While hundreds of people were preparing to participate in the Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions on Saturday, a tragedy occurred in Amboseli the morning before. One of the last big Elephant bulls in Africa was shot and killed by the authorities because it was suspected he had killed a farmer. That bull was 49-year-old Little Male, the brother of Eudora and the son of Emily, who was the sister of Echo of the EB family. We have known him since he was five years old, so we have followed his life for 44 years. We watched him grow, become independent from his family, learn the ways of the world of the males, eventually coming into musth and competing for females. He was in his prime, fathering calves, passing on his good genes for robustness, good health and longevity. That important role he was playing in the Amboseli elephant population ended that day
Little Male’s First Conflict With Humans
Cynthia Moss, the founder of the Amboseli Elephant Research project, first met the EBs in August 1973. Little Male, born in 1968, was son to Emily, a female of the EB family group. By 1983 Little Male was spending less than 20% of his time with the family and thus by our definition he was considered independent. He first came in musth on the 6th June 1999 and has been active since then.
Little Male spent most of his time in the Eastern side outside the Amboseli National Park, where conflict is very high due to farming.
On the 6th of September 2008, as Cynthi was driving towards Emali Bridge, she saw three Elephant males walking in the consimilus grass.
She drove up close to them and noticed that one of them [Little Male] was carrying a spear in his trunk. She could tell from a close range that the spear was one of those small-sized spears always carried around by young boys. The other two males [Plato and another young male] were taking care of him. They were getting very close to him and rubbing against him trying to get hold of the spear. There were signs that they had tried to pull it out because the spear had already bent. We have observed such behaviour where elephants try to help each other in such cases.
Cynthia telephoned the Senior Warden, Mr. George Osuri, to arrange for a vet to come. They searched for Little Male for two days on the ground. Richard Bonham of Oldonyo Wuas was also kind enough to assist them by flying around searching for him but Little Male was nowhere to be seen. The idea that he is somewhere with the spear still lodged in his trunk and the fact that he can’t drink or feed, is scaring us that we might lose him. The vet gave up after the two days but informed us to keep him up-to-date just in case we found him. Little male was eventually found and he made a full recovery.
It is times like these that we are tempted to give up but we don’t. It hurts so much, but we have to fight for the other Elephants here including Little Male’s sons and daughters. But we must not forget the death of the farmer. It is a massive tragedy for his family. It is not a question of guilt and innocence here. We must strive for peaceful co-existence between humans and wildlife.
For more information on the the excellent work that is carried out by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants visit here
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