Among the Elephants Blog

Baby Elephants Die
October 9, 2000
by Elizabeth Derryberry

Princeton graduate, Elizabeth Derryberry has recently joined our team up in Samburu for a three month preliminary study in preparation for her PhD. Here are some of her field notes for October:

Sadly, the first thing I have to report is two elephant deaths. Two young calves, a one-year old and about a three-year old, were found three days ago. Both appear to have been killed by lions. Several German tourists reported the carcass of the older calf to us, and when we arrived there were two male and four female lions nearby. They had not begun to feed, but were lying very near the body.

We found the younger calf by the side of the road, the carcass already several days old. Nearby there were signs of a struggle in the sand, with shallow trenches and holes where the calf and lions probably fought. We have yet to determine which families the calves belong to, but will let you know as soon as we do. The photo shows the lion couple that killed the baby elephant resting close by. Baby elephant tusk found An interesting event occurred the day after we found these babies.

When we were leaving the Samburu Lodge, we were stopped by a one of the tour car drivers. He mysteriously handed us a smelly, yellow plastic bag and then drove on. Astounded, we discovered a small tusk (recently removed) inside. After finding the man and asking him some questions, we learned that the tusk came from one of the dead babies. He had noticed it a small distance from one of the babies and thought we might want it. It was great to find that even the drivers in the reserve support our work and are helping us in our every-day collections.

They always tell us when they have found anything elephant related and are quick to answer questions. Save the Elephants obviously has very good relations with this reserve and the community The multiple uses of elephant dung! It is fascinating to see how much other animals in the park rely on elephants. During the drought, it is often difficult for birds to find grass for nesting material. So instead, they often collect and use dry elephant dung for their constructions. Just the other day, we observed a bird perched on a dead tree with a substantial amount of material collected from dung in its beak.

The same day, I took photos of a family of vervets carefully picking through elephant dung in search of goodies. It was funny to watch them fighting over whom had rights to the dung -- it was quite a hot commodity! The amorous dance of the Ostrich The hornbill breeding season is also upon us and in the eastern part of the Park you can find males hopping from one tree to another uttering their strange call. They are not the only amorous animals around. Today, I have twice seen ostriches exhibiting their emotions in their usual funny manner. Once it was a lone male and female, standing face to face, their necks touching with their beaks against each other.

Both had their wings slightly extended and dropped down so that you could see their beautiful plumage. The other time it was a single female surrounded by three males. They were all in the same stance of wings extended and dropped, and none of them moved even though we passed quite close. Obviously an intense conversation was occurring! Another ostrich couple has been quite successful. Over the last few weeks we have several times seen one couple escorting their twelve offspring about the reserve.