Loss of a matriarch


Save The Elephants

Date Published

It is with immense sadness that we announce the death of one of our most beloved and well known wild elephants, a gentle and extremely intelligent matriarch called Generosity (35) who was the leader of one of the Virtues sub-families and a mother to a four year old calf.  She was found lying on her side in a remote part of the Samburu National Reserve in a pitiful state, yesterday morning struggling to breath and unable to get up.  On close inspection it was noted she had a badly infected wound in the back of her right front leg – apparently a bullet wound that was likely the result of Human/Wildlife conflict. Her death is believed to have been caused by the associated infection  spreading through her body.  

A team from the Save The Elephants alongside rangers from Nasuulu and Samburu Conservancy and the Kenya Wildlife Service did all they could for Generosity, trying to get her on her feet before resigning to the fact that nothing could be done. She was frightened by the presence of people, but calmed after we poured water on her to keep her cool. We did all we could to comfort her while we waited for KWS to euthanise her. In the end this gentle giant succumbed to her injuries, dying in front of us before KWS arrived.  A team from Save The Elephants are conducting a search today to find her herd  – no doubt bewildered by the loss of their leader – and to check on her infant. Generosity’s sister, Mercy, will undoubtedly take over the family. Fortunately, Generosity’s calf is weaned off milk and should be old enough to survive without his mother and remain with the rest of the herd.  We will of course keep a close eye on the new orphan.
Conflict with people was no stranger to Generosity. Easily recognisable due to her sharp downward pointing tusks (removed by the KWS after she died to deter poachers) and a large cut on her right ear, shortly after she was identified in 1997, STE witnessed her walking gingerly through the park holding her trunk up. After close inspection, we found the tip of her trunk had been freshly cut off, likely from a snare, yet she managed to soldier on.  In 2006 her mother, Grace, was killed by herders after she struck a cow in conflict for water during a drought similar to the one we are experiencing now.  After the loss of Grace, Generosity took over the family at a young age, but was a strong leader taking care of her sisters and keeping her family close. Generosity was matriarch of the Virtues for the past decade.
Human/wildlife conflict has been extreme this year in the Samburu National Reserve amid a prolonged drought that has not abated (you’ll remember the poor bull elephant that was shot in the park last week whom we are still monitoring). Unfortunately, wildlife and livestock are attracted to the same small patches of land that received rain, which can lead to problems and in some cases unnecessary elephant deaths.

As Generosity lays dying in the heat of the African sun, a team from STE and the Samburu and Nasuulu conservancies try to cool her down with water (c) jane wynyard

George Wittemyer, Chairman of the STE Scientific Board pours water over Generosity to keep her cool as she lays dying in the African sun …May 16 2017 (c) jane wynyard

Generosity just minutes after dying …. May 16 2017 (c) jane wynyard

George with Generosity moments after she died…. May 16 2017 (c) jane wynyard

A KWS ranger with Generosity’s tusks which were removed shortly after she died to deter poachers …. May 16 2017 (c) jane wynyard