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!
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.
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.