The dominant Planets family is now reduced to a few young females. Luna split from the last of the Planets and now spends a great deal of time with Alpin, the matriarch of the Flowers.
The surge in poaching over the last several years and the drought of 2009 have left many elephant orphans and disrupted families in Samburu. Some orphans choose to remain with what is left of their disrupted groups, others leave their natal group to attach to unrelated individuals. Still others become drifters, showing some social preference but not fully committing to any one group.
Shifra Goldenberg, a PhD Candidate at Colorado State University working under George Wittemyer, chair of STE’s scientific board, is studying these strategies more deeply. It has become very clear that the social intelligence of these animals affords them resilience in the face of intense periods of disruption. By following their social and reproductive lives, we hope to understand how elephants cope with high rates of mortality and what this will ultimately mean for the population.