The Amboseli Elephant Project

The Amboseli elephant population is a cross-border population of African savanna elephants inhabiting both Kenya and Tanzania and frequently crossing the border between the two. According to the content of an urgent appeal published by Elephant Voices, Big Life Foundation and Amboseli Trust for Elephants, the project aims to end trophy hunting in the Enduimet Wildlife Area of Tanzania.

The ecosystem occupied by the Amboseli elephants includes Amboseli National Park and the surrounding conservancies and lands in Kenya, a total area measuring approximately 8000 km2. It also encompasses the Enduimet Wildlife Management Area and beyond in Tanzania. There are currently approximately 2000 elephants using this ecosystem. For 51 years these elephants have been closely studied by the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP). It is the longest, continuously running study in which a number of our colleagues are intricately involved.

The content of the aforementioned appeal confirms that each elephant is known individually, has a code number or name and is documented photographically. “Birth dates for all but a few of the older individuals are known as well as the mother and the family and, in some cases, the father. A detailed database contains records of over 4000 individual elephants identified over five decades, including births and deaths. A linked database houses every recorded sighting. The Amboseli data is an extraordinarily rich and important body of knowledge. Each individual, each record, is a building block that underpins this immense scientific achievement gained over the past half a century. Indeed, much of what we know about elephant behaviour, communication, social structure, demography, reproduction and genetics, has resulted from this study.

There are 63 elephant families in the Amboseli population of which 17 families, consisting of 365 members, regularly spend time in Tanzania. In addition, approximately 30 adult male elephants, over the age of 25 years, use the Enduimet area and beyond in Tanzania as part of their home range. For half a century Enduimet has been a favourite area for a particular set of adult males who make use of it as part of their “bull area”, which is an area they use when they are bulking up for their next reproductively active period. When they are productively active, they return to central Amboseli in search of mates. It is reasonable to assume that any elephant found in this area of Tanzania is part of the cross-border population and has been captured by AERP’s long-term study.”

Concerning Upsurge of Trophy Hunting of Amboseli Big Tuskers

The Amboseli population includes adult males with some of the largest tusks on the continent due to the particular genetic makeup of these elephants (the largest tusks ever collected and displayed in the British Museum come from this population) and to the years of protection, they have been afforded from trophy hunting and poaching.

In 1994 there was an international outcry when four individually known elephants, subjects of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project, were shot by trophy hunters on the Tanzanian side of the border. In 1995 a moratorium on trophy hunting of this cross-border elephant population was agreed upon between the two nations.

The Amboseli Trust for Elephants team has been able to identify one of the males who was recently shot by trophy hunters in Tanzania. According to the team, “He was Gilgil, the son of Golda, matriarch of the GB family. His father was the magnificent Dionysus. At only 35 years old when he was killed, Gilgil was just entering his prime reproductive years. He was the first of three elephants killed, Gilgil in September, another in November, and a third more recently. […] We have been informed that three more hunting permits for elephants have been issued. We are doing everything we can to stop the slaughter of these scientifically, economically, and aesthetically valuable individuals. For us, their most important value is their social and genetic contribution to the Amboseli elephant population”.