Date Published

NAIROBI, THURSDAY 18 JANUARY 2018:  Save The Elephants reported today that for the first time it has turned to Canada for a name of one of its female elephants, a first-time mother who lives in Kenya’s Samburu Reserve. The elephant has been named Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and is the latest elephant to be inducted in to a herd known as the First Ladies. Grégoire Trudeau is the wife of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau.

Save The Elephants, a leading elephant research organisation which has tracked and monitored elephants in Samburu for the last 20 years, bestows names on elephants to help identify individuals and their families and to better understand their behaviour and intelligence. The organisation also tracks long-distance elephant movement through the use of sophisticated tracking technology and applies this important scientific behavioural data to the challenges of elephant survival.

Naming the elephants after themes such as Flowers, First Ladies and Poets is a tradition started by Dr. George Wittemyer, Chair of the Scientific Board of Save The Elephants. The organisation monitors more than 60 families and 900 individuals and name female elephants once they have delivered their first calf and males once they reach independence.  Bulls are typically named after prominent individuals in the news, such as Usain Bolt. Each elephant also has a specific ID number which details their ancestry and their year of birth. The largest family in Samburu currently is The Artists with 18 members.

In the First Ladies, Rosalynn Carter is the matriarch and leader of Sophie Gregoire Trudeau’s family unit, while Martha Washington leads the broader bond group. Sophie, who gave birth in May 2017 joins Mary Todd Lincoln, Salma Kikwete, Maya Churchill, Cherie Blair and Michelle Obama.

Says Dr. George Wittemyer, “Elephants form deep family bonds and are organized by family groups led by a matriarch. Elephant herds are one of nature’s most intricate, fascinating and complex examples of female-led mammal societies. Being on first-name terms with these elephants helps us better understand their different personalities and behaviour. Crucially it also makes it easier for people to relate to elephants and view them as the exceptional creatures they are.” 

Dr Wittemyer named Sophie in honour of a Canadian television crew which was filming a documentary in Samburu for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s The Nature of Things. The documentary, Mommy Wildest focuses on three animal families where the females rule – elephants, lions and regal baboons. To see a short film about the naming of Sophie, click here.

For more information and images, please contact:
Tanya Onserio
Communications Assistant
Save The Elephants
+254 (0) 727 276 409
[email protected]


About Save the Elephants (

Save the Elephants works to secure a future for elephants in Africa.  Specializing in elephant research, STE provides scientific insights into elephant behaviour, intelligence, and long-distance movements and applies them to the challenges of elephant survival. Through our thriving education and outreach programmes, we reach out to hearts and minds, making local people the true custodians of their own rich heritage. Our human-elephant conflict mitigation projects, especially beehive fences, have reduced the number of crop-raiding incidents, and provide farmers with elephant-friendly alternative sources of income. To battle the current surge in ivory poaching, our Elephant Crisis Fund is identifying and supporting the most effective partners in Africa and in the ivory consuming nations to stop poaching, thwart traffickers and end demand for ivory.