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.
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.
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.
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.
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 IFAW.org.