Kerstin Bucher is one of the first people to name a Mara elephant and, thereby, also supporting this ElephantVoices initiative in the world renown Maasai Mara. Kerstin lives in Germany, and has visited Kenya several times. We asked her to write about the background for her compassion for elephants, and how she chose to give the name "Sian" to f0115 in the Mara Elephant Who's Who database.

Thank you, Kerstin!

Petter


Article written by Kerstin Bucher

I have been interested in elephants, especially in African elephants, since I was a little child. I remember that I owned a book about animals, and there was a black and white photograph of a huge and magnificent elephant with beautiful tusks. The caption said that elephants will be extinct within a few years because of poaching. I was so sad and I never expected to see a wild elephant in its natural habitat as an adult.

Then, in 2004, I visited my uncle in South Africa, and we spent five nights in the Kruger National Park! The first evening, watching a big group of elephants at a waterhole in front of our camp, brought tears to my eyes. I will never forget the experience of watching them and hearing them trumpeting and rumbling!

Two years later I watched a heartbreaking documentary about elephant orphans in Kenya and I wanted to help them. In December 2007 I fostered my first elephant baby, called Dida. Since then I have fostered many of her friends, too. Several visits to Kenya intensified my wish to support elephants and to learn more about these gentle, gray giants.

In the beginning of 2010 I joined Facebook. Suddenly I met many like-minded people from all over the world. It was a fantastic feeling to communicate with them because my family and many of my friends couldn't understand my feelings for elephants and my wish to try to protect them. In my first months on Facebook someone attracted my attention! Her name was Joyce Poole. I remembered her name because just a few months before I had read an autobiography by Richard Leakey, "Wildlife Wars", about his time as the Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service in Kenya. He wrote about a young American woman working together with Cynthia Moss at Amboseli National Park who studied the famous elephants there. Her name was Joyce Poole. Joyce and I became friends on Facebook and I joined her group, ElephantVoices. On Facebook I learned that elephant poaching is increasing again in all African countries, including in Kenya.

During the last year many elephants were killed in the famous Maasai Mara, too, and people began to say that if nothing is done elephants will be in danger again to a frightening extent. This was a very disturbing feeling for me, especially as a fosterparent of many elephant orphans. How could we raise orphaned elephant babies to such an uncertain future!

I love the Maasai Mara and its wonderful and peaceful elephants. In the beginning of 2011 Joyce Poole and her husband, Petter Granli, started a new project in the Maasai Mara with the goal of protecting elephants and their ecosystem by involving people in the monitoring of elephants: Elephant Partners. As part of the project they have created a Who's Who of the Mara elephants!

Anyone can join this project by contributing pictures and observations of the Mara elephants! I was very interested in this initiative, but unsure if my pictures were good enough because I am not a professional photographer. I contributed some of my pictures to Elephant Partners and these have helped to build the Who's Who (for example, see the three-tusked female f0245) and the Whereabouts. I hope I can help to protect the Mara elephants. I like this project because I feel I am doing something active for the elephants - I am not only being a passive donor.

I met the lovely female f0115 in the Mara recently and decided to name her Sian. Why Sian? Sian is a Maasai name and one of my fostered elephants was called Sian. Sian was the daughter of an Amboseli elephant cow called Soila, who disapeared one day. Her little calf, Sian, was found abandoned. Soila was probably killed by poachers when she crossed the border to Tanzania. Sian was such a beautiful, gentle elephant, but she was too small and too thin for her age. She became weaker and weaker and died last year at the age of only five. She had a pulmonal malformation, and the more she grew the less oxygen her body received! For me she was a very special elephant and she touched my heart deeply. I am still crying when I look at pictures of her!

f0115 is a very beautiful and dignified female elephant! I had the possiblity to watch and follow her over many hours and days on my last stay at the Maasai Mara. She, too, touched me deeply and I enjoyed every single minute with her and her little family. I was thinking about many possible names for her, but finally I decided to name her Sian! Somehow I hope a piece of my little Sian is living on having named f0115 after her!