In this issue...

 Cynthia asks for your support

Guy Combes Painting
The very-talented wildlife artist, Guy Combes, is generously selling prints of his glorious painting of a huge group of elephants in Amboseli. He is donating a portion of the proceeds of the sale of the original as well as of the prints. 

'Passage of Promise' - Oil on Canvas - 84 x 54

Prints are available in three different sizes. These reproductions are of the highest quality possible, made by the top publisher of fine art reproductions in America - Greenwich Workshop.


A Very Welcome Gift of Binoculars

Norah and Katito testing new binoculars
Katito & Norah try out new binoculars donated by REA

Binoculars are the most expensive and personal pieces of kit we work with. For years, we have shared our binoculars with visitors and trainees who haven't had their own. Now, our friends at Rettet die Elefanten Afrikas e.V. have generously donated three excellent pairs that we can use for visiting colleagues and partners. Thomas Topfer delivered them when he visited the project in September. We thank REA for this generous and thoughtful contribution and their continuing support.

Maasai Community Participation at CITES
Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Natural Resources, Judi Wakhungu (seated right) with community activists at CITES
There were wins and losses at the recent CITES meeting (see main article), and there was also inspiration. As far as ATE was concerned the most encouraging aspect was the representation by Kenya communities, and in particular the Maasai. Amboseli was front and centre with several movers and shakers attending including Chairman of Olgulului-Lolarashi Group Ranch, Daniel Leturesh, representative of the Amboselli Ecosystem Trust, Koikai Oloitiptip, and Chairman of the Kajiado County Wildlife Conservation and Compensation Committee, Jackson Saruni Mwato. Also making important contributions was Dickson ole Kaelo, Chief Executive Officer of the Kenya Wildlife Conservancies Association. They all worked tirelessly getting across the message that there are many ways to benefit from wildlife that do not involve killing. They are firm proponents of #WorthMoreAlive. 
Donation of Radios

Friend of ATE, Mike Minahane, donated four Motorola radio handsets to the project. These radios have come just at the right time and so we particularly appreciate this donation. We will be collaring elephants in next few months for a new study of movements and behaviour of young males and the radios are essential for coordinating the collaring team vehicles and personnel. Thank you, Mike. 

Support for Our Scholarship Program
This month we have been very pleased to receive unexpected and very generous donations for our scholarships from three donors. US Board Member Bruce Ludwig has offered to pay the full scholarship for our newest student, Melok Sontika, a young Maasai man who is influential in the Amboseli community because he is the leader of the warriors. He will be studying for a diploma in wildlife management at the Kenya Wildlife Service Training Institute.

Gladys Cofrin and Dan Logan, who visited us in Amboseli in September, have contributed to our overall program, which includes girls at primary and secondary school and young men and women at university. With the addition of two more girls who will be starting at Top Ride Academy we now have 15 scholarship students. Bruce, Dan and Gladys's donations have made it possible to reach this new milestone. 

We can always use more support for this important program. To donate  Click Here.

Step by Step the Tide is Turning for Animals
France has become the first European country to ban the domestic trade in elephant ivory and rhinoceros horn.
Under the leadership of Environment Minister Ségolène Royal, France has also restricted the import of lion trophies into France and initiated progressive stops to combat wildlife trafficking.
A Victory for Animals in Circuses: 
The City Council in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, voted 8-3 to ban the use of wild animals for entertainment. The law will protect animals from being abused and mistreated in circuses and traveling shows.

The US just announced a ban on the importation of sport hunted trophies of lions killed in captive conditions such as the canned hunting operations in South Africa.

Ways to Support Us
Follow a Family in Amboseli with Elatia

Following the lives of  an e lephant family is endlessly fascinating. We wanted to share this experience with our supporters and so we started a program called Elatia. You can follow the lives of one or all five of Amboseli's Elatia families. For only $30 per year you will receiv e regular updates of stories, photos and videos of your family. 
To learn more about Elatia  go to  This Link.  If you have any problems, Tal has made a tutorial for signing up,  Click Here.   You can also contact her directly if you have any questions on:



Name a Baby Elephant


All the elephants in Amboseli have names once they reach four years old. Before that calves have code names based on their year of birth and their mother's name. However, if a donor wants to name a younger calf like this two-year-old that's possible with our naming program. 

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. For more information write to us at  



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 iGive.

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. 


To learn more about planned giving opportunities, please contact:
Betsy Swart 
tel +1-508-783-8308.
News from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants
September - October 2016

It has been an eventful two months since the last newsletter because of the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) meeting in Johannesburg in October. ATE's US Executive Director, Dr. Betsy Swart and our Scientific Director, Professor Phyllis Lee represented us. This was Betsy's seventh or eighth CITES (she's lost count) and Phyllis's first. It was definitely an eye-opener for Phyllis. She had no idea of the contentiousness that occurs at a Conference of Parties--the politicking, the horse-trading, and the outright deceitfulness of some.
One would think that everyone would want to make the best decisions in order to conserve endangered species but that is naïve. Wildlife trade is a multi-billion dollar industry and unfortunately money is more often the motivating factor in decision-making. It was certainly present at this CITES meeting, but there were some good outcomes. For example, the most traded wildlife species in the world is the pangolin used for both meat and medicine in the East. Its status was lifted to Appendix 1, which affords it the most protection. The African Grey Parrot with dangerously low numbers in the wild due to the pet trade was also given Appendix 1 status.

Elephants on the other hand did not get the votes necessary for all populations to be placed on Appendix 1. Phyllis and Betsy report below on how elephants fared at this CITES meeting.

Cynthia Moss
Amboseli Trust for Elephants

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CITES 2016
By Professor Phyllis Lee and Dr. Betsy Swart

The CITES Convention of the Parties (COP17) was held in Johannesburg from 24 September to 5 October. We present a summary of how elephant survival could be affected in the next few years.
Betsy Swart and Phyllis Lee representing ATE at the CITES COP17

First, let's celebrate the most positive outcome - the FINAL end of the flawed mechanisms that were proposed for establishing a legal trade in ivory. Originally the result of a CITES Standing Committee (the small executive group that influences trade policy between the major conventions) working group and an expert advisory group of pro-hunting and pro-ivory trade southern Africans, the report suggested that a managed trade from natural mortality was possible.

We and many, many others contend that no, we simply cannot sustainably trade in ivory, especially given the massive fall of between 20-30% in elephant numbers over the last 10 years found in both the Great Elephant Census (Link) and the African Elephant Specialist Group report (Link). Indeed, our own research shows that to meet demand based on minimum estimates of ivory going into the current illegal market, the need to "harvest" would rapidly drive healthy populations with a balanced age structure to extinction.

What then of the next proposal to CITES to destroy stockpiles held by range states? Destruction would eliminate the potential for leakage of tusks into illegal markets. Despite consensus reached at a CoP17 working group, the end wording was "disposal" with no mention of destruction. A lost opportunity, very ably contested by the Kenyan delegation as members of the consensus. So there is still the potential for stockpile sales in the future, although the two proposals by Namibia and Zimbabwe to sell their existing stockpiles were roundly defeated. 

But the most significant defeat for the 29 members of the African Elephant Coalition was not up-listing all elephants to Appendix I (no trade) status. Championed by South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe (with backing from Tanzania, DRC and surprisingly the USA, the EU and a number of major conservation organisations), elephant populations in the southern states kept their Appendix II ("possible trade") status. Botswana meanwhile, as the state containing the largest number of elephants left in Africa, voluntarily joined Appendix I. 
Do we want this calf to grow up to be perceived as just ivory on the hoof?
What was the rationale for the lack of support for uplisting? We at ATE find it difficult to understand or justify. CITES takes advice from the IUCN Specialist Groups about population trends, reports of illegal killings, and forensic evidence from seized illegal shipments. All these sources of evidence point to an increase in poaching, more ivory joining the illegal trade routes, and reduced numbers of elephants everywhere in southern Africa except Namibia. Population statistics from one country with approximately 20,000 elephants has thus held all the continent's elephants to ransom or risk of extinction. ATE is convinced that the science behind population numbers and sources of mortality points towards coming increasing threats for southern Africa's elephants rather than complacency and status quo. The decisions appear to us to be political or financial rather than scientific.

Based on past evidence, the missed opportunity to afford the fullest trade protection to elephants will result in further poaching. More resources that could go to community conservation, conservancies, management of negative interactions between elephants and farmers, and development of rural agricultural capacity and livelihoods will have to be devoted to anti-poaching. African states will bear these costs, both financial and in terms of lost ranger lives, to sustain their elephants. As Professor Judi Wakhungu, the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment for Kenya, stated, elephants are worth more to communities and nations ALIVE. ATE strongly supports these statements and we will continue to provide support to our African Elephant Coalition colleagues.

Another proposal that passed encouraged the closure of domestic ivory markets but as CITES deals in international trade it is not binding. The last of the five proposals to CoP17 from the African Elephant Coalition, on abolishing live trade in elephants, has been sent to a further working group to determine whether captivity outside range states can ever provide acceptable and appropriate environments. Meanwhile the (non-commercial) "gifting" of calves, both Asian and African, will continue. 
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Selenkay Conservancy 
A conservancy is land set aside by an individual landowner, body corporate, group of owners or a community for purposes of wildlife conservation (Wildlife Act 2013). Following the enactment of the Wildlife Act, wildlife conservation is now a recognized form of land use.
The conservancy movement in Kenya adds an important addition of protected areas. The first conservancies were established in the early 1970s including the Kimana Wildlife Sanctuary just outside of Amboseli. Others  followed with many more being created in the last 15 to 20 years. There are now 177 conservancies protecting 6,228,028 hectares of land or 10.7% of Kenya. These areas bring benefits to nearly 700,000 people. It is truly a conservation success story.
One of the most important conservancies for elephants is Selenkay Conservancy north of Amboseli. Established in 1997 by Jake Grieves-Cook of Gamewatchers Safaris, Selenkay is a model of good community conservation with the members of the Eselengei Group Ranch receiving substantial benefits in terms of payments and employment.  
The area used to be a wet season dispersal area for elephants, but once Selankay was established and water holes were created near its Porini Camp  (Link) the elephants discovered a near paradise with an abundance of tasty vegetation. First bulls realized there was water year round and eventually some of the females and calves came as well. These days there are several Amboseli families that live more or less permanently in Selankay--the BBs, DBs, MAs, WAs, UAs, VAs, and part of the EBs.
The boys at the Porini waterhole
Recently ATE made two trips up to Selan kay to check out the elephants we rarely see. First Norah and Katito went for two d ays in July, and in October, Phyllis, Vicki and Cynthia went for one night. Both ti mes we were generously hosted by Jake at Porini Camp; their won derful staff made us feel very welcome.

Norah and Katito did better than we did. They man aged to see the BBs, VAs, DBs, MAs and WAs. They recorded new calves and new
ear marks. We managed to see many bulls, most of whom we didn't know, and two small fragments of the LAs and the EBs. The LA sighting was important because we thought the adult female Leila was dead but there she was looking fat and happy.

After an excellent morning out with guide Wilson ole Kasaine we headed back to Amboseli and guess what. In northern Longinye swamp we found about 150 elephants--the BBs, VAs, MAs, WAs and UAs. They had come back to the Park, probably the night before. That's what I love about elephants. They are unpredictable and they probably have a sense of humour. 

A Collar for Tim 
by Cynthia Moss

I first met and photographed the TD family on September 9, 1973. Present were two adult females and five calves. I named the big, old matriarch Teresia, and the second female, who was very likely her daughter, Trista. The others present were two adolescent females and three calves. Eventually they were named as well, including Trista's four-year-old male calf. He became Tim.
Tim was just a little calf with tusks a few inches long in 1973. His family was one of the best known in Amboseli so I was able to follow his life from a dependent calf, to a young male gradually leaving his natal family, to an independent teenager learning and exploring out in the world of the adult bulls, to a progressively more impressive adult bull in his 20s and 30s. I had no idea he would grow up into the magnificent bull he is today at 47 years old.
Needless to say, Tim is very important to me on a personal level. I have been observing him for 43 years. But Tim has also become important to Kenya and the world as an iconic bull elephant with huge, impressive tusks. There are so few of these bulls with large tusks left in Africa because of poaching and sport hunting. Tim's tusks would be a poacher's or a sport hunter's dream. Fortunately and wisely, Kenya banned hunting in 1978. Kenya and I believe elephants are #WorthMoreAlive.

Land use change around Amboseli has brought farmers closer and closer to the National Park and to areas outside the Park that had been elephant range. Tim and his buddies rather like sweet maize and juicy tomatoes and it has been a continuous struggle to keep them out of the farms. Tim has been speared twice by irate farmers and was subsequently treated both times.
Tim in our camp two days after being immobilised: safe and calm

To try to prevent further problems such as these, on September 10 Tim was fitted with a radio collar provided by Save the Elephants. The collar records his movements and position. When he gets near the farms Big Life rangers and 
K WS are able to chase him away. Wildlife Direct is supporting the monitoring.

Interestingly, right after Tim was darted and fitted with the collar he made a beeline straight to our ATE research camp, which presumably he felt was the safest place in the ecosystem. He hung around the camp for a few days before heading back to his usual range.
So far so good. Tim has only been to the farms once and after a bit of hide-and-seek he was chased back toward the Kimana Sanctuary. May Tim live to a grand old age.

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We are just coming to the end of the dry season here in Kenya. In Amboseli there is vegetation remaining and there is year-round fresh, clean water coming from Kilimanjaro so the elephants are still doing well. Nevertheless, we are all looking forward to the renewal the rains bring.
Compared to elephants in many parts of Africa and Asia Amboseli's elephants are very fortunate indeed. They live in relative peace and they are still able to roam over the large ecosystem thanks to the Maasai people and to the benefits that conservancies can bring.
Our work in understanding elephants--their social behavior, their ecological needs, their threats and challenges--plays an important part in their continued conservation. Please help support our goal of keeping the Amboseli elephants wild and free. 

Cynthia Moss 
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