In this issue...
Launching Elatia
Training Big Life Scouts
ATE's Resident Scientist hits the US
Amboseli Book Chapter 15
Quick Links

Katito Sayialel and Norah Njiraini, our intrepid field researchers ask...


A Visit from Dorothy Cheng
Dorothy is a wonderful ATE supporter from Hong Kong. She contacted us in late 2012, keen to help us spread our message. Since Facebook is restricted in China, Dorothy has set up a Weibo page for ATE, and reposts our Facebook content onto the Weibo forum, fully translated.
We are delighted that Dorothy took her first trip to Africa to see wild elephants in June. The whole team enjoyed spending time with her and sharing our elephant experiences. This tireless lady is also part of the active Hong Kong for Elephants group (and she has a full time job and two dogs!). 
Cynthia and Dorothy in ATE uniform!
Lunch at State House
On June 25, Cynthia and Katito attended a lunch at State House hosted by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, who is proving to be a staunch defender of Kenya's wildlife. The occasion was the official launch of the United Nations-Office of the First Lady Partnership on Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Poaching in Kenya. The guest of honour was the Administrator, UN Development Programme (UNDP), Ms. Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand. We were very pleased to hear that their first project will be with a community in Amboseli. 
Positive Developments

Our Thanks to PBS:


The PBS series "Antiques Roadshow" will no longer feature or appraise elephant tusks on its program. Viewers let the show's producers know that featuring these tusks and "valuing" them could encourage the ongoing slaughter of elephants by ivory poachers. According to the Associated Press, the show will continue to appraise items containing ivory, such as musical instruments, and use those opportunities to inform viewers about the larger issue of elephant conservation. 


New York and New Jersey Support Elephants: 


The New Jersey legislature has passed a bill to prohibit all sales and trade in ivory and rhino horns in the state, with limited exceptions. The bill, which unanimously passed the state Senate, is awaiting Governor Chris Christie's signature. 


New York has passed a ban on the sale of ivory within state borders. The new legislation places a permanent ban on the sale of elephant and mammoth ivory and rhino horn and includes only limited exceptions for proven antiques and other artifacts. 


If you are a resident of either New York or New Jersey, please consider writing to your Governor, encouraging him to sign these important bills.  


Some Words of Thanks
Our supporters help us in many ways  and we want to be sure that these donors know how much we appreciate them. In this newsletter we thank:
Ashik & Jonelle Mohan, Born of Sound 
Ashik and Jonelle's innovative company turns sounds into beautiful works of art. For our Celebrating Elephants auction, they donated this stunning visualisation of Echo's contact call. Even more generously, all orders placed with the promotional code "Echoscall" will generate a 10% donation to ATE! Check out their website for gift ideas that benefit elephants.
A Generous Donor
An anonymous donor has given us an amazing and most generous donation which has enabled us to expand our field car fleet. In May the first of the two vehicles arrived in Amboseli, making life much easier for the team! We are hugely grateful for this donation.  
We have new bracelets!!!

Thanks to the success of our elephant grey bracelets, Betsy Swart in our US office decided to create a new design. Our gorgeous new wristbands carry the same message "Don't Buy Ivory Products", but this time in Chinese characters. They are red - a lucky colour in both Chinese and Maasai culture. 

Please think about ways to use these to spread the word and advocate for a ban on domestic sales of ivory products.

The minimum order is ten wristbands for $10/US. Please specify grey (English version) or red (Chinese version). Bulk orders of 100 wristbands will receive a discounted rate of 100 @ $50/US. For discounted rates on orders over 100, please contact at: our US office.

For cheque payments, please send to 10 State Street, Newburyport, MA 01950, or donate through our website using Click & Pledge. 
Visit to PAWS
Vicki Fishlock, Betsy Swart and PAWS Director, Ed Stewart with the beautiful rolling hills of the sanctuary behind

In May, ATE's Dr. Vicki Fishlock and US Executive Director, Betsy Swart, visited the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) sanctuary ARK 2000 in San Andreas, California.  They were delighted to "meet" the recently-arrived elephants from Toronto and also to spend time with PAWS' other elephants residents, as they enjoyed their lives in the lush 2300-acre facility. Vicki and Betsy had the opportunity to see PAWS' state-of-the-art elephant barns, as well as spaces specially designed for lions, tigers, bears, and other rescued animals. ATE wishes to thank PAWS' staff and volunteers for making  this amazing visit possible, especially PAWS' Director, Ed Stewart, Debbie Casey, Catherine Doyle, Brian Busta, and Lisa Worgan. ATE applauds PAWS for its longstanding work to end the use of animals in entertainment and to educate the public about the plight of elephants and other animals in captivity.  Thanks, everyone. We'll be back again soon!

A Word about our Family Histories

The wonderful Big Tuskless, matriarch of the BB family from the start of the study until her death in 1986
Our Family Histories have been very popular with our supporters, and we have loved hearing your thoughts on the stories.

Having run the alphabet from AA to ZA, we are now taking a break for a while. Each history is an enormous undertaking, and we are devoting some time to launching an exciting new initiative (see "A New Way to Follow Amboseli Elephants, main text). 

You can still access the Family History archive by 
Clicking Here.
Name a Baby Elephant

ATE supporters might consider naming a baby elephant. Unlike our new Elatia scheme, where many people follow the same family, our naming program is unique. This calf becomes "your" calf and yours alone, and the name given forms a part of the Amboseli dataset for all time, even after elephants die.


For more information please write to us at This Address or go to Our Website.

One of the ways you can support ATE is by making your online purchases through iGive. If you sign up the Amboseli Trust for Elephants as your recipient organization we will get a small percentage of the sale. Connect with
Give a Gift that Lasts Forever

Designate the Amboseli Trust for Elephants as a beneficiary of your will, individual retirement account, or life insurance policy. Your legacy gift will enable ATE to learn more about the fascinating and complex lives of elephants and to assure their future.


To learn more about planned giving opportunities, please contact Betsy Swart at: i[email protected]; tel +1-508-783-8308.

 Newsletter Sign Up 


To sign up your friends for our newsletter and join our mailing list, please fill out the sign-up box on our Website: Click Here or go to the Join My List box on our Facebook Page, Here.


News from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants
May-June 2014

The period covered by this newsletter proved to be a busy one and for two of us, it involved extensive travel. Vicki Fishlock and I both travelled (separately) to the US for fund raising. (Vicki has written about her trip in this issue.) We are now happy to be back in Kenya and most important back with the elephants.


Finding enough funds to go on with the Amboseli project each year is a never-ending activity. Since the downturn in the economy in 2008, donations have been fewer and farther between and for a while there we were seriously concerned, but the situation for charities seems to be improving this year. Fingers crossed that it continues.


In order to have a steady income, ATE has come up with a new way to support our work. The brainchild & one of our newer team members, Tal Manor, has been working on a 'follow a family' project called "Elatia", which more or less means "neighbor" in the Maasai language. Tal writes about it in detail below. The Elatia project involves following individual Amboseli families. I think it is an excellent way for people to feel more engaged in the Amboseli Elephant Research Project and the amazing elephants that we study. The donation is very reasonable and I think you will enjoy it.


Cynthia Moss


Amboseli Trust for Elephants

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Elatia: A New Way to Follow Amboseli Elephants!
We know how privileged we are to spend time with the wonderful elephants here in Amboseli, and we know too that what our supporters love best is hearing about daily elephant activities. We are completely fascinated and caught up in elephant lives, and we're delighted to announce a new way for the ATE team to share our love and knowledge.
Our new initiative is called "Elatia", which in the Maa language means "neighbor". The name signifies the idea of becoming a close follower and friend of a particular elephant family. As an Elatia subscriber you will receive online access to all the information on your chosen family including a family tree with every member of that family that we have known over the 44 years of the study. Every two months there will be an update (on the alternate month to this newsletter) and occasionally short films of your family members. 
The annual subscription fee is US$30 per year, and these funds directly support our operational costs. There are five families to choose from, and you can subscribe to Elatia for yourself, or as a gift (or both!). For gift subscriptions you can add a personal message and arrange for it to begin on a special date. There is also an option to make an additional donation to ATE, should you so wish.
The Elatia program operates through our website, under the Support Elephants tab. When you sign up, you will receive a password allowing you to access your family updates; once again this information is not available to the general public. All online payments are securely processed using PayPal.
Elatia will go live very soon at which time we will announce the five families to chose from. We plan on introducing additional families to the Elatia program closer to the end of the year. Supporters who follow us on Facebook will see reminders of the launch on our page. For those not on Facebook, check Our Website.
We hope you will enjoy following the elephants as much as we do, and that Elatia members will experience a unique insight into elephant family life, deepening their appreciation for the marvellous Amboseli elephants. 
Training Big Life Community Scouts --by Tal Manor

For more than twenty years now, ATE has run training programmes to share our knowledge on wild elephants to those interested in working in the field of conservation.  Our training is very flexible, ranging from short simple courses for those with little or no academic background, to in-depth programmes designed for conservation professionals and postgraduate students embarking on their own research.  Some of Kenya's leading conservationists were trained by ATE early in their careers, and we aim to continue inspiring and teaching young professionals in order to help generate ambitious and well informed conservation managers who will take strong action to protect elephants worldwide. Run by ATE's Training Coordinator, Norah Njiraini, these courses give students a firm grounding in working safely around elephants and collecting reliable data. 

Norah showing the trainees data collection techniques


As we have written many times in this newsletter, local partnerships are crucial for promoting balanced and peaceful relationships between elephants and the people living with them in Amboseli. ATE is therefore partnering once again with the Big Life Foundation, by training their network of community anti-poaching scouts. Big Life ensures security for wildlife and people in Amboseli; our training strengthens that skill set by teaching those fighting poachers how to understand elephants and their behaviour, and collect useful data on the elephants they encounter.


The first round of training began on June 10th. Each four-day course trains five Big Life personnel, and we will continue to run these courses in the coming months. The courses cover topics such as correctly ageing and sexing elephants, reliably counting elephants (harder than you might think!) and of course understanding elephant behaviour. Although these men have seen elephants for their entire lives, they knew very little about how elephants live, how long they live or how to age them. As well as reporting on illegal activities in their area, all scouts must report on the elephants they see. The skills the scouts learn during the training will greatly improve the accuracy and power of their reports, and ensure they are collecting consistent population data across the ecosystem. All our trainees really enjoyed Norah's knowledge, and were amazed and interested by what they learned.


The eldest of our first batch of trainees is Bukoki Sumare, who is 45.

Bukoki Sumare

Sumare lived a traditional nomadic life before Amboseli National Park was officially gazetted in 1974. He recalls seeing a lot of change in his homeland, as land has been subdivided, Parks formed and the traditional way of life slowly abandoned. He too now resides in a permanent homestead and works as a wildlife scout in the Satao Elerai area, supervising four other scouts. When asked what part of the training surprised him the most, Sumare enthusiastically explained that he never imagined the females protect and control the family life. He also had no idea that male elephants play no role in an elephant family. His appreciation and fondness of elephants was heightened during the training, and he intends to share this knowledge with his community. He describes elephants as 'mama yetu', which means 'our mother' because elephants are an important source of income for Maasai communities around the Park; money generated from tourism and conservation benefits the community, giving them incentives to protect elephants.


Joel Shoke Tipape

The youngest of the June trainees is 23-year-old Joel Shoke Tipape. His life has been somewhat different to Bukoke's: He attended school, was never a warrior, and has always lived in the same settlement. Tipape is bright and passionate about wildlife conservation. He works as a scout collecting data on wildlife sightings and illegal activities just outside Amboseli National Park on the Kimana Ranch side.  


The training has boosted Tipape's confidence and broadened his knowledge and understanding of elephant lives. He looks forward to developing his career, and hopes to get further training in the future. 

Visiting the US --by Vicki Fishlock  

Having used every spare penny and moment to get to Africa in my teens and twenties, I have to admit that I arrived in my third decade on this planet without ever having visited the US. This year I had the opportunity to remedy that, as I spent three weeks in May connecting with supporters and donors across the USA, including the IFAW team in Cape Cod. I had a wonderful trip, and I'd like to thank everyone who hosted me, and all our supporters Stateside.
Spectacular Wyoming sunshine and scenery with the indefatigable Ann Smith, who found moose for me
Special thanks go to our wonderful donor and super-networker Ann Smith, who hosted me in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and let me explore a spectacular ecosystem full of moose and bears, rather than elephants and lions. I found somewhere to rival Amboseli's "big skies". Out bear-watching I also bumped into Tom Mangelsen, whose wonderful portraits of the Amboseli elephants have also supported ATE.
The highlight of a trip full of highlights was the annual Celebrating Elephants lecture at Oakland Zoo. Each year, the Oakland team works incredibly hard to set up the event, and all of the proceeds come directly to support ATE and our work in the field. Addressing this fantastic crowd of elephant lovers and long-term supporters was both exciting and a bit intimidating. Of course I needn't have worried: everyone was friendly and enthusiastic, and it was a real delight to share some of my research into the long-term changes in Amboseli family dynamics, and the importance of matriarchs driving these long-term processes. My job is both a pleasure and a privilege but sharing that and some of the science that underlies all our work was a joy. I even snuck in a bit of maths and nobody seemed to mind! I'm delighted to report that everyone who stumped up cash for a lecture ticket seemed to enjoy themselves, and together with the fantastic donations from the auction (yes, I made some bids too!), made it our most successful year ever. Thank you, all of you.
With just part of the amazing Oakland team: L-R Amy Gotliffe, Colleen Kinzley, VF and Gina Kinzley
It's so heartening to hear from our supporters, or to meet you face to face. I was also really encouraged and impressed by the number of people I met in shops and restaurants who, while they may not be ATE supporters, are aware of the perils facing elephants today. The news is definitely getting through. It's true that the big picture can be overwhelming, and it can seem as if all the news is bad. We will never stop fighting for elephants' right to live as elephants, wild and free, but sometimes we need a boost in our energies. Our supporters give us that boost. 
Margaret Mead said "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has". My travels made me realise that our group is not that small, it is growing and it is hugely committed.


Amboseli Book Chapter Summary, 15:  Friends and Relations: Kinship and the Nature of Female Elephant Social Relationships by: Elizabeth A. Archie, Cynthia J. Moss and Susan C. Alberts.


Elephants live in flexible, multi-tiered, fission-fusion societies That is, social groups are composed of discrete, predictable sets of individuals, but over the course of hours or days, these groups may temporarily divide and reunite, or they may fuse with other social groups to form much larger social units. The fluidity of this social system is an unusual context for the close and enduring social relationships that form among female elephants. In fact, this combination of social traits-close and enduring social relationships and fission-fusion sociality-is found only in elephants, in a few cooperatively hunting carnivores like hyenas and lions, possibly in some cetaceans, and in a few primates, including chimpanzees and humans. In these species, the fission and fusion of groups may mean that social relationships are unusually complex because individuals interact with many animals from different social groups across the population, and social partners may not always be together in the same group. This social complexity may be one reason why elephants have unusually large brains and apparently high intelligence. 

Elephants live in remarkably large, complex societies


In Chapter 15, authors Elizabeth A Archie, Cynthia J. Moss and Susan C. Alberts used DNA analyses to determine kinship among among female elephants in order to better understand social complexity in elephants. They concluded that female elephants are similar to social carnivores, some cetaceans, and many nonhuman primates in that they form close and enduring social relationships with other female social group members. In many of these societies, the most affiliative and cooperative relationships form preferentially among kin, and elephants are no exception.  However, elephants differ from many of these social species in several important ways. First, their social relationships are unusually fluid and rival those of chimpanzees and humans in their complexity. Second, elephants have the opportunity to interact with a very wide range of social partners, more so than social canids and chimpanzees and probably similar to some cetaceans. Third, in elephant family groups, kinship has no bearing on dominance rank relationships. Instead, rank is predicted by age or size. Together, these features of elephant relationships suggest that female elephants balance a complicated array of selective forces and that social relationships with kin are just one way that female elephants solve the problems of survival and reproduction.

The Amboseli elephants continue to live in relative peace thanks to a number of factors including our presence, the cooperation of the Maasai communities in the ecosystem, and the excellent anti-poaching scouts program working alongside the Kenya Wildlife Service.


There was a time when Amboseli was barely acknowledged in the Park system because it was small although lucrative. More recently, much to many people's surprise, the Amboseli ecosystem has become a conservation model because of the way that the government, the NGOs and the local people work together to protect it. It's not perfect, but the commitment is there and we have hope for the future.


Please support ATE and the other organizations working in Amboseli. 


Cynthia Moss

Amboseli Trust for Elephants
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