Echo: An Elephant to Remember

Echo, the remarkable matriarch of a family of elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, was most studied elephant in the world, the subject of several books and documentaries, including two NATURE films. For nearly four decades, elephant expert Cynthia Moss, and award-winning filmmaker Martyn Colbeck were on hand to record the trials and triumphs of Echo and her family, documenting the intense loyalties and deep caring that are so fundamental to all elephants, creating a moving record of a life we all can share.

Echo died of natural causes at the age of 65 in May of 2009, leaving the family she had cared for and guided for so long to face the worst drought ever recorded in Amboseli on their own. It was a final test of the years of Echo’s leadership. Had she taught them all they would need to survive without her? Could her wisdom continue to provide for them even after her death?

With rich archival footage and warm recollections, Moss and Colbeck share their memories of Echo and her family as they follow the fortunes of Echo’s family during the drought. Echo is shown caring for her newborn son, Ely, who overcame the crippling condition he was born with thanks to her patience and extraordinary perseverance. Echo is also shown making a heartbreaking decision to abandon her mortally-wounded daughter, Erin, in order to save Erin’s young calf, Email. Moss and Colbeck have especially fond memories of Echo’s mischievous baby daughter, Ebony, whose playful nature was so endearing to them both. And they marvel as they recall Echo’s rescue of Ebony when she was kidnapped by a rival clan, remembering it as one of the defining moments of her leadership.

Happily, Echo’s legacy lives on. Though other elephant families suffer devastating losses, her family is able to survive the drought, retaining her wisdom for future generations, keeping her memory alive.

  • Jill Ryan

    I am always amazed by the love that is shared by animals. People that don’t see it or understand that there is profound love between animal mothers and offspring are truly sad.

  • Jack

    …..aww lol thats all i got to say…..

  • Gwendolene

    The love and leadership these elephants show for one another if extrodinaary, they weep, show sorrow and hurt when a loved one is harmed or dead, They rally around the new borns to protect them from predators, and have no fear when it comes time to protect the ones they love.
    Echo will be dearly missed by the entire herd and yet the wil continue on with her legacy. May she rest in peace and I hope her clan can continue her enduring love for each other and remember what she has taught them ove the years. I choose to ignore the comments by folks who think it’s humerous to have such an endurig love for such a magestic and loving animal. I’ll say a special prayer for this wonderful elephant who gave her all. R.I.P. DEAR FRIEND.

  • Richard Odom

    I heard about this show, but thought it had already aired. Will 10/17/10 be the first time it airs? I ask because if there is a video/DVD of it, I would like to see it. I have the first two, and have watched them many times, always seeing something new.
    Also, I asked about adoption. Do you respond to such questions?

  • MonikaC

    I’ve been following the story of Echo and her family. I’ve enjoyed this unofficial series. These elephants who care and nurture their fellow family members is a wonderful thing to see and a death in the family is always a sad thing.

  • John Fitzpatrick

    If Echo was a human, she would be a Mother Theresa, Jackie Kennedy or Eleanore Roosevelt type, a leader, a doer, someone very important.

  • Anthony Evans Jr.

    I have a great love for these massive animals. They are so beautiful, smart and have strong family ties. This was a great show and very informative. Please do more shows of elephants in the future. Thank you for all!

  • richard odom

    The behaviorist arguments about whether animals can think or feel lose much of their relevance when watching the films of Echo the Elephant, especially this last one. The devotion they have toward one another, the way they settle differences without violence (except for the ageless battling of two bulls in “must” over a female in estrus, and even then the loser leaves, usually without injury), and particularly the problem solving skills elephants acquire throughout their life, even from tragedy, and pass on to their progeny, are all evidence of an abundance of a strong and varied emotional life, together with the growth and sharing of cognitive strategies. Echo’s decision to leave her daughter Erin in order to save the calf’’s life (Erin could n ot care for him or teach him survival skills while dying of blood poisoning), must have been so difficult. But Echo, after staying close to Erin and returning frequently to see how she was doing, came one last time, and spent long moments with Erin, tusking with her, and standing close to her, while at the same time gently pushing away the calf’s trunk each time he tried to suckle (which caused Erin so much physical pain). Whether it was for that reason, or because Echo was preparing the calf for his upcoming separation from is mother (or both), is impossible to determine. But Echo’s decision to take the calf with her when she left was probably made by then. Echo leaving Erin alone to die by herself was sad but necessary, so that the 20 month old calf could be given all the help possible, and he had to bond totally to the rest of her family if he were to survive. Elephant calves orphaned that young usually die, but this one did live. Such a difficult decision is not easy to make, even for humans, but Echo made it with love, compassion, and decisiveness, the way she made so many of her decisions.
    I was concerned about Enid, and it sounded like she survived, as the narrator said no adults in Echo’s family died. But I know some calves did. I fear that Enid’s was one of them. Her almost paralyzing grief over her mothe’rs (Echo) death did not bode well for the calf’s survival. I was also wondering about the life loving Ebony, but when I saw her gently plant her tusk on Martin’s camera (she used to butt it as a calf), I knew she had made it. Sadly, though, she lost two calves. The film covered so much ground, in terms of giving background, showing the effects of the drought (especially among the scattered family), and bringing us up to date. The writers, crew, the caretakers of the Ambelosi project, everyone did such a terrific job bringing us this wonderful, bittersweet account of almost forty years of study of and relationship with, an enlightening and endearing family of elephants led and taught by their leader, a very special being, Echo the elephant. Thank you all.

  • angela

    Ivory that sits in warehouses should be sold and they could use the money
    to dig wells that could feed man made pools so they always have water. also they should use the money to make wells that could run irigation on the land to grow grass for the elphants.
    Putting that much ivory on the market would keep poachers from getting a lot of money for killing these beautiful animals. and it would be like the elaphant didn’t die in vain.

  • cherie teague

    This story was very moving and I will bet no one watching could keep the tears back. How anyone could kill them for their ivory will never be understood by me. China must be stopped from buying. They are our largest living animals on land and must be saved. Also wondered why when there was such a draught that no one brought in bales of hay. Seems like that would have helped some. Water is the main factor but having enough food would greatly have helped. May the herds keep living and all poaching stopped. Thanks for such a great story.

  • Ljb

    I thought Ely was just too big and needed to stretch out his legs,,,He was not actualy crippled

  • peacequiet

    I have all the available Echo DVD’S.
    I cry when I see them struggle.
    These giant beautiful creatures are so like us..they love,they grieve,they go on.

    My heaven just has to have animals in it.

  • John Helt

    The best that Nature has to offer, …..WOW, how great was Echo, and the people who love and care for these great

  • Trina

    I’m watching the rerun on WLIW TV (channel 21 in NY)…. amazing. Beautiful filming.

  • Robbie

    The story of Echo and her family resonated deeply for me and my husband. It touched our hearts and souls. Such beautiful, magnificent, loving creatures. I have always been fascinated by their gentle natures and fierce family connections. Could someone tell me why then, was Echo left by her family members, when she was clearly in distress? Though so very heartbreaking, it is “understandable” (by the laws of the jungle) when Erin is left alone during the drought, to protect her young son, but is it the norm to leave dying members otherwise? (Isn’t Erin the one who came running back for Ely?) Seeing Ely stand up was so gratifying. Watching Echo and Erin caress and rub tusks together was such a beautiful experience. I cried happy and sad tears all through out.

    I agree with the poster above who wants to use illegally and immorally obtained ivory tusks and put it towards some good use for the Elephant society at large. If the elephants need help, why not create help create more favorable environments for them? Now that we know how dire things are when there is a drought, why not use donations for hay or something else they can subsist on. Those elephant territories need to be protected or we will soon be without these wonderful creatures.

  • Mark Vogler

    what an amazing story! I was so moved. I was also shocked to see how bad the drought was and that in one scene there was virtually no snow on Kilimanjaro! It’s scary to see what we are doing to the environment. I was at Amboseli in Jan 2001 right after 911 – and at the end of the short rains. I was the only person at my camp because of the scare of terrorist camps on the Somali boarder, but I went anyway and was luck to have a chance to get up close and personal with some of the elephants. I wonder if any where from Echo’s family? Anyone know who could identify them in pictures?

  • austin rebholz

    wow i love animals expeshally these ones these r my favorite animals

  • laird schaff

    Echo and family were amazing to. Stick together more than human familys I cried when she died! That was so sad!she was wise! Compassinate! And very caring. I belive animals are very smart, and arw amazing leaders. Laird Schaff

  • Alice

    Thank you! Tonight is not the first time I’ve watched Echo’s legacy, it just meant a little more this time.

    If only the women of the human race banded together or cared as much for their own what a world this could be.

    Anyone who abuses or murders any animal for personal gain should be dealt with severely, including seperating them from their families permanently, confiscating their personal assets, and forcing them to serve animals for the remainder of their lives. People who purchase these products should suffer the same fate. Fines and incarceration do not work, they will only return to repeat their behavior once the fine is paid or they are released.

    Thank you once again for your dedication to these spectacular animals.

  • Cedric Tollemache

    In the 70s in South Africa they did what many of you “animal lovers” recommend here. In times of drought they dug waterholes and provided fodder for the wild animals in the Kruger National Park—the results were disasterous. The animal herds gathered near the water holes and didn’t disperse into the Bush. The Elephant soon trampled all the trees and the herds ate all the grass, leading to enviroment destruction and severe erosion. Diseases like rinderpest, foot and mouth disease etc exploded as the herds were nearby to one another and the sick infected the healthy. The dung concentrations posoined the water and the nearby land. Thousands died from these plagues and from starvation. The predators had a field day with all their prey concentrated like that so their numbers exploded, the quality of the herds deterioated so be very careful with the “easy” bleeding hearts “solutions”. It is far more complex than you simpletons think with your bleeding heart solutions that make things far worse than the primary drought problem. Nature and Survival of the fittest require periodic severe times to sustain the health of the herds and ensure the survival of the fittest. We have learnt this here in America too with the miraculous improvement to fauna and flora, the reduction of soil erosion etc that the return of wolves to our national parks has facilitated. Live and learn—the “Ah lets help them” mantra is often the worst corse of action. Don’t propose solutions to a problem you know nothing about except emotionally

  • Lynn

    I was so moved by this amazing story of Echo. Thank you for bringing us this amazing story of this smart, courageous and loving elephant. She will be missed by all.

  • Janine engelman

    Incredible examples of leadership, love, wisdom and sacrifice. Humans should take a lesson from Echo.
    Echo truly a leader among many species. Amazing.

  • Eve

    Echo is such an amazing elephant i want her memory to live on forever R.I.P ECHO

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  • margaret redviers

    I wish there was a leader in Washington who could have the same dedication to his/her nation as Echo had to her herd…

  • Hillary

    I really like ECHO and all the family of the elephants.
    From a 7 year old gir; named Hillary.

  • Karin Silas

    Elephants ARE what people should be….. I wish I were an elephant and lived in an elephant family….they are the true human beings.

  • Marie Johns

    Unfortunately i happened by channel 7 PBS and saw the film about the drought and the dying elephants. I think it is a disgrace to film elephants in extreme distress and starving and not do anything to help them. The people who film these elephants drive Range Rovers and other expensive vehicles, use very expensive camera equipment to film their misery and pain and yet make no effort to help them in any way. I find this extremely appalling, horrible and cruel. Surely there are organizations and very wealthy individuals who would be more than willing to provide help in the form of food, water, etc. to help these wonderful, intelligent creatures over a bad drought. I know you can’t save them all but surely they can save some of them.

    I think this is in very bad taste to watch these majestic herds of intelligent elephants starve and drop dead and do nothing but film them in their pain and misery and make absolutely not one effort to help them in any way.

  • alain kardos

    Hi Marie, I could not agree with you more ! These people call themselves scientist first and foremost they are human beings who should show compation like the elephants do towards each other. The pictures were very disturbing having to watch the baby elephant trying to get up on his front legs if he had not succeeded they would have let him die!! Shame on our species that seems to destroy everything we touch including climate change that create the droughts that other species suffer thru and we film their demise !!!

  • Pip Brant

    When I was watching Ely’s determination, I was reminded by my baby goats’ legs that would come out wildly misshapen and in a day or two miraculously straighten out. The cool thing was the Elephants knew that this happens and it was worth it to stick it out. The bones are very soft when they are in the mother, but even without splinting, they will straighten out. Admittedly it is frightening to see the crippled legs for the first time.


    Thank you for making these scenes possible, without interfering with the surroundings.

  • Rose Reed

    I agree with both Marie, and Alain. Also, I can’t begin to understand their LOGIC, of how and why they could watch Erin suffer, and die, when they SAID that they intervened with medical care for Erin, because her wound was caused by MAN with a spear as opposed to ‘natural cause’… so, when it became infected, WHY did they not intervene, and re-treat her??? Echo was incredibly smart, and incredibly intuitive, and ‘felt’ these researchers were ‘family’. Surely, she sensed if not witnessed these research scientists had intervened and treated Erin initially… who knows… maybe Echo ‘hugging and soothing’ Erin was Echo telling Erin: It’ll be okay. I’ll take baby boy to feed, and check on and tend to the rest of the family while you stay here and relax, and let them take care of that wound again. We will take care of the baby, and you join us when you feel better.. then, wondered where she was, and why she hadn’t come to find her and her son, so returned two months (?) later, a bit confused and concerned that Erin hadn’t sought them out…. only to return to where she had left her to realize that the caress she came upon, was Enid’s remains, confused why the researcher ‘family’ didn’t help her like they had before. Might sound melodramatic, but still…. that’s what it felt like to me. Broke my heart for ALL of them, and absolutely disgusted with the researchers. That same researcher that said to the cameraman, “Don’t film this, it’s horrible to watch…:” when Eli was born and struggled to learn to walk!! UGH!

  • Lisa

    I was amazed by the dedication Echo showed to the well being of her herd. Thank you so much for sharing this with the world. Poaching is something that needs to be STRONGLY addressed and HARSHLY dealt with. Bless you all do taking care of this magificent animals.

  • Catherine H

    I am watching a replay of “Echo: An Elephant to Remember” yet again. I never tire of this particular episode of Nature. I can honestly say that Echo is by far the strongest and finest woman I have ever had the privilege of learning about. I do not care if people find that strange for me to speak of an animal with such heart felt fondness.Our world was such a better place with her in it. What an amazing creature! Elephants have always fascinated me; every time I learn of another slaughter for their ivory it brings tears to my eyes. What a wonderful program–it is an honor to be able to sit in my living room and watch their live stories unfold! When the male calf–little Ely- that was born a bit “unsteady” with his legs-finally stood up and was “rewarded with his drink”–did you see the look in the little guys’ eyes?? How about when the other calf was kidnapped, and Echo gathered up her clan and took the calf back? Bless all the ladies–and other staff–at Amboseli for bringing us this incredible story! I know I was deeply saddened by the death of Echo–I can only imagine the heartbreak and incredible loss felt by all the staff. Echos’ family (as shown in the program) was profoundly affected. No doubt Echo imparted her wisdom on enough of her clan so they can carry on, into and through the next generations. Let’s pray that the poaching STOPS forever(naive I know). Rest in Peach, Echo–a true wonder of nature, you enriched my life in so many ways. Now you are the Guardian Angel of Amboseli. You are deeply missed.

  • DoggyMom

    I do not understand why Erin was allowed to suffer so long. Humans intervened when she was wounded to try to save her. But when it was clear that she could not survive, why wasn’t she euthanized? This was animal cruelty by those who claimed to love her.

    And don’t give me that tired, old ‘nature should be allowed to take its course’ argument. We destroy their environments, we hunt and kill them savagely for their tusks, but we can’t intervene to end their suffering? Are you kidding me?!!!

  • MaryAnn

    I am deeply touched by elephants,always moved to tears just by. watching them.It saddens me greatly,all the harm we cause these intelligent, and majestic animals. We have much to be accountable and ashamed of.

  • Marcus tan

    I will miss you echo

  • Halina Bialek

    January 25, 2013

    Look well, therefore, to this day! Such is the Echo salutation of the dawn. Paradise is where Echo will walk…On the edge of the forest live joyfully, without desire…People will miss Echo because they never found that little bit of happiness and never stopped to enjoy…
    Echo is gone…
    In the bulb there is a flower;
    in the seed, an apple tree;
    In cocoons, a hidden promise:
    butterflies like Echo will soon be free!
    In the cold and snow of winter
    there’s a spring that waits to be,
    Unrevealed until its season,
    something God alone can see.
    There’s a song in every silence.
    Seeking Echo and melody;
    There’s a dawn in every darkness,
    bring hope to you and me.
    From the past she will never be forgotton,
    and leaves her mystery,
    Unrevealed until its season,
    something God can only see.
    In her end is the beginning: in our time, infinity;
    In our doubt there is believing; in her live, eternity,
    In her death , a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
    Unrevealed she walks amongst us the memory that will always be.

    In memory of Echo…

    H. Bialek

  • william Harris

    Why not pay some of these poorer African countries to create and maintain a herd of elephants that would b specifically grown and maitained for the nonlethal harvesting of their ivory. These elephants would be registered and like other commodities traceable back to a sustainable source large enough to satisfy demand. This commodity would grow dliterally for decades to adjust to what market there would be thereby reducing the incentive for illegal poaching as potantial harvesting could be licensed and regulated to ensure the elephant would not be sacrificed in the harvesting of the ivory. Wild natural herds would therefore be left as tourist destinations and would still bring other revenues not focused upon the ivory as these other herds would satisify that demand,

  • Inna V

    I am deeply touched by this story, i will miss you Echo the Elephant.

  • betty murphy

    So many many people fell in love with Echo…….AND now add another to the list…my 5 1/2 year old grandson!!!!!! He even has a foto of her alone taped to his bedroom wall!!!!!!! What a very special matriarch and family!!!!!!!! She will always be missed!!!!!

  • Elizabeth

    I thought the two pogams jsut aired on PBS on elephants werer excellent. he film about Echol the mariarch was inpariticular fascinating, and b showing the histor of an entire famil of elephnats gave us a pictue that we don’t usually see. That elephats have bonding and family relationships and histories much like humans was vividly shown an dou effos to save the elephenats from further loss is much needed.

  • Greg Garduno

    As always, Nature does it best. Echo’s marvelous story should be more than just entertainment. My hope is that it will help motivate people around the world to do all they can to stop the horrific mass slaughter of elephants in Africa for their ivory. The fact is that Echo survived to such a ripe old age is now a rarity-no doubt people in China and other big markets for ivory saw this program, and lamented the fact that they weren’t able to kill her and get her magnificent set of tusks so they could be carved up to sit on some rich businessman’s curio cabinet.

    It is past time we saw Nature programs such as this one as portrayals of something distant and far from us. The fact is that soon, many of the creatures we have been so awed by in the decades that Nature has been on the air will very likely disappear from the wild for good. What will this say about humanity? How will our children feel when they find out the animals they see on old televisions shows are all that remains of a once vibrant species? Whether or not these creature survive is in our hands, and our collective conscience.

  • Jackie

    My daughter and I loved this show. Eli’s determination to walk was amazing, as was the fact that he survived. Elephants have been shown to mourn their dead, which shows their higher intelligence. We could learn from them.

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