and test all our equipment. As usual Petter had to use his creative technical skills to find viable solutions to rigging the playback equipment in our field vehicle. In the late afternoon we were able to carry out 3 playbacks – all successfully, and without car problems!

From playback experiment late afternoon.  (©ElephantVoices)

Amboseli is a great place to experience wildlife at close range. At night ten lions tried to disturb us with load roaring, but tired from the heat and sun they didn’t manage to keep us awake. Noise from lions, elephants, hyenas and other animals occupying our surroundings is part of the background music of camp!

Cheers, Petter
Thursday, 20 December 2007 06:03

This morning colleagues Cynthia Moss, Director of the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, and Betsy Swart, head of the US office of the Trust, arrived and we held a meeting in camp. In the evening Petter, Selengei and Joyce drove east toward Njiri and Olodare and were able to carry out another three playbacks before a beautiful Amboseli sunset. Our ten rather noisy lion friends waited for us just outside the camp.

Another  beautiful Amboseli sunset. (©ElephantVoices)
Another beautiful Amboseli sunset. (©ElephantVoices)

Friday, 21 December 2007 06:37

Today we drove west, looking for elephant families for our roar playbacks while on our way to Tortilis Camp where we had arranged to have new shock absorbers fit and some annoying car rattles spot-welded. The western side of the Park is extremely dry and the elephants quite listless. The Tortilis mechanic Julius did an excellent job and we have the unexpected bonus of being invited to stay for lunch. With new shock absorbers our KAM853D gave us a smooth ride back to camp, and later we once again headed out for elephant families.

Our field vehicle got a visitor while we were busy preparing for some more playbacks. You can see yourself what attracted a neighbour of ours to jump into the car without being invited.

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Saturday, 29 December 2007 17:48

Hi All,

Sala entrance Tsavo East. (©ElephantVoices)After a few relaxing days on the Kenya coast we arrived back in Amboseli on the evening of 27th. We were able to drive through Tsavo West on the way to the coast and through Tsavo East on the return journey. The two Tsavos amount to 22,000 sq km of national park – one of the biggest protected areas in the world.

It was great to see how calm the Tsavo elephants are now. Back in the late 1980s, when the poaching of elephants for ivory was really high, Joyce did a survey of Tsavo’s elephants. Then they ran from approaching vehicles, but now they are almost as relaxed as Amboseli’s elephants.

Tsavo males  sparring. (©ElephantVoices)

We watched three males engaged in relaxed sparring in the ankle-deep Galana River and many other groups, too.

The 27th was election day in Kenya. Now, the 29th, we are still waiting as some delayed results trickle in!

Meanwhile, we are back to work with several more playbacks accomplished. There has been a bit of rain outside the park and most of the elephants have been away for a few days to enjoy pasture further afield. There were only a couple of families in the park yesterday.

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Thirsty  elephants  in Amboseli. (©ElephantVoices) Early this morning we found the AA family on the eastern side of Ol Tukai Orok – an area they don’t usually enter, but may have felt emboldened to visit since the usual occupants were away! Anghared’s 2007 male calf was thrilled to meet a gaggle of egrets around the feet of its family members and had an elephant-of-a-time chasing them about! Notice the tone of his trumpet when you play the video clip!

We were fortunate to watch several groups as they returned to the park and arrived at the swamp edge. After a couple of days without water they were extremely thirsty and there was much excitement and jostling for best position.

Cheers, Petter and Joyce
Sunday, 30 December 2007 17:38

Hi all,

After a few days with very few elephants coming into Amboseli National Park due to the recent rainfall outside, larger numbers are back. This is good news for our playback experiments, since our methodology requires that we have to wait for quite a few days before we can expose the same elephants to new sounds.

During the morning we met the EB family, the group that we have studied for many years, and that has been made famous through 3 BBC productions. We always enjoy seeing our study elephants, but must admit we felt that the 65-year-old matriarch, Echo, looked thin and gaunt. Is the long drought taking its toll, or are her teeth so worn down that she cannot feed herself effectively? Or, perhaps, she has other health challenges that affect her condition? Her lack of energy was evident when Iris, matriarch of the IAIC family, tusked Echo’s calf, Esprit, knocking her off her feet and rolling her over, so that her legs were up in the air. She screamed loudly and Aunt Eliot ran over to the rescue, even seeing off the decades older, Iris. But, Echo, didn’t so much as lift her head – highly unusual for a mother elephant.

Echo, 65  year old Matriarch in the EB family. (©ElephantVoices)
Echo, 65 year old Matriarch in the EB family. (©ElephantVoices)

In between playbacks we encountered a rare interaction between a baby elephant and a young male – and felt privileged to see how patiently the big boy let the baby study his activities.

Amboseli  calf investigating big boy. (©ElephantVoices)
Amboseli calf investigating big boy. (©ElephantVoices)

We probably won’t be online tomorrow, and so we take the opportunity to wish all you and the elephants of Amboseli a peaceful 2008!

Greetings, Joyce and Petter
Sunday, 06 January 2008 19:13

While the political temperature seems to be cooling down a bit, Amboseli is getting hotter and drier. Both the short and long rains failed last year, and with only a few millimeters of rainfall since we arrived on 16th December, Amboseli is quickly becoming very dusty. We can see it on the elephants, as well as on our equipment and we can certainly feel it on our bodies!

Petter  taking photos through roof hatch. (©ElephantVoices)The burning sun bakes our old Landcruiser and our skin is beginning to look like a lizard’s! The temperature in the car is over 35 *C, and in our tent well over 30 *C despite the makuti roof. Amboseli  elephant calves playing Elephant calves are always ready for a game and climbing on top of one another is a favorite sport. And older calf lies down inviting younger calves to clamber on top. Our playback experiments are moving forward and we have now completed 55 of the 60 we had planned for.ElephantVoices  team recording in AmboseliNew shocks and some preliminary repairs on our field vehicle have kept it going without causing us additional problems, but substantial rattling and squeaks remind us about the long list of repairs needed when we are back in Nairobi. We are grateful for any contributions toward the USD 2,000 we expect will be required to get our field vehicle back into acceptable shape. You may enjoy watching a short video clip of a young musth male approaching our car, shot by Petter. The camera used is just a small pocket type Casio Exilim, but you can see how big male elephants look even from the roof of a 4-wheel drive. Musth males can be unpredictable (or predictably aggressive!) but generally if you don’t disturb them they won’t vent their pent up testosterone on you either…….

Greetings, Petter and Joyce " type="application/x-shockwave-flash" height="385" width="480"> " />

 

Saturday, 12 January 2008 05:26

Our last day of playbacks ended with an extraordinary meeting with visitors to Amboseli National Park – a group of elephants from the Tanzanian slopes of Kilimanjaro. These elephants look very different from Amboseli’s elephants. They have smaller and darker bodies, smaller more triangular ears with a particular venation patterns, relatively longer legs and thinner, usually upcurved tusks. Experiencing a more negative relationship with human beings they are more wary and alert than their Amboseli counterparts. And, perhaps also because they are away from their normal range, they don’t let us come too close. We find the behavior of these elephants fascinating to watch and we enjoy every meeting with them.

ElephantVoices meeting with Kilimanjaro  elephants. (©ElephantVoices)

As our last playback, we played a series of anti predator trumpets to them. In the previous playbacks of this type all of the Amboseli elephant families responded as we expected them to – by bunching together and reacting with alarm. The elephants from this family did the same but then they decided to charge on masse! Their behavior was masterpiece of strategic defensive action to assess the danger, then a group attack and ultimately a full retreat – organized better than any law enforcement agency could have done it. It’s all documented with video and audio tape and still images, and will be analyzed together with the 74 other playbacks we completed during this field period.

Peter and Ngoshopu in ATE research camp.  (©ElephantVoices)Early on 9th we packed the car, said goodbye to our friends and camp staff, Peter and Ngoshopu, and started on the bumpy hour and a quarter ride back to the border town of Namanga. From Namanga to Kiserian outside Nairobi the road is relatively OK, and after another few shaky kilometers we arrived at our property on the Rift Valley escarpment south of the Ngong Hills.

It’s name Raha Mstarehe means

Friday, 18 January 2008 09:12

A week ago Anita asked whether we had worked with the elephant orphans at the Sheldrick Trust and whether being raised by humans affected their communication. Petter already answered that we have worked with them. Since that work resulted in a paper in Nature, and since it has some bearing on Anita's question I will tell you a bit about what we found.

In 1998 Daphne Sheldrick's daughter, Jill, mentioned to me that one of the orphan's in Tsavo (where they go once they are over two years old) was making a very strange sound. So I went down to Tsavo with my recording equipment and once the orphans were settled down in their "boma" (enclosure) for the night I began recording. Almost immediately I heard a very weird sound and asked the keeper what it was. "That's it!" he responded. It sounded like a fog horn - nothing like an elephant! I soon realised that when I had my earphones on I couldn't tell whether I was hearing the elephant, Malaika, making the strange noise or whether I was hearing the distant trucks on the Nairobi-Mombasa road, 3 kilometers away - and had to remove my earphones to localize the sound and differentiate them. I began thinking that perhaps Malaika (and some of the other orphans it turned out) was imitating truck sounds! But I didn't think anyone would believe me.

Here is the sound Malaika made: {audio}A2200421_truck_like_call_48.mp3{/audio}

(You may need to use earphones or be connected to a sound system to hear it properly).

Some years later I contacted Peter Tyack and Stephanie Watwood who study vocal learning (imitation) in dolphins about the recordings I had. At about that time Angela Steoger-Horwath got in touch with me, saying that she had recordings of a captive male African elephant who had been raised with Asian females and was making Asian elephant chirping sounds! So the four of us teamed up and wrote a paper for Nature documenting vocal learning in elephants. (Poole et al. 2005. Elephants are capable of vocal learning. (289.43 kB))

Elephants are highly social and intelligent animals and they also happen to have a very flexible vocal tract. This means that they have the ability to learn to produce sounds other than those that fall in the normal repertoire of the species. In a natural social setting we may find that elephants use this ability to imitate their close associates in order to cement these bonds (a bit like our daughter's English accent changes from Norwegian English to Kenyan English depending upon which of her friends she is with). This ability was demonstrated by the African elephant raised with Asians. In captivity elephants also seem to use their vocal learning ability in less useful ways - by imitating trucks and lawnmowers or people whistling, or just making weird sounds. Perhaps this activity relieves the boredom that captivity often presents.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008 12:44

Amboseli is one of Kenya’s highest revenue earning parks. Its popularity stems from the picturesque backdrop of towering, snow-capped Kilimanjaro and Amboseli’s elephants - made famous through long-term study, popular books and numerous documentary films. The fees paid by the hundreds of thousands of visiting tourists visiting Amboseli each year helps to cover the cost of running other lesser-known national parks, whose protection is equally essential to biodiversity conservation.

Tourists  and elephants in Amboseli

In December, as we were trying to accomplish our playback experiments, we had to take several hundred tourists into consideration. In the evening aggregations of elephants crossed the main road traveling from the swamp to the woodland in a spectacular moving display. Here elephants and people intersected. Tour buses can be very annoying, driving too fast, crowding the animals and leaving their car engines’ running – disturbing the elephants and destroying any opportunity for recordings!

The tourist boom the last few years has encouraged the alarming mushrooming of tourist facilities on the boundary of Amboseli, blocking migration routes and threatening to destroy the small park. Powerful individuals have blocked bringing a halt to these developments.

As the election violence escalated we watched as the number of minibuses declined, until by the time we departed there were almost no visitors left in the park. Tortilis, Amboseli’s high-end camp, was deserted during peak season, its manager left wondering what to do with the smoked salmon and the champagne. With violence continuing unabated, Kenya’s tourism sector won’t be bouncing back any time soon.

Amboseli  elephants dusting

A substantial percentage of Kenya’s population survives on the tourism industry. Many camps and lodges will fold and with them the livelihoods of thousands, even millions of Kenyans. With very little income for the parks, one can only hope that Kenya Wildlife Service will be able to continue to do the important job of protecting our already threatened wildlife in the face of the increasing poverty and desperation in the communities surrounding the parks.

Clouds over  Amboseli

While we hope that the people controlling Kenya’s future will talk their way out of the deadlock – we will continue to work for the best for elephants, knowing that the future of Kenya and the planet will be poorer if these amazing animals are not to be seen.

Thank you for your continued support!

Greetings, Joyce & Petter Greeting

Monday, 11 February 2008 20:18

Mr. Nick  listening - 52 year old Amboseli male. (©ElephantVoices)Mr. Nick, or M86 (Male 86), was so-named for the enormous number of nicks and tears in his ears. He has what we call

Friday, 15 February 2008 14:00

The comment we received from Anna in response to Meeting Mr. Nick prompts me to write this post. She mentions a male named Edo, who originally came from Amboseli's EB family, and is now living in Tsavo National Park. Back in September 1989 Emily, one of the adult female members of the EB family, died after feeding on garbage at Amboseli Lodge.

Emily dead. (©ElephantVoices)After days of searching we found Emily's carcass lying by Amboseli Lodge rubbish heap.

Amboseli National Park Warden discusses a clean up with the managers of Amboseli Lodge. The incident provoked an outcry, and we published a story in the Daily Nation exposing all of the items we found in her stomach (though this prompted a clean up by the lodge then, Amboseli Lodge and its surrounds are still a disgrace 18 years later). Emily died leaving her adult daughter, Eudora, and a six-month-old son. Her infant was too young to survive without his mother's milk and we decided to ask the The Sheldrick Orphanage to take him in.

At the time of Emily's death I was working with a Japanese film crew (remember elephants and the ivory trade were a big issue for the Japanese) and the capture of her male calf became an integral part of the story. The crew gave him a Japanese name, Edo, which is the term for the ancient city of Tokyo. Capturing Edo was no simple task and I made the mistaken judgment that a six month old elephant could fit into the back of an Izuzu Trooper. Well, when he tried to escape over the front seats he popped out one of the back windows, dented the roof of the car and pushed me onto the gear shift and I had pain sitting for the next 18 months!

When I worked in Tsavo in 1998 I had a chance to see and even record him. He was a big boy then and not permitted to stay with Malaika and the younger calves at night. He obviously missed their companionship though, because as he walked off for his night alone, he repeatedly called out to them with "Let's go"rumbles, some of which were answered by Malaika, Ewaso and the others. It is lovely to see his photo on the link that Anna sent because he looks so like his mother, Emily, and sister, Eudora! Note that his tusks are what we call "asymmetrical left higher" - and so were his mother's and his sister, Eudora. Put on your headphones to hear (low frequency sounds, difficult to hear through lousy computer speakers...) - Edo calling "Let's go" to his companions:

Put on your headphones to hear Edo calling "Let's go" to his companions. - a distant Edo calling (barely audible) and Malaika (louder) answering:Edo calling, Malaika answering Spectrogram  Edo callingEdo  calling, Malaika answering Spectrograms that show time/frequency of the calls mentioned above. (Click to see larger) Eudora,  Amboseli elephant from the EB family. (©ElephantVoices)
Eudora strolls by; note her asymmetrical tusks with the left tusk higher.
Edo (from  Sheldrick trust website)
Edo (photo from the Sheldrick Trust website) looks like his mother and older sister; note his higher left tusk.

Thursday, 28 February 2008 13:23

Our post about the death of Tulip led friend, supporter and wildlife (especially elephants) sculptor, Doug Aja, to send us an e-mail with a few photos. Doug has visited our home in Kenya and Amboseli many times, and he met Tulip during visits in 1998 and in 2004, just after she was speared.

Joyce with  Tulip, 1998. (©Doug Aja) The first two photographs were taken in 1998 when Doug was out watching elephants with Joyce. Tulip was over 100 meters away when Joyce disgarded a fingernail-sized piece of overripe banana out the window. Tulip lifted her head, turned and sniffed. "Yummy, I know that smell from the good old days raiding tents with my mum," she must have thought. She did a swift 3-point turn and made her way rapidly toward us. You can see the concern on Joyce's face in the mirror of the car as she realizes her mistake! After that experience Joyce learned never to underestimate the ability of an elephant to detect a scent of interest. Tulip came right up, stretched her trunk to full length, snatched the smush of banana and popped it into her mouth.

Tulip 1998.  (©Doug Aja)Tulip in 2004, after having been speared.  (©Doug Aja)Doug writes: "I'm really saddened to hear about Tulip. The TAs have been my favorite family and she had become my favorite elephant. Probably because they have had such a struggle over the past decades. I tend to pull for the underdog. Along with the EBs and any large bull, they are always the elephants I most want to see while in Amboseli. One of my fondest memories was the late afternoon, while out with you ten years ago, spent with them. There had been good rains and the park was green with plenty of food. It seemed like such a relaxed and peaceful time. Attached are some photos of her."

People like Doug and the many other people reading our blog give us the inspiration to continue our work, despite the discouragement we sometimes feel living in a world where elephants and other species struggle for survival against such odds. The photos are all taken by Doug. The two first ones in 1998, the close-up of her face and trunk is taken after she was speared in January 2004.

 

Cheers, Petter & Joyce

Wednesday, 02 April 2008 20:10

Learning through watching the behavior of others, or social learning, is an important component of the acquisition of behavior in elephants. For instance, young elephants learn what to eat by reaching up and sampling what is in the mouths of their mothers. And young females learn how to successfully raise their calves by watching adult females and through their own experience as allomothers. You can read more about this on Elephant learn from others.

I have often wondered how young males make the transition from their female dominated natal families to becoming an independent adult male. The two worlds are so very different. Are the changes necessary just programmed in, or do young males learn how to be a properly functioning adult by watching the behavior of older males? From watching elephants, I believe that, just like us, it’s a little of both, but having access to role models is very important for the acquisition of normal adult male (or female) behavior.

Many of you will have heard of the case where young male orphans from a cull were released into Pilanesberg National Park. Without older male role models they adopted aggressive and anti-social behavior, even making a habit of killing rhinos. Likewise, captive male elephants in zoos and circuses have no possibility of learning from normal adult males. Males are routinely separated from other elephants, so there simply aren’t any socialized males to learn from.

I have often watched the behavior of young males in the company of an older musth male, with a feeling of tenderness in my heart. These newly independent youngsters watch the older males so closely, doing their best to follow everything that the older males do, without drawing too much attention to their presence. For instance, when an older musth male moves through a group of females testing a series of urine spots on the ground, a young male can often be seen standing nearby paying close attention but trying to appear as unimposing as possible (his head low and facing slightly away). Once the older male moves on the younger male follows behind sniffing at all the same places.

In December we watched a very sweet interaction between two males, which shows just how early a young male can begin to learn social roles in the wild. In the series of photographs taken by Petter, a calf of less than a year watches as a teenage male tests some recently deposited urine. Social  learning  among elephants. (©ElephantVoices)The teenager approaches the urine spot, and stops to sniff carefully, placing his trunk tip over the urine, and blowing warm air out (so as to release volatile substances) and then breathing in. An infant male approaches him, and using his trunk and his eyes he follows closely what the older individual is doing. He reaches toward the tip of the older male’s trunk as he exhales and up toward the older male’s mouth as the male puts a sample of urine in his mouth against his vomeronasal organ for testing (Flehmen). The little male then tests the urine for himself. Having satisfied his curiosity, the infant male wanders back to his mother’s side.

Trumpets, Joyce

Friday, 06 June 2008 08:46

If an elephant or group of elephants decides to intimidate a predator they may do so by producing a range of terrifyingly powerful vocalizations. One of these calls is a particularly loud blasting trumpet, which sounds very different from the trumpets elephants make when they are playful or excited.

Elephants typically give this blasting trumpet as they are charging at their adversary, or as they come to a dramatic stop meters away, flinging their trunk toward, throwing debris at and/or kicking dust at the object of their fury. If you go to our Gestures Database on our website ElephantVoices you can find some photographs of these behaviors by searching for the words "Charge", "Mock-Charge", "Throw-Debris" and "Kick-Dust."

The primary function of the blasting trumpet appears to be to attempt to frighten. It usually works! Listen to how an elephant sounds when it is trumpeting at a predator or an animal that it is trying to scare away.

An adult male elephants trumpets at lions: {audio}z0403622.mp3{/audio}
An eight year old elephants trumpets at a Maasai dog: {audio}z1701525.mp3{/audio}
An adolescent female, Ebony, trumpets when bravely "seeing off" a hyena: {audio}c2000625.mp3{/audio}
Wednesday, 17 December 2008 09:30

Hi all,

Dionysus in  full musth in mid nineties. (©ElephantVoices)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, in image to the right), 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.

Joyce

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Monday, 04 May 2009 14:31

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.

Echo with Kilimanjaro behind. (©ElephantVoices) 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 of our posts. 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.


Echo and Emily Kate in January 2007. (©ElephantVoices)


Echo of the Elephants. (©ElephantVoices)


Echo, Enid and babies. (©ElephantVoices)

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

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

Kind wishes, Joyce and Petter

Wednesday, 15 January 2003 10:05

Since ElephantVoices was launched late September time has flown, as usual, and most working days have been spent on the computers in our office/lab and home at the edge of Rift Valley. We have also had a few days on different occasions in Amboseli. We are happy to say that there will be many more field days in 2003.

These days we are also busy planning our new tent in the Amboseli Elephant Research Camp, a task that is purely enjoyable. Included in the job is the design and building of necessary furniture - in Kenya we do not have the IKEA option. The new tent will give us better working conditions in the years to come and a solar-based power system for all our equipment is going to be utilized to its limits!

In the beginning of September an unusual kind of celebration took place in Amboseli when, together with the project’s founders Cynthia Moss and Harvey Croze, and Harveys wife, Christina, we celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. The so-called “AA family

Monday, 10 November 2003 10:56

We had a productive field trip to Amboseli between 18th and 26th October and a lot of good recordings were collected. The dry season is at its peak in Amboseli making it tough for both animals (except the carnivores) and people alike. But rain clouds were forming as we departed and we hope to soon have rain.

Dionysus 20 October 2003, the day before he  died. (©ElephantVoices)On Monday 20th we found Dionysus and stayed with him for quite some time. Dionysus was only able to eat a few Solanum leaves at a time and it was sad to see how weak he was. Dionysus was born in 1940, is estimated to be 63 years old and has probably fathered over 100 elephants in the Amboseli population. An ongoing DNA project will eventually be able to give us more specific information. Dionysus was in musth as late as in 2001, while his first recorded musth period was in February 1977. Undoubtedly he had been coming into musth for quite a number of years before that first observation, but we didn’t know about musth until then! That he was still coming into musth at 61 confirms that these older males are certainly not the reproductive “dead wood

Saturday, 03 January 2004 13:19

We spent a few more field days in Amboseli in the first half of December. The short rains have failed, and we must accept that 2004 will be a difficult year for both humans and animals. With food and water in short supply the conflict between people and elephants is bound to increase.

In the last 5 weeks 6 elephants have been seen with unusual wounds on their legs; two of these elephants have died including one of our oldest and best known matriarchs, imposing Slit Ear who featured so prominently in Cynthia Moss’ 1988 book Elephant Memories. A decade or so ago moved her extended family to Kimana and has since lived in the heart of agricultural habitat. The other elephant who died was a visiting male from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. We are concerned that these new leg wounds may be the result of poisoned arrows – if so this will usher in a new and dangerous chapter in the history of the Amboseli elephants. The fast growing human population will increasingly put pressure on the elephant’s traditional habitat, and AERP is initiating a long-term project to attempt to reduce and prevent human-elephant conflict.

Our study elephants, the EBs, seemed to be in relatively good shape, and little E-mail (his mother Erin died after being speared in May) seems be coping fairly well in Eliot’s care despite intermittent days spent on his own. The ongoing drought in Amboseli reduces the elephants’ energy, which means less communication and fewer vocalizations to record thus we spent some of our time focusing on sound analysis and other project tasks in the research camp. AERP’s Soila Sayialel and Norah Njiraini have started collecting video for ElephantVoices, and together with Petter they will continue with this task through 2004.

Joyces inspecting bicycles and motorcycles  donated to  Amboseli/Tsavo Gamescouts Association together with its  field  coordinator Emmanuel Onetu. (©ElephantVoices) A rather unusual sight occurred in camp when two motorcycles, 6 mountain bikes and 30 bicycles were unloaded from a truck and “parked

Saturday, 25 September 2004 11:27

We spent 6 days in the field from 17-22 September combining various meetings, recording-sessions and taking photos for the ElephantVoices databases. Some updates of the research camps solar system were also on the workplan. Amboseli is undergoing a severe drought and people, livestock and wildlife are all having a hard time. The animals are searching for food wherever they can, and one consequence is that zebras, buffaloes, antelopes, wildebeest and elephants are frequent visitors to the research camp. While this report is being written a couple of zebras are feeding peacefully not more than 3 meters away from me, in the shade of our tent!

Amboseli  elephant dusting. (©ElephantVoices)The dust is a challenge for all our equipment and various precautions have to be taken. During these very dry spells the number of human-elephant conflict incidents increases. These events, which often include the spearing of elephants, are a major concern to us. Our ability to find solutions to this challenge will in many ways decide the future for the Amboseli elephants.

One important task during this field trip was to field test our new ARES-BB Nagra field recorder and a 20 Gb device for storing recordings from the Nagra’s Compact Flash card while out in the field. The big challenge has been to find a direct-to-disk recorder that can handle the low frequency sounds elephants produce which may be as low as 5 Hz. Our new and very lightweight Nagra had to be modified by the factory in Switzerland before Joyce could pick it up on a visit to London in the beginning of August. The testing of the recorder will continue in our lab outside Nairobi.

Cheers, Petter/ElephantVoices

Friday, 10 December 2004 13:09

The third film in the trilogy, "Natural World: Echo of the Elephants

Tuesday, 01 February 2005 17:50

During my visit to Kenya 16th to 30th January I spent 6 days in our research camp in Amboseli. Work and meetings related to our challenging project “Mitigating Human-Elephant Conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem

Sunday, 21 August 2005 12:07

Petter departs for Kenya and Amboseli for a two-week visit on 23rd August, mainly to work with the ongoing project, “Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem

Wednesday, 21 September 2005 11:53

ElephantVoices’ Petter Granli visited Kenya from 23. August to 5. September 2005. The main purpose this time was to work with the ongoing project’ "Mitigating human-elephant conflict in the Amboseli Ecosystem", executed in close collaboration with Kenya Wildlife Service and School for Management Studies in Kimana.

During his stay Petter and the Kenyan HEC team Winnie Kiruu and John Kioko met with Dr. Michelle Gadd and Dr. Herb Raffaele from US Fish and Wildlife, which together with Born Free Foundation and International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are the major project sponsors. Their meeting took place in Amboseli, where visits to test sites in Loitokitok and Kimana were included in the program. The visitors met enthusiastic representatives from the local communities involved as enumerators and vigilante groups in the project. The main goal for the project is to develop efficient tools and methods that local farmers can use to keep elephants away from their crops. You can read more about the HEC challenge here. Joyce is in Kenya/Amboseli from 11. to 29 September.

1. More and more farms gives less habitat for elephants and other wildlife, one main reason for the increased number of conflicts. 2. Project manager Winnie Kiruu and Petter Granli discussing by the Born Free project car. Born Free is one of the sponsors of the HEC project. Kiruu is starting on her PhD related to certain aspects of the HEC challenge in the beginning of October 2005. 3. Project researcher John Kioko and local farmer checking pilot trip wire in Kimana. 4. Pilot trip wire early warning system, Isinet. 5. USFWS representatives studying HEC observation tower. 6. Vigilante group preparing pilot chilli rope. 7. The HEC project has led to other types of local initiatives and collaborative efforts as well, here a tree nursery. 8. Testing sound device.

Greetings, Petter/ElephantVoices

Friday, 17 March 2006 12:34

Joyce and Petter were in Kenya from 12 February to 7 March, and spent most of the time at their Amboseli field site.

A dry and dusty Amboseli. (©ElephantVoices)For months Kenya has been experiencing a serious drought creating a devastating situation in Amboseli as elsewhere in the country. During our stay we witnessed hundred of dead animals – both domestic and wild. Most of Amboseli’s elephants were outside of the national park, on the slopes of Kilimanjaro in search of more nutritious food. It finally started to rain at the end of February, and after a few gray days Amboseli began to resemble a lake. While heavy rain makes it difficult to follow the elephants off road, the rain was extremely welcome and vital for people and animals alike.

A couple of days before we left Amboseli two buffaloes died nearby the camp, one in the swamp a few meters from our shower. One of many victims of the brutal drought. (©ElephantVoices)A couple of days before we left Amboseli two buffaloes died nearby the camp, one in the swamp a few meters from our shower. One of many victims of the brutal drought.

 

(©ElephantVoices)On 6 March heavy rains almost stopped us from going back to Norway. But after six hours of hard work removing piles of trees and branches we managed to cross the Namanga River, followed by 50 stranded tourist vehicles.


In addition to attending to AERP research issues, Joyce worked part of the time with a Japanese film crew. In the beginning of March two additional members of the crew brought with them a new and unique video recording system that we were extremely excited to see. Chubu Electric Power Company in Japan originally developed the "Sound camera" to detect the direction and features of low frequency noise, but they have since tested it out for other uses. The two technicians from Chubu brought with them a modified version meant for the recording of elephant sounds. A camera connected to an array of microphones and a data program delivered a video of the elephants, which simultaneously visualized the sound source and a corresponding power spectrum. The system still needs some fine-tuning, but it could in future make it easier to detect which elephant is producing which sound.

(©ElephantVoices) (©ElephantVoices) (©ElephantVoices)

a) Program Director Toshio Hashiba and his cameraman Ken from Cinema Dojin, with Joyce and translator, Asuka Takita. b) This microphone array is the basis for the Sound Camera, five separate microphones makes it possible for a computer to calculate where the sound comes from. c) A screenshot from the Sound Camera, showing the power spectrum created by the attached computer. The red “rings

Friday, 21 December 2007 16:41

Back in the tent last night we heard rain – and we fell asleep hoping for plenty. When Petter drove to the ATE office in Ol Tukai this morning to check on e-mail and upload news pieces to WildlifeDirect he learned we received – 4 mm. “Better than nothing

Tuesday, 01 January 2008 15:50

The rainy season is a time for elephants to gather in large aggregations, for socializing, for mating and for traveling to new pastures. Although there has been very little rain inside the Park boundaries, there has been rain on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. Hundreds of elephants have been coming into the park to meet and to drink and have been traveling far out of the park to greener habitats. Many of the groups coming into the central part of the park are families who frequent the far western part of the ecosystem. In fact, some are families, who, ten years ago left Amboseli and moved across the border into the woodlands on the western side of Kilimanjaro. So it has been fun to see some of these old friends and it has meant that the last days of 2007 have been very productive for our playback experiments.

One of the many “western

Friday, 04 January 2008 18:09

We must admit that it feels strange to continue our research here in Amboseli while the situation in the country is dire and so many people are facing terrible hardship. In between our early morning and late afternoon sessions with the elephants we are glued to the BBC World Service via our satellite radio in our tent. People we meet are tense and anxious, and fewer and fewer visitors are to be seen here in the park. The unrest is already having a huge impact on Kenya’s economy.

With news, text messages and talking to our friends and colleagues as sources of information we are trying to decide what our next move should be. As long as the best alternative seems to be to stay put, we will continue to do what we came here for. On a personal level our biggest challenge is how to safely meet up with our daughter, Selengei, who is at the Kenya coast with friends, 450 km away. With insecurity around the country, communication difficulties and food and fuel shortages it isn’t clear what the best alternative is and our plans change on a daily basis. We are keep crossing our fingers for a sensible political solution sooner rather than later.

We are fortunate to be in Amboseli during a period when hundreds of elephants have been coming into and out of Longinye Swamp every day. The typical pattern is for the elephants to come in as individual family or bond groups, and to go out as larger aggregations. It is very peaceful here and it sometimes feels strange to acknowledge that the elephants have no notion whatsoever about the conflict in the country.

One of the many birds who visit our breakfast and lunch table is a Hildebrant’s Starling that we have named “One Leg

Wednesday, 16 January 2008 22:09

Our return to Norway and our office took quite some time. At Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on Sunday morning we were told that our flight had already left – Petter’s ticket showed a departure time that had obviously been changed. Our rather annoying option was to take KLM’s next flight that evening, which meant 14 hours of waiting at the airport. For the time being KLM does not consider it safe for their crews to stay overnight in Nairobi. As a consequence we had to fly to Amsterdam via Dar es Salaam, where we refueled and received a new crew. We arrived in Sandefjord 20 hours later than expected, but our joyful reunion with our Border Collie, Malita, erased the extra hours.

Our month long field trip was very productive. We both have high expectations and Joyce’s exuberance sometimes means that she plans for more than we can achieve without stress. With so many of the western and Tanzanian elephant families visiting the central part of the park, we were able to accomplish all of the playbacks we had planned for in good time. Even though the current unrest prevented us from completing the ATE’s new Elephant ID database, we are very pleased with its development. We expect that it will be ready for field testing in the next few weeks.

We continue to follow with deep concern and interest the political and humanitarian crisis in Kenya. A solution that provides the basis for a peaceful and prosperous future, rather than a quick fix, is vital for all. And even if such an agreement can be made, the trust and bonds between Kenyans as individuals and as communities must be rebuilt and strengthened. We are looking at a long process.

Dusty Amboseli National Park. (©ElephantVoices)
Our last days in Amboseli saw more and more dust devils. Rain is much needed – it was flooding at this time last year. (©ElephantVoices)

Amboseli drinking in swamps. (©ElephantVoices)
Amboseli National Park swamps are always a good alternative for thirsty elephants and other animals. (©ElephantVoices)

Joyce and Petter in Amboseli Research Camp. The next few months promises to be busy. Analysis of our playbacks (audio and video), writing papers, making additions to our photo library, updating our visual and tactile signals database, educational outreach and selected elephant welfare challenges, will fill our days in the months to come. In addition there is always a flow of incoming e-mails and elephant related requests that we do our best to respond to.

Thank you again for being with us in Amboseli, and we hope that you will continue to visit our blog and ElephantVoices throughout the year!

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday, 25 January 2008 13:07

In a posting on 1st January I mentioned that we had seen in the central part of the park many of the families that live in the western corner of the park and in Tanzania. As Amboseli's elephant population has grown, and as protection for them has increased, elephants have been moving further afield. The National Park is only 390 sq km and yet Amboseli's population roams over some 5,000 sq km. One of "our" males has been radio tracked by Alfred Kikoti over near Lake Natron, Tanzania and another one was seen near Mtito Andei (both more than 150 km away).

Hazel and  family in front of Kilimanjaro.  (©ElephantVoices)Several Amboseli family groups have moved to Tanzania and now live near the village of Tinga-Tinga 20 km south of the border. It is always exciting to see these individuals "on safari" in the center of the park. Over the years, one or two families have been able to move from the drier west into the more productive central part of the park - in elephant terms this is equvalent to moving into a better neighbourhood, moving up in society. This is because elephants in the central part of the park are more successful in reproductive terms than are those in the west. One family (once two families in a bond group) is the HBBC group.

The HB family was once led by the beautiful and elderly Horatia. Horatia's daughter, Hazel, is now matriarch, a beauty in her own right. We met her several times during our stay. Her long straight tusks are exquisite and almost as thick and long as her mother's once were.

Joyce, photos by Petter

Hazel’s beautiful tusks
Hazel's beautiful tusks.

Sunday, 20 April 2008 11:31

I can now say "jambo" or "habari" here from Nairobi, where I arrived Friday night after a pleasant flight from Europe with KLM. I used the many hours of travelling to prepare for several meetings in Nairobi during the coming week.

Unfortunately, I will not be visiting our AERP colleagues and elephant friends in Amboseli on this 10 day trip. Petter with  elephants in Amboseli. (©ElephantVoices)My first job yesterday morning was to collect our field vehicle, a strong and rustic looking (read: beaten up) '93 Toyota Landcruiser, from a workshop in Karen, Nairobi. The 4-wheel-drive has been there since we left in the middle of January, and three months and kshs 141,740 (approx. USD 2,300) later it's back on the road. The bill ended up much worse than we feared especially considering the substantial costs that we incurred even during our last stay. Being a car on Kenyan roads is no joke... Hopefully, the car the elephants know so well won't give us any trouble for a long time!

One of the many other tasks I have is to work with a Kenyan web- and database-programmer who we hope will become a close collaborator of ElephantVoices. We have several databases that we want to get online in the next few months - one of which is our long-awaited elephant calls database. Kenya has a large contingent of clever IT-people, and we always try to use local partners in our work. Support for Kenyans is especially important right now. The economy and people's livelyhoods are really suffering as a consequence of the unrest and the collapse in the tourism industry following the December 27th election.

We are very grateful for any support toward our use of Kenyan programming capacity to get our elephant calls database online - so that you all can listen to elephant sounds and learn more about how they communicate. While I admittedly enjoy computer-work and html-coding, the efficiency of ElephantVoices depends on our ability to have high focus on the many elephant-related issues lined up.

Thank you for following our work!

Petter

Sunday, 18 January 2009 12:08

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!

Blake and Petter with the BBs in Amboseli in May  2003. 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.

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.

Petter

Saturday, 24 January 2009 09:20

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.

Amboseli  Elephants dusting. (©ElephantVoices)The photo to the left 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.(©ElephantVoices)

 

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 close to 60 yesterday. Anyway - it gives me the option of staying in touch with my family and ElephantVoices contacts - 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.

Cheers, Petter

Wednesday, 04 February 2009 10:06
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 350 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. Unfortunately they were not able to come, so we had to move forward ourselves.

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

Tuesday, 26 May 2009 07:20

Echo, the matriarch of the EB family, our group of primary study, died Sunday 3 May 2009, aged 64 years old. In her memory we below have compiled some images of and vocalizations by this extraordinary and world renown elephant. Echo was the capable leader of her family for at least 36 years.

Echo and her family have been at the core of many discoveries about the nature of elephants as well as the focus of books and films. Some major documentary films by cinematographer Martyn Colbeck have aired around the world, making Echo a household name. On this BBC page from 2011 you will find several video clips from these productions. This clip from Kenya's NTV 9:00 o'clock evening news on Sunday 10th May shows the high regard in which all Kenyans held Echo.

As an icon for wild elephants, Echo has given visitors, viewers and readers enormous pleasure. Echo's legacy will live on - but she will be deeply missed. We feel very privileged to have spent so much time in her company - following her, with our colleagues in the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, for almost half her life.

All photos ©ElephantVoices

You will enjoy the sounds below much more if you use headphones or are connected to a sound system!

Echo calls Ebony who walks directly to her. (You can hear her foot steps)
A greeting between Eleanor, Ella, Echeri and Echo as the former three approach Echo.
A greeting between Echo, Enid, Edwina. The former and others had gone through the grid and were waiting on the other side for Edwina. They waited and waited. Finally she came and they greet when she arrives.
Echo and Erin are looking for the others; they have gone in a semi-circle. They stop to stop to feed in the palms and then on move again; a call by Echo is followed by a distant answer.
Contact-call, Echo; she is standing at Crossing Corner and waiting for the others who are in the swamp.
After a long series of contact-calls to Edwina who is still inside the Ol Tukai fence, Echo gives a let’s go rumble and heads off toward Ol Tukai Orok. Eventually Edwina catches up with her.
A little greeting between Eliot and Echo. Eliot calls first as she runs over to Echo.
A little greeting initiated by Echo. Echo and Enid were standing side by side. Echo turned to Enid and rumbled.

The film "Echo an Unforgettable Elephant" reflects on the life of a remarkable elephant and discovers what happens to the family, bereft of Echo's leadership for the first time in almost half a century. The film premiered on BBC2 on 5th August 2010. You can read more here, on website of producer http://www.mikebirkhead.com)

Thursday, 28 January 2010 00:00

Kenya is among countries working hard to convince the parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to reject proposals from Tanzania and Zambia that would downlist their elephant populations and allow them to sell their stockpiled ivory. Kenya has secured the support of 16 other African nations in this battle for elephants. Further support appears to be coming from Britain where Environment Secretary Hilary Benn confirmed that the UK intends to vote against the proposed sale of ivory from Tanzania and Zambia, a move that we applaud. Many, including us, are convinced that such sales would lead to further killing of African elephants.

Kenya, herself, has submitted a proposal on behalf of 24 of the 37 African Elephant Range States that supports a lengthening of the moratorium on ivory trade from 9 to at least 20 years. The current nine year moratorium (which applies only to the countries that have already been permitted to sell their stockpiles) has no biological basis. The mean age of first conception of a young female elephants is about 12 years. A resting period commensurate with an average elephant generation time should be based on mean female reproductive age (ca. 20 years and mean age of first male reproduction (ca. 35 years).

ElephantVoices is working with others to stop the trade. Until we depart for CITES in Doha in mid March 2010 we will continue to update you - both here on ElephantVoices.org and on ElephantVoices on Facebook. You can find selected media coverage related to poaching and the ivory trade here, and a page dedicated to this topic and our views here. We appreciate your support toward this effort!

 

Thursday, 11 March 2010 06:38

Below you will find links and video related to the unfolding story of Kibo, a baby elephant who got stuck in a well and was rescued to be taken to Sheldrick's orphanage in Nairobi. Meeting a desperate baby trapped, and now seeing him thriving as "Kibo" at Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage, is heart warming. Kibo will one day be released back to the wild and, hopefully, live to a ripe old age in an environment free from the scourge of the ivory trade. In the meantime, he is an emissary, changing the hearts and minds of young school children in Kenya and, via the internet, people all over the world.

Trumpets, Petter

Amboseli elephant baby stuck in well - and then to orphanage

The elephant in the well - Kibo and his new life (With video below)

The rescue of a baby elephant

A young baby elephant fell late at night 28 January 2009 into a man made well west of Amboseli National Park, Kenya, near Sinya Mines.

Some local maasai found him and asked the Amboseli Elephant Research Project for help to rescue him. Together we tried to find his family, but they were not to be seen.

We had to get him up - he was injured, sunburned and exhausted.

Visiting Kibo one year after

Meeting a desperate elephant baby trapped in a well, and now seeing him thriving and playful as "Kibo" at Daphne Sheldrick's orphanage, is heart warming.

Kibo will one day be released back to the wild and, hopefully, live to a ripe old age in an environment free from the scourge of the ivory trade.

In the meantime, he is an emissary, changing the hearts and minds of young school children in Kenya and, via the internet, people all over the world.

Monday, 03 May 2010 07:36

One year ago, Sunday 3 May 2009, Echo, the matriarch of the EB family, died in Amboseli. In her memory we compiled some images of and vocalizations by this extraordinary and world renown elephant. Echo was the capable leader of her family for at least 36 years. The EB family was our group of primary study for a number of them, resulting in thousands of recordings.

We miss Echo - we're convinced that many elephants do, too.

You'll find the compilation of images and sounds here, and the news piece we sent out 4 May 2009 here.

Echo of the Elephants

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Monday, 18 October 2010 00:00

There is a sad story behind every baby elephant who ends up in captivity. The worst examples are when they are forcibly taken from their families to entertain or work for us, or when their families are killed by poachers bullets.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Nairobi, Kenya, rescues many of these orphaned babies and we warmly support their rehabilitation efforts. Several people have asked me to put online some photos from my recent visit to their orphanage. I hope you enjoy seeing the little video below, showing some intimate scenes from my meetings with "little" Kibo since I together with staff from Amboseli Elephant Research Project rescued him from a well near Sinya Mines west of Amboseli National Park in January 2009. Based on the circumstances around our first meeting, my attachment to my foster elephant Kibo is a special one. It gives me big pleasure to see that he is doing fine while being prepared for his long "journey" back to the wild.

You can find a news piece from the Kibo rescue here, a short follow up story here, and a small piece with a short video from a visit in March 2010 here.

You may enjoy watching a feature story from Sheldrick's orphanage aired on Australia's SBS Dateline show 17 October 2010, and check on the program For the Love Of Elephants on CBC's The Nature of Things aired 14 October. See trailer . (Canadian wiewers can see the whole program here.)

Cheers, Petter

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Thursday, 03 March 2011 00:00

During January and February we (Petter and Joyce) spent some very productive weeks in the Mara ecosystem getting the pilot phase of Elephant Partners up and running. Our primary purpose during this trip was to learn as much as possible about the Mara elephants and the challenges they are facing, while fine-tuning the scope of the project and testing out equipment and technical solutions for data collection and upload. We visited five different conservancies and three group ranches, met up with many stakeholders and potential collaborators, trained quite a few conservancy scouts and guides and held lectures about elephants, their behavior and the Elephant Partners initiative.

Joyce's trip started on Mara Naboisho Conservancy, where we plan to establish a base for the project. Mara Naboisho is a new 200 sq km conservancy, initiated by Norwegian-based Basecamp Explorer/Foundation and 502 Maasai landowners. Mara Naboisho is an amazing area in terms of wildlife and habitat, and together with neighbouring conservancies a crucial landscape for protecting the world famous wildebeest migration between the Serengeti and Maasai Mara as well as for general movement of wildlife, including elephants.

Joyce spent several days on Mara Naboisho training instructors of African Impact. The organisation offers volunteer work in Africa and Elephant Partners is on their list of opportunities. African Impact is also helping us to test out techniques and equipment for monitoring elephants and sharing information.

During those few days together we added 47 new individuals to Elephant Partners ID registry and resighted quite a few who we had seen before. The most exciting resighting was the beautiful female f0096 who was last seen in 1998 40 kilometers away.

While at Mara Naboisho Joyce gave a lecture to a women's group and another to the newly graduated conservancy scouts. She also discussed the development of educational material by ElephantVoices for the Koiyaki Guiding School.

Driving west from Mara Naboisho Joyce travelled through Olare Orok Conservancy on the way to Mara North Conservancy. On the way she stopped to photograph some elephants and much to her delight she found two whom she had photographed and registered 20 km away on Mara Naboisho just days before and a ridiculously playful male.

On Mara North Conservancy Joyce was generously hosted by Karen Blixen Camp and spent three days training Cille Willumsgård, a young Danish woman who is collaborating with us as part of her Master's field work supported by Karen Blixen Camp. Petter joined Joyce and Cille there and we discussed the project with the Conservancy Manager, Marc Goss. During the three days with Cille we added about 35 elephants to the registry and Cille has since then built the number up to over 150 individuals. She will be sending her photographs to us later this month so that these individuals can be incorporated into the overall Elephant Partners ID registry. It will be interesting to see how many of these individuals have already been registered. We know of at least two: a crazy looking female with 3 tusks (photo below) and a magnificent male (video below). However, Cille observed both of these individuals inside the Maasai Mara National Reserve rather than on Mara North Conservancy.

The photographs really help us to understand where individual elephants are moving, and we are very curious to know how far afield the elephants from Mara North go. These particular elephants face enormous levels of conflict with people. Understanding their movement patterns will help to mitigate the threats and ease the relationship between people and elephants.


Mara female with three tusks - f0245.
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We left Mara North Conservancy and spent a day on Mara Conservancy, where we held discussions with manager, Brian Heath, and veterinarian, Asuka Takita, who has contributed hundreds of ID photographs to Elephant Partners. On our way out of the conservancy we met the magnificent musth male who Cille later photographed - the male in the video above right.

By evening we were back on Olare Orok Conservancy, where we were hosted by eco-friendly Porini Lion Camp. There we held discussions with the Conservancy Manager, Rob O'Meara, introduced elephants and the project to scouts and guides and gave a lecture on elephant behavior and conservation to them. Naturally we also spent quite a bit of time just watching and photographing elephants. Among the many elephants we met was a resighting of f0004 who Joyce photographed in 1998 in Musiara. We also met a large group of elephants that included a female who had been photographed near Governor's Camp in 2007 by our friend Doug Aja! Each photograph is a piece in the jig saw puzzle!

From Olare Orok we spent a few more days back on Mara Naboisho before proceeding to Ol Kinyei Conservancy, where we discussed the Elephant Partners initiative with Manager, Sammy Lempusia. We were fortunate enough to meet an elephant family group who we then sighted again on Mara Naboisho several days later.

From there we drove on to the rather bumpy main road between Sekenani Gate and Narok, met up with Stephen Kisotu of Friends of Conservation and proceeded with him to Maji Moto Group Ranch. We spent three days with Stephen who introduced us to some of the opportunities (primarily the remaining corridors) and threats (mainly human-elephant conflict) facing elephants on the eastern side of the Maasai Mara. Stephen Kisotu introduced us to Maasai elder, Salaton ole Ntutu, and we more than enjoyed our stay at his Maji Moto Camp.

Salaton was well conversant with the problems facing elephants and people and together we discussed how to alleviate conflict by providing water for elephants away from the village (elephants come to the Maji Moto spring at night and depart early in the morning, endangering children on their way to school). We had fun and interesting visit to Enkiteng Lepa School, assessing how Elephant Partners possibly can contribute toward the conservation of elephants through education via the big network of schools in the Mara ecosystem.

From Maji Moto we went on to Naikarra Group Ranch, where Stephen (with whom we stayed) introduced us to the remaining elephant corridors and the growing human-elephant conflict due to land being turned over to agriculture. Stephen explains the conflict in the short video clip (right), while we were visiting an area of new settlements in traditional "elephant country".

We departed Naikarra arriving back at Mara Naboisho in time to meet Richard Roberts who flew in from Ol Chorro Conservancy. Richard is setting up a rapid response team to reduce human-elephant conflict and related elephant mortality on the western side of the Mara.

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His initiative will be receiving help from Iain Douglas-Hamilton of Save the Elephants, who will be placing tracking collars on 10-15 elephants to monitor movement patterns in relation to conflict. We will be collaborating closely with both of them.

Joyce departed from the Mara the following day and spent the next day in Nairobi discussing Mara elephant plans with Iain while Petter remained in the Mara and got stranded in the bush with clutch problems! After sorting out the clutch and holding several more meetings Petter proceeded to Nairobi to initiate the building of online housing for all of the elephant information we hope to collect and share with you.

We look forward to working with the many people we met on our journey - a harambee spirit (Harambee is a Kiswahili word meaning working together for a common purpose) is vital for the conservation of the Mara elephants and a successful Elephant Partners!

We have started a Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ElephantPartners as a window to engage with anyone interested in the initiative, the Mara elephants and the Mara ecosystem.

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Monday, 21 March 2011 00:00

"Leadership in elephants: the adaptive value of age (335.01 kB)", was published online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B on 16 March 2011. Joyce was one of the authors of the paper in a study led by Karen McComb in Amboseli as part of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. The research shows, once again, the importance of older leaders in elephant society. Unfortunately, because older elephants tend to have larger tusks, and because they come to the fore in defence of their families, they are precisely the individuals targeted by poachers. Protecting the lives of these wise leaders of elephant society is one more reason to put an end to the gruesome trade in the teeth of these intelligent animals.

Abstract: The value of age is well recognized in human societies, where older individuals often emerge as leaders in tasks requiring specialized knowledge, but what part do such individuals play in other social species? Despite growing interest in how effective leadership might be achieved in animal social systems, the specific role that older leaders may play in decision-making has rarely been experimentally investigated. Here, we use a novel playback paradigm to demonstrate that in African elephants (Loxodonta africana), age affects the ability of matriarchs to make ecologically relevant decisions in a domain critical to survival— the assessment of predatory threat. While groups consistently adjust their defensive behaviour to the greater threat of three roaring lions versus one, families with younger matriarchs typically under-react to roars from male lions despite the severe danger they represent. Sensitivity to this key threat increases with matriarch age and is greatest for the oldest matriarchs, who are likely to have accumulated the most experience. Our study provides the first empirical evidence that individuals within a social group may derive significant benefits from the influence of an older leader because of their enhanced ability to make crucial decisions about predatory threat, generating important insights into selection for longevity in cognitively advanced social mammals.

Authors of the paper are Karen McComb, Graeme Shannon, Sarah M. Durant, Katito Sayialel, Rob Slotow, Joyce Poole and Cynthia Moss.

The paper has been presented in numerous media around the world - you will find this article with video (with late Echo and her family) on BBC Earth - Older female elephants are wiser matriarchs.

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One of ElephantVoices' lion playbacks from 2005 showing the importance of older matriarchs at times when decision-making affects survival. Chloe and her family are startled by the sounds of nearby lions. They bunch together in self defense, and then matriarch, Chloe, takes the lead to inspect the lions. She moves forward, with a determined, aggressive posture, and then signals to her family to join her in the attack. Photos/editing by Petter Granli, narration by Joyce Poole, ElephantVoices.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011 16:26

On Wednesday 20th July 2011, almost five tonnes of contraband ivory will be burned during a ceremony at Kenya Wildlife Service's Manyani Field Training School in Tsavo West National Park. The ivory is part of the June 2002 seizure that took place in Singapore. An estimated 600 elephants died to produce the 335 confiscated tusks and 41,553 hankos that will be destroyed in the pire. Hankos are seals or signature stamps used in Japan, China and Korea. The ivory was found to have primarily originated from Malawi and Zambia. ElephantVoices fully supports this move, which sends a strong signal that ivory should not be in the market.

During the 2010 Conference of the Parties (CoP15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Doha, Qatar, ElephantVoices was among those orgaizations strongly opposing any trade in ivory. We argued that down-listing and more "one-off" sales would further stimulate the market for ivory and lead to increased killing of elephants (See Elephants, Ivory, and Trade (395.07 kB). In an important victory for elephants, CITES voted against requests from Tanzania and Zambia to down-list their elephant populations and sell their stock-piles.

ElephantVoices standpoint is that the potential global market for ivory is far greater than the amount the entire world population of elephants can supply. Any market for ivory will stimulate increased demand and, therefore, a spiraling illegal trade and further killing of elephants. We believe that the market for ivory is impossible to control and to satisfy, and that previous sales have just driven up demand, established more smuggling routes and a growing carving industry. The result of recent sales and the surrounding speculation, has stimulated demand, which is now having deadly consequences for ten thousands of elephants every year.

ElephantVoices urges governments and law enforcement agencies around the world to act forcefully to curb the current boom in illegal sales, smuggling and poaching - and we hope that the symbolic ivory burning on 20th July will inspire people and countries to work together to protect elephants.

The ivory burning is the fourth of its kind after Kenya's in 1989 (12 tonnes) and in 1991 (6,8 tonnes, see below), and in Zambia in 1992. African governments have recently been asked to join forces to fight poaching and other environmental crimes as way of protecting their economies. The ivory burning in Tsavo on 20th July is the first regional exercise of this kind. Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki will preside over the burning, which is the climax of the first-ever African Elephant Law Enforcement Day celebrations on the theme: ‘Fostering cooperation to combat elephant poaching and ivory trafficking in Africa’. The day is meant to recognise the plight of the endangered African elephant, and to celebrate its importance and appreciate challenges faced in its conservation. The burning of the ivory was a decision of the Lusaka Agreement Governing Council in line with CITES.

- Media coverage ivory burning 20th July 2011 (Google search "ivory burning, Kenya")
- Read more about ivory and poaching on Elephants killed for ivory (ElephantVoices)
- Selected links ivory and poaching (Updated list on ElephantVoices)

On 18th July 1991 - designated as Elephant Day - Kenya held her second ivory burning. It was preceded by an elaborate parade through the streets of Nairobi, demonstrations by school children and speeches by VIPs. Kenya was celebrating the result of the 1989 burning, the ban on ivory trade and the Appendix I listing; elephant poaching was already way down.

As then Elephant Program head ElephantVoices' Joyce Poole organized the parade and the ivory burning on behalf of Kenya Wildlife Service. She has fond memories of this special day. This year's burning comes at a time when poaching is spiraling out of control. We are extremely disturbed by the current boom in illegal trade and poaching.
(All photos ElephantVoices)
Monday, 07 February 2011 00:00

In early 2011 ElephantVoices launched "Elephant Partners", an elephant conservation project based in the Maasai Mara ecosystem. The goal of Elephant Partners is to develop a working model for citizens to monitor and protect elephants. The first half of 2011 will be a pilot period - while we continue to prepare and fundraise for the main phase of the project which will start later in the year.

The concept, put simply, is to connect individual people - guides, scouts, rangers, researchers, photographers, tourists, people of the Maasai Mara and all people who care - with the lives of individual elephants. Through use of the Internet and social and educational media our intention is to develop a community of people sharing their knowledge about the Mara elephants and working together to protect them. Harambee is a Kiswahili word meaning working together for a common purpose. It is our belief that this harambee spirit can engender the understanding, compassion, enthusiasm and collective custodianship needed for people and elephants to co-exist in a mutually beneficial way. We hope that it will also help to focus attention on, and bolster the important work of, the newly formed conservancies, since the future of elephants and other landscape species depends upon their commercial success.

We are building an online searchable database to store elephant identification photographs - so that people (Maasai Mara residents, visitors and friends worldwide) can get to know elephants by name. And we will be preparing an online database and blog where Mara friends can upload observations, photos and comments on Mara elephants (their behavior, movements, interactions, conflicts, threats, etc.) to share with other participants, the authorities and the general public. Through the use of mobile phones we will be developing an efficient way for people to collect and upload observations.


Matriarch f0001 seen in 1998 near Musiara swamp...


...and 12 years later on Mara Naboisho Conservancy 50 km to
the east. (Photos ©ElephantVoices)


Elephants are an iconic landscape species

Elephants attract global attention because they are both charismatic and threatened, and because they play an important role in the structure of ecosystems. Due to their immense size, sociality and intelligence, they also serve as important Ambassadors for other species. If we are able to save space for elephants, we will protect the other species, along with them.

Current ecological theory argues that elephants are best conserved through the management of linkages between landscapes, which can account for their large-scale movements. When elephants are confined by fences, by conflict with people or by threats from poachers they can have a negative impact on habitat and, consequently, on biodiversity. But when they are permitted to roam, their presence and foraging creates a mosaic of habitats that promotes biodiversity.

Being intelligent social animals, elephants learn where they are safe with extraordinary speed. They are vulnerable to ivory poaching and conflict with people, and respond to these threats from people with amplified aggression or by retreating into protected habitats for safety. As long as poaching and conflict remain threats to elephants, how can these crucial ecological linkages be maintained? This is where the Maasai Mara Conservancies and the behavior of people is so important.

People and elephants need a mutually beneficial relationship

To encourage elephants to use a wider area and, simultaneously, reduce human-elephant conflict, elephants need access to a network of places where they feel safe that are away from areas where elephant cause conflict. Such safe-havens can be provided by a mosaic of protected areas, conservancies, private and community land where, concurrently, people can benefit through tourism from the presence of elephants. Smart land use, goodwill, understanding and effort are needed to build a relationship between people and elephants that works to the advantage of both parties. Compassion is also a crucial ingredient in this relationship that is often missing in conservation projects (see new conservation movement www.compassionateconservation.org) and is key to the community Elephant Partners hopes to engender.

To achieve its vision Elephant Partners must serve and belong to everyone: The many conservancies (Mara, Mara North, Lemek, Ol Chorro Oiroua, Enonkishu, Motorogi, Olare Orok, Mara Naboisho, Ol Kinyei, see map), Kenya Wildlife Service, Maasai Mara National Reserve, members of the local community, the tourism sector and members of the general public. Elephant Partners will have a base in centrally located Mara Naboisho Conservancy, which is also home to the Koiyaki Guiding School, an important collaborator in this initiative.

Follow the Mara elephants - join Elephant Partners!

We are reliant upon on collaboration and participation to build an enthusiastic and committed team of Elephant Partners! Read updates here on ElephantVoices.org, on ElephantVoices on Facebook and on Elephant Partners on Facebook.

(A Facebook badge below is only shown if you are logged on to your Facebook account)


Sunday, 04 December 2011 00:00

Petter and I just returned from a fabulous field trip in and around the Maasai Mara. We had a wonderful time and we learned a lot, too! We had far too little time just being with elephants, but in the context of involving others in conserving the Mara elephants, that was ok. One main goal during our tour through the ecosystem was to present the unique Mara Elephants Who's Who & Whereabouts databases - developed as part of the Elephant Partners conservation initiative.

The Mara Elephants Who's Who is populated with over 750 elephants and the Whereabouts hold some 400 sightings of elephant groups; both are continuing to grow by the day. The Mapping functionality, which draws on both databases, is completely searchable and highly informative. With each additional sighting we learn something new - and we hope that you will, too.

Elephants respond rapidly to change

The Mara ecosystem represents a patchwork of different habitats, management strategies, and human interventions that create a mosaic of threats and opportunities for elephants. We are beginning to learn how elephants respond to these, and it is fascinating. Some areas are almost entirely occupied by family groups, while males prefer other areas. Although this is typical of elephants, the pattern in the Mara is, to a large extent, influenced by human activities. And these are in flux. The new conservancies are providing safe havens for elephants that didn't exist only a few years ago; migration routes have been blocked by settlement; agricultural areas are on the increase offering nutritious forage; and poaching is on the rise. The elephants are learning and responding rapidly.

The tour

We started our field trip in Mara Naboisho Conservancy on 6th October, where we joined a couple of Norwegian groups hosted by Basecamp Wilderness who had requested a special introduction to elephants. There we also continued our work with African Impact and their volunteers, and gave a lecture on elephants to the students at Koiyaki Guiding School (KGS). Founded seven years ago, KGS is a very successful endeavor - educating local youth for careers in the tourism industry. Through KGS the percentage of local employees in camps and lodges is growing. These students are important ambassadors for the Mara, for wildlife and for elephants! We also spent a day on Ol Kinyei Conservancy where we met with Jake Grieves-Cook, Porini Camps.

Between 13-19th October we worked in Nairobi with our programmers to perfect an Android-based mobile phone application, the Mara EleApp. The App allows for the collection and upload of field data on elephant group sightings, injury and sickness as well as detailed mortality information.

Diminutive female elephant on Olderikesi

On 20th October we drove to Olderikesi Conservancy on the eastern side of the Maasai Mara National Reserve. There we were generously hosted by Calvin Cottar at his 1920s Safari Camp and were introduced by Keith Hellyer to the challenges of the area. While there we were able to add 6 groups to the Whereabouts and 16 new elephants to the Who's Who, including a diminutive female elephant, f0341. The elephants on the eastern side of the Mara gather in large groups and two of those we observed were aggregations of at least 70 elephants.

We spent the next few days back on Mara Naboisho Conservancy in the company of three ElephantVoices donors/volunteers: Junia Machado and Ana Zinger from Brazil and Elena Fieni from Italy. During our stay there we had the pleasure of meeting a group of 85 elephants. Although we knew many of the individuals, about half of the families were new, including a right-one tusked female with an old wound on her right hind leg, probably caused by a spear years ago. We also spent more time with African Impact and introduced to field coordinator, Lincoln Njiru, one of the ten phones for data collection donated by IFAW.

More training of scouts and guides

On 26th October we drove west to Olchorro Conservancy where we stayed at Richard's Camp and met with Richard Roberts, Iain Douglas-Hamilton (Save The Elephants) and Mark Goss who are coordinating the new Mara Elephant Project (MEP). We also had the pleasure of flying with Iain and Richard to look for elephants and areas hit by poaching and conflict. We were introduced to some of the MEP scouts and had the opportunity to watch a parade by conservancy scout recruits.

After an entertaining stay at the camp of Warden, Marc Goss of Mara North Conservancy, we were hosted by Saruni Camp in the Lemek Hills. The MEP scouts were stationed nearby and we spent a day training them to use the Mara EleApp. Having left Saruni Camp we met up with Basecamp Wilderness guide Derrick Nabaala, who was on leave in the area. Sitting by the side of the road we went through the Mara EleApp with him, and left him with a phone.

On 30th we drove to Olare Orok Conservancy where experienced the kind hospitality of Ron and Pauline Beaton. While there we also met with Conservancy Manager, Rob O'Meara, and his wife, Sarah, and Warden, James Kaigil. Sarah shared her Olare Orok elephant photographs with us to help us build up the Mara Elephant Who's Who, and is also organising the use of a phone with the Mara EleApp on Olare Orok and Motorogi Conservancies.

In the hope of meeting new elephants we were taken to neighboring Motorogi Conservancy by the Warden. We were delighted to find a group of 30, which turned out to be Big Mama and her large family. It was wonderful to see her there - she has now been spotted in four separate areas of the Mara and our knowledge of her home range is expanding! We also stopped in to visit guides, Meshack Sayialel at Porini Lion Camp and Ping'ua Nkukuu at Mara Plains, to explain the functionality of the Mara EleApp and to encourage their participation.

Meeting up with old friends - and making some new

We proceeded on to the western side of the Mara where we were guests of Sanctuary Olonana. There we met Marcus Westberg who shared his beautiful photographs of elephants in Mara Conservancy. On 4th November we met Asuka Takita at Mara Conservancy headquarters to catch up with her news and to explain to her the use of the Mara EleApp. From there we proceeded over Mara Bridge and through the Mara Reserve to Basecamp near Talek. Along the way we covered new ground and discovered "new" elephants. We were also pleased to meet a few individuals who were already in the Who's Who. Among others, we met the well-known asymmetrical tusk matriarch, f0576, as well as f0246 with a newly broken left tusk.

The following day we trained Basecamp Guide, Agness Kilena, to collect elephant observations and to use the Mara EleApp.

The end of a fascinating Mara tour

On 6th we proceeded to our final destination, Siana Conservancy, where we stayed with Nick, Betsy, Will and Gini Cowell. Siana has experienced substantial ivory poaching this year and it was not surprising to see that the elephants there were wary. Gini is now working with us, representing Elephant Aware, collecting vital data on the elephants who use this part of the ecosystem.

On our way out of the Mara we passed by Sekenani, to follow up our contact with Park Warden, James Sindyio. During an informative two-hour meeting we discussed all kinds of issues, and collected our permit to access the Reserve when needed. Approaching Narok we made one last stop at the Kenya Wildlife Service District Office to meet with KWS Veterinarian Dominic Mijele. Dominic treats many elephants in the Mara and beyond and we felt that he would be a good person to have the last phone.

Plenty of challenges ahead - join Elephant Partners!

The Mara ecosystem is facing plenty of challenges, with human population growth, poaching and over-grazing to name a few. The need to find ways for humans and wildlife to live in more harmony is ever more critical for all stakeholders - including elephants. Telling both sides of the story is what Elephant Partners is about. By engaging people in the lives of elephants, we are building a community of people that care. Together we'll ensure the survival of the Mara elephants and their habitat. Help us make Elephant Partners go viral - participation of many is key to the future of the Mara elephants! Join us on Facebook, and spread the word.

We deeply appreciate the support and collaboration of the many people and entities mentioned in this informal travel report - and we very much look forward to be back. Thank you!

Joyce and Petter

Sunday, 19 February 2012 17:34

Join us in the bushJoyce is from 19th February and for a 10 day period in Maasai Mara, meeting up with and training some of the people that are contributing elephant observations to the Elephant Partners initiative. On this page you will, with the help of a cellphone app and Google Earth, find out a bit more about where she is going, and what she sees together with our collaborators. The infrequent "reports" below are mainly meant to give you a peak, while we also gain some experience in new ways of collecting data and sharing field experiences with those interested. We will later post a more comprehensive report from Joyce's current field visit.

It may a bit of time before the page loads, depending on your connection speed. By clicking on each point on the map you will find a photo, with a caption. We hope you will enjoy being with us in the bush!


Joyce looking for elephant signs from Olerai to Enchorro Ololali - seeing many.


Wonderful day with Gini Cowell and David Kimutai starting from Siana through Ol Kinyei and on to Mara Naboisho where we picked up Derrick Nabaala. Saw perhaps 100 elephants and returned to Siana at end of day.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013 07:55

Two days after an upsetting e-mail about the slaughter of a pregnant female elephant from our long-time friend and Kenya Elephant Forum collegaue, Kuki Gallmann, we received another. A second pregnant female elephant has been killed for her ivory. She was shot on 22nd, but survived another two days. We are talking about tiny tusks. Males with big tusks are rare to see in Laikipia these days. Elephant poached on 22 June 2013 - died on 24 June.We are talking about a wonderful, intelligent creature and her unborn baby, killed because of greed; supplying what the market is willing to pay for. A long chain from the killer, to the unscrupulous local middleman, through the big-wigs greasing the wheels of corruption (likely public servants on both side of the ocean) to the dealer and into the hands of the uncaring or ignorant buyer, most likely in Asia. Kenya's heritage, tourism and work places are not factors. Nor is the suffering of the young female and her unborn child.

Joyce is just back from China, a growing super-power which, based on reliable facts and figures from CITES, accounts for 40% of the illegal ivory trade. China should be embarrassed by these photographs which represent the reality of the demand for ivory as a status symbol among the country's growing middle class. Meanwhile, those of us in Africa continue to be confronted with the daily brutality, trauma and death among the declining elephant populations in many elephant range states. Official mortality figures don't include the deaths of the orphaned babies who cannot cope without their mothers. In the case of a pregnant elephant the result is obvious and heart-wrenchingly sickening. Read Kuki Gallmann's words to us as part of the Kenya Elephant Forum. The world must wake up - NOW!

Dear Friends,

With a sinking heart I report from the field:
Birds waking up in the garden, festive dogs, promise of sunshine, work to do. One early morning like many others. Then... Radio call, phone calls, phone messages, all at once. Another elephant found. Dam Kiboko. Dead in the water. Tusks intact. Pitiful tusks. Rangers deployed, KWS deployed and I drive there, with Sveva.

Official facts and figures:

  • Elephant: Female
  • Estimated age: 20
  • Cause of death: Shot by poachers
  • Date of incident: 21/6/ 2013
  • Date of death: Night between 23/24 /6/2013
  • Location gps: 37N 0202345 UTM 0055820
  • Location-found: Dam Kiboko. Time: Today 24th, 7 am
  • By: Driver Wilson Chelule
  • Tusks: Retrieved.
  • Weight: 2 kg and 2.1 kg = total 4.1 kg
  • Shot by: Same three men as report 21/6/2013; they wounded her
  • Comments: Pregnant and about to calve

This is the second elephant female we find in two days; the second casualty overall in 2013. Shot in same incident, at dusk. Wounded, she survived two days. Very pregnant. Very young: first calf. Conceived here, she was born here, grown here to follow her mother and family, migrating periodically to the Aberdares through increasingly fragmented dangerous land, back here every June in the migratory season along their now interrupted migratory routes. Back here again to be bred in the mating season: and now back to give birth, in what used to be their safe heaven. She died in the water. She died in a dam with pelicans, where elephant play; in a forested area they love, where they used to be secure.

Kiboko Dam, April 2012. Photo: Bianca Notarbartolo di Sciara.
Kiboko Dam, April 2012.

Kiboko Dam, 24th June 2013. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.
Kiboko Dam, 24th June 2013.

What did she die for? Three dead elephants in two days. Two here one at Mugie, next door. But all pregnant females, dead are the calves. Six dead. What has changed after a peaceful year? Why now? The Rift Valley dealers are back.

Young pregnant females are giving birth, now, here. THEY ARE COMNG BACK FROM FAR. WE SEE NO MALES. THOSE HAVE BEEN KILLED LONG AGO, IT IS THEIR CALVES THAT ARE BORN TWENTY-TWO MONTHS LATER. We need more rangers to look after them, and we need help.

Kuki, Sveva and Team in Ol ari Nyiro,
Laikipia Nature Conservancy
On the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, on a SAD SAD SAD 24th June 2013
https://www.facebook.com/KukiGallmann -  www.gallmannkenya.org

After a tractor pulled the dead elephant out of the water, the rangers removed the tusks and slit the stomach for the predators to speed up the recycling process. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.
After a tractor pulled the dead elephant out of the water, the rangers removed the tusks and slit the stomach for the predators to speed up the recycling process. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013 07:55

Two days after an upsetting e-mail about the slaughter of a pregnant female elephant from our long-time friend and Kenya Elephant Forum collegaue, Kuki Gallmann, we received another. A second pregnant female elephant has been killed for her ivory. She was shot on 22nd, but survived another two days. We are talking about tiny tusks. Males with big tusks are rare to see in Laikipia these days. Elephant poached on 22 June 2013 - died on 24 June.We are talking about a wonderful, intelligent creature and her unborn baby, killed because of greed; supplying what the market is willing to pay for. A long chain from the killer, to the unscrupulous local middleman, through the big-wigs greasing the wheels of corruption (likely public servants on both side of the ocean) to the dealer and into the hands of the uncaring or ignorant buyer, most likely in Asia. Kenya's heritage, tourism and work places are not factors. Nor is the suffering of the young female and her unborn child.

Joyce is just back from China, a growing super-power which, based on reliable facts and figures from CITES, accounts for 40% of the illegal ivory trade. China should be embarrassed by these photographs which represent the reality of the demand for ivory as a status symbol among the country's growing middle class. Meanwhile, those of us in Africa continue to be confronted with the daily brutality, trauma and death among the declining elephant populations in many elephant range states. Official mortality figures don't include the deaths of the orphaned babies who cannot cope without their mothers. In the case of a pregnant elephant the result is obvious and heart-wrenchingly sickening. Read Kuki Gallmann's words to us as part of the Kenya Elephant Forum. The world must wake up - NOW!

Dear Friends,

With a sinking heart I report from the field:
Birds waking up in the garden, festive dogs, promise of sunshine, work to do. One early morning like many others. Then... Radio call, phone calls, phone messages, all at once. Another elephant found. Dam Kiboko. Dead in the water. Tusks intact. Pitiful tusks. Rangers deployed, KWS deployed and I drive there, with Sveva.

Official facts and figures:

  • Elephant: Female
  • Estimated age: 20
  • Cause of death: Shot by poachers
  • Date of incident: 21/6/ 2013
  • Date of death: Night between 23/24 /6/2013
  • Location gps: 37N 0202345 UTM 0055820
  • Location-found: Dam Kiboko. Time: Today 24th, 7 am
  • By: Driver Wilson Chelule
  • Tusks: Retrieved.
  • Weight: 2 kg and 2.1 kg = total 4.1 kg
  • Shot by: Same three men as report 21/6/2013; they wounded her
  • Comments: Pregnant and about to calve

This is the second elephant female we find in two days; the second casualty overall in 2013. Shot in same incident, at dusk. Wounded, she survived two days. Very pregnant. Very young: first calf. Conceived here, she was born here, grown here to follow her mother and family, migrating periodically to the Aberdares through increasingly fragmented dangerous land, back here every June in the migratory season along their now interrupted migratory routes. Back here again to be bred in the mating season: and now back to give birth, in what used to be their safe heaven. She died in the water. She died in a dam with pelicans, where elephant play; in a forested area they love, where they used to be secure.

Kiboko Dam, April 2012. Photo: Bianca Notarbartolo di Sciara.
Kiboko Dam, April 2012.

Kiboko Dam, 24th June 2013. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.
Kiboko Dam, 24th June 2013.

What did she die for? Three dead elephants in two days. Two here one at Mugie, next door. But all pregnant females, dead are the calves. Six dead. What has changed after a peaceful year? Why now? The Rift Valley dealers are back.

Young pregnant females are giving birth, now, here. THEY ARE COMNG BACK FROM FAR. WE SEE NO MALES. THOSE HAVE BEEN KILLED LONG AGO, IT IS THEIR CALVES THAT ARE BORN TWENTY-TWO MONTHS LATER. We need more rangers to look after them, and we need help.

Kuki, Sveva and Team in Ol ari Nyiro,
Laikipia Nature Conservancy
On the Great Rift Valley of Kenya, on a SAD SAD SAD 24th June 2013
https://www.facebook.com/KukiGallmann -  www.gallmannkenya.org

After a tractor pulled the dead elephant out of the water, the rangers removed the tusks and slit the stomach for the predators to speed up the recycling process. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.
After a tractor pulled the dead elephant out of the water, the rangers removed the tusks and slit the stomach for the predators to speed up the recycling process. Photo: Sveva Gallmann.

Tuesday, 06 October 2009 08:08

Checking e-mails at the airport on a return trip to Norway last Friday we received quite a shock when we read the news posted on the website of The Amboseli Trust for Elephants about a big fire. The fire occurred in and around the Elephant Research Camp in the center of Amboseli National Park, Kenya, destroying three tents and equipment. Luckily noone was injured. Our own tent, built in 2003, was spared thanks to the intense efforts of the camp staff and others who came to help. We are immensely grateful to them - and very sorry for all that was lost in a year that seems to have no limits when it comes to natural disasters.

The two top photos below (©Amboseli Trust for Elephants) show the fire and its consequences, the two images at the bottom are from the building of our tent (circled in red) in January/February 2003. The fire, which occurred in the worst drought in living memory, got very close...

Friday, 29 February 2008 16:14

Around the world people watched yesterday as Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga finally reached an agreement. Kenyans are celebrating - and those of us who love Kenya hope that a foundation for a new and constructive era has been put in place. While the price has been high, we have been reminded about the value of democracy, fair play and long term stability.

Amboseli  baby climbing. (©ElephantVoices)We urge Kenya's leaders to maintain good spirit during the hard work and reconciliation efforts that lie ahead - the current enthusiasm and the desire of the Kenyan people for peace should be of inspiration. Poverty and desperation do not make a viable environment for engendering harmony between people and animals. Agreement between the political camps means that we can all get back to working for a more prosperous future for all.

And what about wildlife conservation in general? In a previous comment on our blog on WildlifeDirect Ann asks what the accurate situation is. In truth it is highly variable, species to species, country to country, and place to place. From our perspective the future is dependent on how people deal with the fact that resources are in limited supply and are dwindling.

Are we individually and collectively willing to put enough aside for other creatures, like elephants, gorillas, and chimpanzees as well as the myriad of less charismatic species that share our planet? It is as simple and as difficult as that.

Amboseli elephants with Kilimanjaro. (©ElephantVoices)

Despite the recent spearings, Amboseli is a success story. The work of Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) over 35 years has contributed substantially to the conservation of the ecosystem's elephants, which today number around 1,500 individuals. The challenges are many for those in Kenya Wildlife Service, the local community and AERP who work tirelessly to achieve this success. While poaching for ivory is not a problem, at least not for now, confrontations between people and elephants can be. It is more than fair that local people feel that a share of the money generated by wildlife tourism helps to improve their lives - which is one reason why AERP and the Amboseli Trust for Elephants has initiated numerous community projects.

For the lives of Amboseli's elephants and the many other species, including people, who inhabit the ecosystem, the conservation struggle is certainly worth the effort. The benefits don't stop there, however, for millions of people from around the world have visited Amboseli and have benefited from the joy of seeing these magnificent animals - and millions more have watched and learned from Amboseli's elephants on TV documentaries.
Elephants on row. (©ElephantVoices)

Studying elephants and being in their presence is a continuous reminder of why elephants deserve our attention and support. Experiencing their affection, compassion and loyality for one another and witnessing their extraordinary teamwork is a humbling lesson in the meaning of humanity - or perhaps a better term would be "elephanity".

'It is not possible for a free man to catch a glimpse of the great elephant herds roaming the vast spaces of Africa without taking an oath to do whatever is necessary to preserve for ever this living splendour.'
Romain Gary, Roots of Heaven, 1958

Best wishes, Petter and Joyce
Elephants in sunset. (©ElephantVoices)

Thursday, 28 February 2008 13:23

Our post about the death of Tulip led friend, supporter and wildlife (especially elephants) sculptor, Doug Aja, to send us an e-mail with a few photos. Doug has visited our home in Kenya and Amboseli many times, and he met Tulip during visits in 1998 and in 2004, just after she was speared.

Joyce with  Tulip, 1998. (©Doug Aja) The first two photographs were taken in 1998 when Doug was out watching elephants with Joyce. Tulip was over 100 meters away when Joyce disgarded a fingernail-sized piece of overripe banana out the window. Tulip lifted her head, turned and sniffed. "Yummy, I know that smell from the good old days raiding tents with my mum," she must have thought. She did a swift 3-point turn and made her way rapidly toward us. You can see the concern on Joyce's face in the mirror of the car as she realizes her mistake! After that experience Joyce learned never to underestimate the ability of an elephant to detect a scent of interest. Tulip came right up, stretched her trunk to full length, snatched the smush of banana and popped it into her mouth.

Tulip 1998.  (©Doug Aja)Tulip in 2004, after having been speared.  (©Doug Aja)Doug writes: "I'm really saddened to hear about Tulip. The TAs have been my favorite family and she had become my favorite elephant. Probably because they have had such a struggle over the past decades. I tend to pull for the underdog. Along with the EBs and any large bull, they are always the elephants I most want to see while in Amboseli. One of my fondest memories was the late afternoon, while out with you ten years ago, spent with them. There had been good rains and the park was green with plenty of food. It seemed like such a relaxed and peaceful time. Attached are some photos of her."

People like Doug and the many other people reading our blog give us the inspiration to continue our work, despite the discouragement we sometimes feel living in a world where elephants and other species struggle for survival against such odds. The photos are all taken by Doug. The two first ones in 1998, the close-up of her face and trunk is taken after she was speared in January 2004.

 

Cheers, Petter & Joyce

Friday, 15 February 2008 14:00

The comment we received from Anna in response to Meeting Mr. Nick prompts me to write this post. She mentions a male named Edo, who originally came from Amboseli's EB family, and is now living in Tsavo National Park. Back in September 1989 Emily, one of the adult female members of the EB family, died after feeding on garbage at Amboseli Lodge.

Emily dead. (©ElephantVoices)After days of searching we found Emily's carcass lying by Amboseli Lodge rubbish heap.

Amboseli National Park Warden discusses a clean up with the managers of Amboseli Lodge. The incident provoked an outcry, and we published a story in the Daily Nation exposing all of the items we found in her stomach (though this prompted a clean up by the lodge then, Amboseli Lodge and its surrounds are still a disgrace 18 years later). Emily died leaving her adult daughter, Eudora, and a six-month-old son. Her infant was too young to survive without his mother's milk and we decided to ask the The Sheldrick Orphanage to take him in.

At the time of Emily's death I was working with a Japanese film crew (remember elephants and the ivory trade were a big issue for the Japanese) and the capture of her male calf became an integral part of the story. The crew gave him a Japanese name, Edo, which is the term for the ancient city of Tokyo. Capturing Edo was no simple task and I made the mistaken judgment that a six month old elephant could fit into the back of an Izuzu Trooper. Well, when he tried to escape over the front seats he popped out one of the back windows, dented the roof of the car and pushed me onto the gear shift and I had pain sitting for the next 18 months!

When I worked in Tsavo in 1998 I had a chance to see and even record him. He was a big boy then and not permitted to stay with Malaika and the younger calves at night. He obviously missed their companionship though, because as he walked off for his night alone, he repeatedly called out to them with "Let's go"rumbles, some of which were answered by Malaika, Ewaso and the others. It is lovely to see his photo on the link that Anna sent because he looks so like his mother, Emily, and sister, Eudora! Note that his tusks are what we call "asymmetrical left higher" - and so were his mother's and his sister, Eudora. Put on your headphones to hear (low frequency sounds, difficult to hear through lousy computer speakers...) - Edo calling "Let's go" to his companions:

Put on your headphones to hear Edo calling "Let's go" to his companions. - a distant Edo calling (barely audible) and Malaika (louder) answering:Edo calling, Malaika answering Spectrogram  Edo callingEdo  calling, Malaika answering Spectrograms that show time/frequency of the calls mentioned above. (Click to see larger) Eudora,  Amboseli elephant from the EB family. (©ElephantVoices)
Eudora strolls by; note her asymmetrical tusks with the left tusk higher.
Edo (from  Sheldrick trust website)
Edo (photo from the Sheldrick Trust website) looks like his mother and older sister; note his higher left tusk.