Echo: An Elephant to Remember
Women of the Amboseli Trust

Amboseli Trust for Elephants Team Cynthia, Soila, Nora, and Katito

Amboseli Trust for Elephants Team Cynthia, Soila, Norah, and Katito

Cynthia Moss knew Echo for 36 years. She came to Africa from the United States in 1967 and co-founded the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) with behaviorist and ecologist Harvey Croze in 1972. In 2001, she created the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE). She directs both organizations. Her research has become a major resource for conservation efforts on behalf of African elephants, and her scientific articles and books about them have been widely published. Her work has been featured in several wildlife documentaries, which were co-produced by and appeared as part of the Nature series.

Cynthia and cameraman Martyn Colbeck feature prominently in Echo: An Elephant to Remember, but the documentary begins with the emotional testimony of three researchers on the ATE team, one of whom was at Echo’s side as she died.

Soila Sayialel
“Echo is a very, very special elephant. She is a leader. They trusted her so well.”

Soila was born nine miles from Amboseli National Park. She joined the Amboseli Trust for Elephants as a research assistant responsible for monitoring the elephants. She’s now an ATE Trustee and Deputy Director of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project. In addition to supervising ATE field assistants, Maasai Elephant Scouts, and camp staff, she works closely with government groups, NGOs, and community stakeholders. Soila sits on a number of boards and is an Honorary Warden of Amboseli National Park. She has co-authored several scientific papers and conservation reports.

Norah Njiraini
“I miss her a lot, a lot. I miss her a lot.”

Norah joined ATE in 1985 as a research assistant. She closely monitors and collects data on the Amboseli elephants. As ATE’s training coordinator she passes on her data collection expertise to Maasai Scouts, students of elephant biology, and wildlife managers.

Katito Sayialel
“The last minute she blinked her eyes like this and just looked at me… and then she died.. It’s good one of us was there.”

Katito joined ATE as a research assistant in 1992. She assists PhD and post-doctoral students and visiting scientists in the field to study elephant social behavior, communication, genetics, leadership, cognition, growth, development, and human-elephant conflict. Katito also assists Norah as a trainer in elephant monitoring techniques. Katito was with Echo when she died.

Interview with Soila Sayialel, Trustee and AERP Deputy Director

How did you become a part of the Amboseli Trust?
I first heard of Amboseli Trust in 1985 through a colleague of mine, Norah Njiraini who was working by then with Joyce Pool, a scientist who did work on elephant Musth bull, then elephant communication. I joined Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP) in 1986 September.

What is your role there, and what do you do on a daily basis?
Currently I am Deputy Director and I do field work and also community work, trying to harmonize the relationship between Elephants/Maasai community and Livestock. Also I work with other stakeholders in the entire ecosystem.

What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
The most rewarding aspect of my work is when I or we manage to mitigate conflicts, when we see the Amboseli population increase over the years, apart from last year when the drought affected the population. Also making the Maasai better understand the benefit that elephants can bring to the whole community and mostly getting to know the elephants and their behavior.

What is the most frustrating aspect of your work?
The most frustrating aspect of my work is elephant deaths either caused by humans or the drought, especially when I come across orphans with their mothers dead maybe due to conflict or due to the drought. I feel sad when I remember family members that I used to know and due to death cannot see again. Elephants are my closest friends, and I miss the ones that are dead.

Would you recommend this job to others?
There is no other job close or that can be compared to what I am doing. Some people might think I am insane, but I am very smart, since I cannot work in an office day in, day out. Life would be very boring to me. But I love my job, I love being with elephants. They are magnificent creatures.

What makes Echo “an elephant to remember” for you?
Echo the elephant will not be forgotten ever. She was and she is a celebrity. She was a true Matriarch to her family. We all miss her, and mostly she has been missed by her family.

Can you recall any ways in which Echo or other Amboseli elephants have surprised you?
Family coordination by Matriarchs, how they manage to control family members and also how tight families are bonded. How they know us by smell, voices and vehicles that we use.

What are your hopes for the future of the park?
The park will have a future when all stakeholders get together and secure space for wildlife and mitigate conflicts, but if nothing is done then there will be no Amboseli in the coming future.

To learn more about the Amboseli Trust for Elephants scientists, staff, and trustees visit http://www.elephanttrust.org/node/274

  • Janet in Cambridge

    I love these women!!

  • Rachelle S

    A very touching program. Elephants are truly brilliant and amazing. I applaud these women and their important work!

  • Joan

    Thank you for allowing us into the lives of these extraordinary animals. What a wonderful love story between man and an elephant called Echo and her family. You probably have helped millions of people to understand better and fall in love with these amazing creatures. The world is a lesser place when an animal dies. Echo and her family’s life was extraordinary. RIP Echo, Erin and all the others until we meet again.

  • beth

    i cryed real tears with you all. thank you beautiful women for what you do, and for sharing it with us.

  • ARNAVAZ KAPADIA

    I have visited AMBOSILI and realise what beautiful work you are doing wit our beloved ELEPHANTS

  • jane

    the story, the film, the journey over time. this majestic force of old spirits. in a place so godly . a dream to work in such intimacy. to connect with nature on such a deep level, i would be complete. echo. the breaths you left in the end, will spread far and bring good to all places in dust and wind. you hold deep secrets of earth & existence
    with your every step, every sniff & every flap, call, and song. you made this world a better place. rest in peace for all the permanent good you lifted. thank you Cynthia Moss ,Harvey Croze,Martyn Colbeck,
    Soila Sayialel,.Norah Njiraini ,Katito Sayialel, and all the others for making 40 years indelible. if i could ever offer resource i wouldn’t hesitate a second.

  • Eve

    I’ve watched the program twice now, and both times it made me smile, and brought me to tears. Their sensitivity, and intellegence is surprising, and wonderful. I wish more people could be made aware of their special place in the world…so, “we” would stop persecuting them.

  • William Alonso

    I would like to touch an Elephant.In my home state of Tennessee they have a sanctuary for Elephants

  • Debra Gore

    Cynthia: I love your books and films about the work you have done. I truly believe that Africa is where I belong, but have not yet found my calling or a way to get there to help with elephant research and protection. It is my lifetime dream to do so.

    Are volunteers or research associates needed at the Amboseli Trust? I have a BS degree in Natural Resources Conservation from UW Madison and would love to help! Please let me know how I may be able to do so.

    Sincerely,

    Debra

  • Naomi

    Dear Women of the Amboseli Trust,

    I am merely a high school student but I am immensely touched by your work. I was crying out of joy and sadness through the whole episode on Echo and her family. What you all do every day for these elephants is absolutely extraordinary. Before watching this video elephants were my favorite animals, and now they are even more so my favorite! They are so humane it amazes me!

    I am grateful for people like you. You all make the world so much better, you let everyone see the true elephants. Thank you so much for sharing these intimate videos with everyone, especially with me. It has always been a dream of mine to go to Africa, and maybe someday my parents will let me!

    It’s strange to think that elephants should be the role models of so many people, but isn’t it true? This episode on Echo and her family show just that. May Echo and any of the other’s who past live in peace and I hope they know that they (and all of you), will be in my heart forever.

    Sincerely,
    Naomi

  • nick krakana

    Dedicated to the memory of dear Echo

    The Heart of an Elephant

    I watched the elephant show today
    And seeing all the love they had to convey
    I wished the world could be like they

    The heart of an elephant is special one
    Full of love and muddy fun

    Please don’t shoot them anymore
    And sell their ivory on a foreign shore
    An elephant’s memory is a precious one
    Remembering the knife and the gun

    The elephant angels that I see
    So plainly here on my TV
    Send messages to you and me
    Across the miles that’s what I see

    Kindness is the key from when we are wee

    But oh that an elephant sees the heart
    In a family of love never to part
    We do have much to learn in turn
    From the ways of an elephants heart

    Nick Krakana
    Timmins Ontario
    Canada

  • Catherine H

    I am sitting in my living room watching “Echo: An Elephant to Remember” again–and I am reading the comments from other viewers. First I must say Thank You to all the staff of Amboseli. You make it possible for me to watch the program–to learn, cry, laugh. I am so grateful you brought the story of Echo into my life. What a remarkable lady Echo was. I know I cry every time I watch this show–how on earth could you bear the pain of her death? I tell myself that you at least get to watch the rest of her family live on. Echo lives on in me–what I wouldn’t give for the privilege of “touching her tusks”:! I have always wanted to work as a volunteer on some type of wildlife refuge or rehab park/reserve in Africa. So I guess you are all living my dream.! The contributions that Echo-and the staff of Amboseli have made to this world are so great–beyond words. I just read the poem in the comment above from Nick in Canada–obviously so many peoples’ hearts and lives were touched. I will stop talking now and simply say Thank you for sharing Echos’ story with me. I am forever grateful–and SO GLAD that Echo was not alone when she died. Rest in Peace, remarkable creature. Now if humans could only act like you -even part of the time–think of how much a better place the world would be.

  • Therese burchianti

    BEAUTIFUL! SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL :)

Produced by THIRTEEN    ©2014 THIRTEEN Productions LLC. All rights reserved.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.