WATCH: Cynthia Moss and Vicki Fishlock, two champions for elephants

In some ways, elephants are no different than you and me. They recognize themselves as individuals and as close-knit family members and they interact socially in complex ways with other elephants outside their family.

There’s a lot to learn about elephants as we find out from Cynthia Moss and Vicki Fishlock in an upcoming series of video interviews, of which this is the first. 

I’m proud to say that we’ve been a supporter of Cynthia’s for about 20 years. I heard about her work even before I joined the International Fund for Animal Welfare more than 15 years ago.  

Even then, she was already a legend in her field.

Cynthia heads the Amboseli Trust for Elephants at Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. She has been studying elephants for 40 years and hers is the longest-running elephant research project ever.

More recently, we became a supporter of Vicki’s project with Cynthia to study what effect the terrible 2009 drought will have on Amboseli’s elephant individuals and families over the next five years. The drought and poaching together killed about 400 of 1,550 elephants during that period, profoundly affecting the entire elephant population in the park.

Thirty-one matriarchs out of 62 families died during the drought.

What’s really important to understand is that the older, more experienced females know where to go for food and water, how to manage the social order, how to detect threats and keep their families safe. Elephants in families that have experienced leaders are healthier so they also tend to reproduce more often and their offspring are more likely to thrive.

When a mature female herd leader is lost, the rest of the family suffers.

Knowing how elephant families cope with the loss of the matriarch gives us a better understanding of how to protect them. For example, we can learn where elephants in the park go when they are under stress and what potential for elephant-human conflict might arise.

The good news is that in 2010, the rains returned, food became more plentiful and the elephants regained their health.

New matriarchs took over the lead and social structures were renewed. Today, Amboseli is experiencing a baby boom, with 150 elephant calves born over the last six months, with more on the way.

Cynthia and Vicki have a lot of work to do studying these newborns and they couldn’t be happier.

-- FO

Watch this video and the other videos we’ll be posting from these two great champions for elephants and then help us support their vitally important projects by donating online.

Also take a moment to say “No!” to the illegal elephant ivory trade and sign our petition on

Comments: 1

3 years ago

Stop transporting defenseless butterflies, they are voiceless, farms that raises butterflies for a business sell butterflies to people about $10 dollars for one butterfly, people buy these defenseless butterflies for a show, for example any ceremonies such as a wedding, a memorial service and many other ceremonies......These butterflies are transported in an envelope, when they are released they are injured, and fall to the ground, they may fly near by and die, they are not in their own environment and can not live........These breeding farms should be stopped for endangering defenseless butterflies...Some States have already banned the transport of butterflies.....Butterflies are fragile and should not be handles........They feed on milkweed which is poisonous to humans, they have learned to take in milkweed as a protection, unfortunately, humans are still using butterflies for pleasure...........leave the butterflies alone. Fight for the defenseless butterflies, be an advocate for the butterfly, they are beautiful and should be respected, they are a part of nature, not to be captured and mis-handled and left to die..........

This is the same for all creatures whales and elephants etc.....

3 years ago

ik steun de organisatie al door elke maand een bedrag af te laten schrijven ze doen goed werk

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Senior Advisor to the CEO on Strategic Partnerships & Philanthropy