In this issue...
Global March for Elephants & Rhinos
Networks by Vicki Fishlock
PAWS Conference
US Ambassador's Visit
Book Chapter 17: Male Social Dynamics
Quick Links

Betsy Swart, ATE's US Executive Director asks...
Please Donate now

Thanks to our Generous Donors
We've had some very welcome donations recently and want to acknowledge these important gifts. 

US Board Member David Breskin contributed $50,000 to our endowment through the Shifting Foundation. 

Ron Kagan of the Detroit Zoo also added to the endowment with $10,000.

We are particularly appreciative of these donations to ATE's endowment. We have been building it very slowly since 1999 with the goal of one day being able to run the project from the interest. Adding to the endowment is looking to the future for the Amboseli elephants. 

We would also like to thank the following for their contributions to our regular field work:
Ann and Roger McNamee
The Oakland Zoo
The Performing Animal Welfare Society
The Born Free Foundation
Elizabeth Steele
The Lynne Chase Wildlife Foundation
Change for Good 

Maasai Olympics 2014
Two years ago the first Maasai Olympics were held in the Amboseli Ecosystem. They were a great success. Young warriors were engaged in exciting running, jumping and spear-throwing competitions for which they won praise instead of for their traditional killing of lions and elephants. ATE supported the games and we have contributed again for the upcoming event.

Save the date. On December 13 the Maasai Olympics will be held at Kimana Sanctuary an easy drive on tarmac all the way from Nairobi via the new Emali to Oloitokitok Road. We encourage you to attend. It was tremendous fun and it will be even better this year.

Ways to Support ATE and the Fight for Elephants
The following are some of the ways you can support our work. 

Name a Baby Elephant
Our naming program dates way back to 1987. More than 200 donors have named calves born into the Amboseli population. Some have followed their lives now for 27 years. You too can participate in the Amboseli project in this unique way. Once you name a calf that's its name for life. You are the only one connected in that way. 

For more information please write to us at [email protected] or Click Here.
Elatia: A Unique and Innovative Way to Support Elephants

Our Elatia project is up and running and is much loved by our supporters. For only $30 per year you can contribute towards the mammoth task of monitoring more than 1,500 wild elephants in the Amboseli ecosystem. 

You can follow any or all of five Elatia families and get regular updates on their lives. Photos, family histories and family trees are posted online for those who join. 

The Elatia subscription can be made either for yourself or as a gift from you to another, making it a fantastic Christmas Gift.

Join this worthy cause and become a part of our Amboseli 'neighborhood'. For more information Visit Our Website.


ATE's New Giftshop!
We are proud to announce we are opening an online shop on our website. We have t-shirts, calendars, mugs and more! 
All proceeds from your purchase go towards our work of studying and protecting the Amboseli elephants. This shop will be launched on the 3rd of November 2014 on our website at This Link.


Limited Edition T-Shirts For Sale


Partnering with Artists Against Ivory you can support ATE by buying this limited edition t-shirt. A portion of the sale of the t-shirt will go towards funding our anti-poaching ranger training program. 

The sale will commence on the 5th of November and closes the 26th of November so don't miss this opportunity to make a difference. The t-shirts cost $29.50 exclusive of postage. 

For more information please Click Here.

Chinese Bumper Stickers

Our red "Don't Buy Ivory" wristbands in Chinese script have been very popular. Our Chinese colleague Dorothy Cheng suggested that bumper stickers would also be a good way to spread the word. To find out how to obtain bumper stickers write to Betsy Swart at [email protected]

And Don't Forget Our Bracelets

Contact Betsy at [email protected]
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 each sale. Connect with This Link.


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:

[email protected]; tel +1-508-783-8308.




News from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants
September-October 2014

The Amboseli Trust for Elephants has been particularly active in advocacy for elephants in the last two months. We have always felt that it is important to spread the word about how remarkable elephants are, but with the horrific increase in poaching we feel even more pressure to help people understand what the Earth will lose if elephants are removed.


In Amboseli in September and October we have done 10 major media interviews, given lectures to eight visiting groups, advised filmmakers on elephant behavior, hosted influential people such as Richard Leakey and the US Ambassador to Kenya, and networked with our many conservation colleagues. 


On a wider scale we have participated in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos and we post almost daily on our ATE Facebook page. We now have 88,000 followers on Facebook and each of those followers has many friends. One recent post reached 505,000 people.


We think it all helps and this is one way you can also help elephants. Spread the word, keep up the pressure. Elephants must be allowed to live their lives free from terror and loss.  

Cynthia Moss

Amboseli Trust for Elephants
The Global March for Elephants and Rhinos by Betsy Swart

On Saturday, October 4, 2014, 136 cities around the world participated in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. These exciting events were designed to call attention to the massive and ongoing slaughter of elephants and rhinos for the illegal wildlife trade. The Amboseli Trust for Elephants participated in marches in San Francisco and Nairobi, helping to raise awareness about the need for urgent action. Elephants and rhinos are under serious poaching pressure throughout Africa due to growing markets in Asia. Poachers kill an estimated 35,000 elephants each year across Africa just so their tusks can be carved into trinkets and expensive figurines. Those staggering statistics mean that one elephants dies every 15 minutes. Furthermore, more than 1,000 rhinos were poached in 2013 in South Africa alone and 700 have been killed so far this year. Rhino horns are used for traditional medicinal purposes in Asia.


Photo by Lisa Worgan

In San Francisco, more than 2,000 people participated in a march through Chinatown and then proceeded through the main tourist areas of the city.  Marchers carried the message that the slaughter of elephants and rhinos must stop and that the illegal wildlife trade must 

immediately cease. 


Celebrities, such as Kim Basinger, added their voices and helped gain media attention to the cause. ATE proudly marched with our colleagues from the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Oakland Zoo. 


As the march proceeded through San Francisco's Chinatown, ATE and our supporters handed out wristbands and bumper-stickers with the message "Don't Buy Ivory" written in Chinese.  We were delighted that many Chinese shop-keepers, residents, and tourists proudly donned the wristbands and pledged to spread the word to stop the ivory trade.


Chinatown residents supported the marchers by wearing our Chinese bumper sticker on a hat and (right with Betsy) wearing our wristbands written in Chinese



In Nairobi, ATE's Katito Sayialel, marched with a large, very enthusiastic crowd, including members of Hands Off Our Elephants and Stand Up and Shout. The Nairobi march was strategically important, showing that 

Kenyans set an example for the world by refusing the exploitation of wildlife and acting to stop poachers in their tracks.  


ATE would like to thank all our supporters who attended rallies around the world, including (in San Francisco) ATE Trustee, David Breskin and daughter, Billie Breskin and long-time ATE supporter, Mag Dimond.  We would also like to express our heartfelt thanks to Ed Stewart and PAWS for their generous donation of $10,000 to ATE to help aid our anti-poaching efforts.  Together, we CAN and will stop the elephant slaughter!

Networks in Elephant Research by Vicki Fishlock

Networks are everywhere: the Internet; the patterns of disease transmission that dominate global headlines; the ecosystem that quietly exists in your back garden right now. We all have personal networks too - circles of friends, acquaintances and family that overlap and intersect in complex ways. Elephant society works on similar principles to human society, where the relationships between individuals grow and change over many years.


Cynthia Moss began the project in Amboseli precisely because the population was small enough to get to know all the elephants as individuals. More than four decades later we still identify and track the elephants this way and our data and understanding are continuously enriched because we know the history behind and the context of the exchanges we document.

Knowing individuals enriches our understanding: here Elfrida greets Epulu. Although he is now independent, Epulu gets special recognition as a family member
Although the aim of scientific research is to expand understanding by looking for unifying themes, all our research shows how variable elephants are. As our supporters probably realise, we love and celebrate elephants for their variability, but it can make it hard to find those unifying themes.


Pictures worth a thousand words... These networks show the friendships between families over ten years; from 1972-81 (top) and 2002-11 (bottom). These  changes are associated with changing family size and ageing matriarchs.

Fortunately, as computer power has increased, so has the complexity of the analyses we can do. That's good news for elephant biologists because we can now build more realistic models; rather than just consider the interactions between one individual and another, we can include all the interactions we record and understand how they influence one another. This is where 

networks prove useful, because we

can include all the wonderful variability that elephants exhibit, without ignoring those "weirdos" (who do something completely different from everyone else). 


These network analyses generate beautiful visualisations but they also calculate mathematical measures we can use to describe changes and patterns. Most recently we've used networks to examine very long-term changes in relationships between the families: as females age, families grow larger and family membership changes through births and deaths. In turn, between-family friendships change over time. 


Networks allow us to see the bigger picture, using the full power of our long-term data and gaining a unique insight into elephant lives.


PAWS Conference

The Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) is convening an International Captive Wildlife Conference, which will take place in Los Angeles on November 8-10.


The three-day conference features more than 50 speakers from around the world and will focus attention on key issues involving elephants, as well as other animals (orcas, dolphins, lions, tigers) used for entertainment or display. Filmmakers, such as producers of the popular documentary "Blackfish," will discuss technological alternatives to the use of wild animals in movies, television and tourist attractions.


ATE's research scientist, Dr. Keith Lindsay, will be speaking on elephants in zoos and other captive situations.  Other speakers include Dr. David Hancocks; Dr. Joyce Poole; Steven Wise, Esq; Dr. Joel Parrott and Colleen Kinzley of the Oakland Zoo; Dr. Ron Kagan of the Detroit Zoo, and many more. 


ATE's Executive Director, Betsy Swart, will be on hand to discuss strategies for getting involved in ATE's important work. No matter where you live, there is something you can do to help elephants. Betsy will have a large display of ATE materials, including hard-to-find and out-of-print books by Cynthia Moss and ATE researchers. Be sure to visit our book table at the conference! 


The conference weekend includes a very special Anniversary Gala celebrating PAWS' 30th year of sanctuary care, education and advocacy for captive wild animals.  To see a full list of speakers or to register for the event, go to  We hope you will join ATE at this important event. 


US Ambassador to Kenya visits Amboseli

We were very pleased to host US Ambassador Robert F. Godec in Amboseli. On the morning of October 17th, Katito took the him out to see elephants along with Paula Kahumbu, Director of WildlifeDirect. As always the elephants provided a life-altering experience for our visitors. Ambassador Godec was already very dedicated to saving elephants and Kenya's other wildlife and habitats, but seeing the elephants close-up and personal with Katito as his guide made him all the more determined to help Kenya protect this precious resource. 

After spending the morning out with elephants we hosted Ambassador Godec for lunch, joined by Richard Bonham, Field Director of the Big Life Foundation. Richard was able to up-date him on the poaching situation in the Amboseli ecosystem and the work of the Maasai community scouts. The Ambassador went on to meet the KSW staff at Park HQ as well as community leaders.

Amboseli Book Chapter Summary, 17: Male Social Dynamics: Independence and Beyond by Phyllis C. Lee, Joyce H. Poole, Norah Njiraini, Catherine N. Sayialel and Cynthia J. Moss

As part of our long-term analysis, we were uniquely able to follow the fate of a number of males - 155 to be precise- who were born into our known families and who survived to adulthood. These young males provided us with fascinating insights into how males initiate independence from their mothers and other family females, how they form long-lasting relationships with other males, and how they use the knowledge of elder bulls for survival.

Young males are the focus of more aggression from family females than are the young family females. Despite heightened aggressive rates, males appear to make very individual decisions about when they are ready to strike out on their own. Some males take several years; others seem to go in the space of a few days.  During our study, males left at the average age of 14 years, although some left as young as 8 and others as old are 18. This form of "natal dispersal" is seen in almost all mammals and birds, and serves the function of ensuring that family members don't often mate with each other. Even after dispersal, males return to greet and occasionally associate wit their families, ensuring long-term recognition, again assisting in the avoidance of kin-matings.


As males age, they tend to spend less and less time with females. By the age of 30 (when they begin to come into the annual reproductive state of musth) they are spending only 40% of time with females, and 40% of their time with other males. They are surprisingly seldom "solitary". Young and even older males are highly sociable, interacting with other males, and even regularly playing with them.  These male-male friendships appeared to persist well into reproductive ages, and we also found that top associates - friends- tend not to come into musth at the same time. This avoidance of simultaneous musth may be a way of ensuring that friends don't compete too directly.


Our other significant finding is an understanding of how these young males shift their foraging ranges from those that they knew when they were with their mothers to establishing a core bull area. This shift is a challenging change of ranging as they move to areas where they lack all knowledge of the distribution and seasonal availability of resources. This move often brings new risks, such as those associated with using human crops, and ranging into areas where elephants are poached and hunted. It's not surprising that this period of a male's life is also one of very high mortality; only about half of the males we studied survived to enter musth. The behavior and social strategies of these older reproductively active males are the subjects of our next chapter.


I believe the Amboseli elephants touched many people these past two months through visits, social media, print articles and documentaries. We will keep up this work but to do so we need financial support. Please think about donating. Our project depends on you. 
Cynthia Moss
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
The Amboseli Trust for Elephants aims to ensure the long-term conservation and welfare of Africa's elephants in the context of human needs and pressures through scientific research, training, community outreach, public awareness and advocacy.