In this issue...


Elaine and her new calf look to you for support 


California state senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) has introduced legislation to update the state's existing criminal code to prohibit the use of bullhooks or similar devices on captive elephants.

The bullhook is a steel-tipped instrument with a sharp tip and hook at the end. It is used to dominate and control elephants through pain and fear. Handlers forcefully prod or strike elephants on sensitive parts of their bodies before and during performance and during "training."  Whether or not you see a bullhook being used on a captive elephant, its presence (in the hand or pocket of the handler) is often enough to inspire memories of pain and fear. It is also a constant reminder that painful punishment can be delivered at any time.

ATE recently supported successful efforts to ban bullhooks in Oakland and Los Angeles. This new legislation would introduce a state-wide ban.

If you are a California resident, please contact your California senators, asking them to support
SB 716.


Drive the Message Home!
Decorate your car with a strong and vibrant anti-ivory message. Buy these English/Chinese stickers for $2 each by contacting [email protected]

Karen Laurence-Rowe

In early March, we were delighted to welcome the extremely talented Karen Laurence-Rowe to Amboseli. Not only is Karen an award-winning wildlife artist, she is also a passionate conservationist who has established Artists Against Extinction where artists can use their work to support conservation organisations of their choice. ATE is proud to be supported by several artists on the page, and we think it's a beautiful way to spread the conservation message.


Karen's own art is full of life and warmth and we are thrilled to announce that she has been working on some exclusive pieces for ATE, featuring the Amboseli elephants in all their glory. More details in our next newsletter!


Karen Laurence-Rowe, David Shepherd Wildlife Artist of the Year 2012. 

Thank You

We want to thank the following donors for their generosity and concern for elephants:


Generation Awakening

Strear Family Foundation 

Microsoft (matching funds)

Prudential Matching Gifts Fund

Elizabeth Ann Jackson

Estate of Patricia Doornbosch  

Jill Korpita and Family

International Fund for Animal Welfare

Thanks also to our Earth Day volunteers in Tampa and Orlando. 

Follow a Family in Amboseli with Elatia

Are you trying to find a Mother's Day gift for May 10th? Think about giving your mother a membership to Elatia. 

Joining Elatia requires a donation of only US$30 per year for each elephant family. Your contribution helps fund ATE's on-the-ground expenses. As an Elatia member, you will benefit from exclusive information about your family, including:
  • An update about your elephant family every 2 months, including news of births, deaths, pregnancies, and any social dramas 
  • Photographs of your family
  • Periodic short films about the family, so you get to see them in action!
  • A family tree, showing every elephant we have known in that family since 1972

Elatia members get a user name and password, making this information exclusively for those who join. The Elatia Project is completely digital, so all updates are sent via email. 


To join Elatia or to give a gift for someone else, go to This Link. If you have any problems, Tal has just made a tutorial for signing up, Click Here.



Name a Baby Elephant


Consider becoming part of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project by naming one of the elephant calves. We have so many unnamed calves right now because of the massive baby boom of 2012. 

Unlike our Elatia program where many people follow the same family, our naming program is a unique experience. The calf becomes "your" calf and yours alone and the name you give forms a part of the Amboseli dataset for all time, even after the elephant dies years later. For more information write to us 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 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 [email protected]tel +1-508-783-8308.

Newsletter Sign Up 
To sign up a friend for our newsletter, please click This Link.
News from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants
March - April 2015

This issue of our newsletter has a unifying theme of elephants and people. I didn't set out with that in mind but all the stories we wanted to feature happened to be about human interactions with elephants whether they be in captivity, in the wild, or with the products of dead elephants. Even our summary chapter from our book The Amboseli Elephants happened to be the one on Maasai and Elephant Relationships.


Elephants face so many challenges and most of these are man-made. Poaching for ivory is the major acute problem right now, but we mustn't forget the long-term threat of loss of habitat. Human population growth and poor land-use planning will most likely ring the death-knell for elephants and other wildlife. These latter issues are huge ones that take whole nations and regions to solve if there is to be any remaining wilderness and wildlife on our planet.


Cynthia Moss
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
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Victory for Captive Elephants by Betsy Swart

In March, the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus announced that it would end its use of elephants in traveling shows by 2018.  Although we would certainly prefer that elephant acts ended immediately, this decision is a watershed victory in the long campaign by elephant advocates around the world to stop the use of captive elephants in entertainment.

Credit: NPR

Ringling representatives attributed the decision to an increase in city, county and state legislation to restrict elephant acts and the use of bullhooks in training elephants.  They also cited a "mood shift" among the general public--a paradigm change that is causing more and more consumers to seek entertainment that is animal-free.  

ATE has participated for many years in the struggle to end the use of captive elephants in circuses. We have been present beside train tracks when elephants were off-loaded from hot cars and marched to performance sites. We have observed elephant acts and spoken out about the unnatural stunts captive elephants have been forced to perform. We have signed the names of our scientists, researchers, and activists to letters and petitions to ban the use of bull hooks and other cruel training techniques.  It is extremely heartening to see that this work has had a positive impact and that it has resulted in the end of elephant acts in the largest and most prominent circus in the world.


Credit: NY Times

Although this is a huge victory for captive elephants, there is more to be done. There are currently 50-60 captive elephants in other circuses in the United States, many of them suffering from confinement, chaining, and other stressors.  If a circus is appearing in your area and you would like more information on captive elephants, please contact me, Betsy Swart, at our US address: [email protected]

We thank our many supporters for their letters, signatures, petitions, and phone calls. This victory is, indeed, proof that public opinion does count and that many of us acting together can change the world for elephants.


Watch our films on YouTube
Celebrating Elephants

For the past 18 years during the month of May, the Oakland Zoo has held a two-day public awareness and fundraising event for elephants and ALL of the proceeds go to the Amboseli Trust for Elephants. I continue to be overwhelmed by their generosity and caring. Some of the years I have been able to attend and give a lecture, other years someone from ATE has been able to present their findings (Vicki Fishlock gave a very well-received lecture last year), and the rest of the time very kind colleagues from other elephant projects and conservation organizations have spoken. 


This year the speaker will be Amy Baird who has recently joined the Big Life Foundation, our very close sister organisation in the Amboseli ecosystem. As the Associate Director of Big Life, Amy will be working in the US. Upon graduating cum laude from the University of the Pacific with a B.A. in Global Economic Relations, Amy launched into a career in conservation.  After four years defending marine wildlife with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, she shifted gears to regional issues in the Pacific Northwest, first with the Save our Wild Salmon Coalition and most recently with Renewable Northwest.


We're happy to have someone with her excellent qualifications now working for elephants and Amboseli. We also thank her for giving the lecture this year. 

For more information on the Celebrating Elephants event Click Here.


Ivory Burning -- The Debate

World Wildlife Day falls on March 3 every year. This year it was a was a very big day for the conservation of elephants in Kenya and beyond. The Kenya Wildlife Service organised a week of conservation awareness activities culminating in the burning of 15 tons of ivory by President Uhuru Kenyatta.


Although it filled those watching with tremendous sadness to see all those beautiful tusks piled up ready to be burned, it was also a clear message that Kenya will not tolerate poachers and the illegal trade in ivory. The ivory is of no value to Kenyans, only living elephants have worth.


The next day one of East Africa's leading columnists, Charles Onyango-Oboo, wrote an opinion piece entitled: "Don't Burn Ivory, Sell it to Pay for Conservation." He put forth the argument that has long made the rounds in conservation circles: elephants must have a monetary value and therefore "must pay their way". The money from the sale of the tusks could have been used for conservation or schools or medicine or whatever. It might sound logical on paper but elephants are a limited resource and a very, very slow one to renew. Females don't have their first calves until about 13 years old and then can only give birth every four to five years. The tipping point for elephants was reached in the last few years, that is, the rate of killing for ivory has outstripped the reproductive rate of elephants. There are simply not enough elephants alive today to supply the demand for ivory. 


Paula Kahumba, CEO of Wildlife Direct, immediately challenged Onyango-Oboo to a debate. He took up the challenge and the debate took place at Brookhouse School on 25 April. ATE colleague Winnie Kiiru was one of the debaters arguing very articulately and passionately that "elephants are special". See Paula's write-up in National Geographic at This Link. 


Dr. Winnie Kiiru (left) debating Carol Wanjiku with John Sibi-Okumu moderating 


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Amboseli Book Chapter Summary, 19 
The Maasai-Elephant Relationship: The Evolution and Influence of Culture, Land-use, and Attitudes
by Christine Brown-Nunez

As the Amboseli landscape has evolved over time, so has the relationship between elephants and the local Maasai people. The Maasai have herded livestock in the Greater Amboseli for more than four centuries. Understanding the dynamics of their interactions with wildlife is critical to conserving the Amboseli ecosystem.

This chapter considers the Maasai-elephant relationship by:

  • examining the attitudes and behaviors of the Maasai toward elephants over time by reviewing historical accounts of early European travelers through Maasailand,
  • discussing the results of recent attitudinal research in the Amboseli ecosystem, and
  • evaluating the notion of the Maasai as conservationists and considering the importance of culture, livelihood activities, conservation interventions, and land-use change in determining the future of the Maasai-elephant relationship in Amboseli.


Maasai culture has long facilitated coexistence between people and wildlife, but the human context of Amboseli is rapidly changing. The human population is not homogenous, but is comprised of Maasai with diverse livelihood strategies and an ever-increasing population of cultivators from other ethnic groups. This chapter concludes that, as these changes in land use continue, local, national, and international stakeholders will need to collaborate in order to effectively monitor and adapt conservation and development strategies aimed at ensuring the well-being of people and elephants. 

Although this newsletter shows how humans are causing many problems for elephants, we also hold the solutions. People and elephants can can share this Earth. Elephants are valuable in and of themselves. We will never stop fighting for them to exist in their own right. Please help us fight for them. 

Cynthia Moss
Amboseli Trust for Elephants
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