Kenya: World Renowned Elephant Matriarch Dies in Amboseli

The Unforgetable Echo

The Unforgetable Echo

World renowned Amboseli National Park elephant matriarch, Echo, has died from what the Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) believes to be a combination of old age and the long 3-year drought that has left this southern Kenya wildlife preserve dry and with little to offer in terms of food.

Echo died at 2pm on Sunday, 3 May 2009. She had collapsed on Saturday morning and had remained down for more than 24 hours, unable to get up, until she eventually died. “ATE staff Katito and Robert stayed with her the whole time”, Cynthia Moss, who learned of Echo's death while on a fundraising trip in the US, told WildlifeDirect on Monday, 4 May. Moss has suspended her US trip to travel to Kenya to be with the sorrowful staff at STE and to observe how Echo's family will deal with this sudden loss.

When Moss identified Echo for the first time in 1973, the elephant's family consisted of 7 members. At the time of her death, 36 years later, Echo was the leader of a family of 40 elephants that roamed the Amboseli plains in the shadow of the majestic Kilimanjaro.

Echo is perhaps the most famous wild elephant in the world after her appearance in various films the most memorable being her 1993 debut in the film Echo of the Elephants produced by the BBC Natural History Unit and narrated by world famous elephant researcher Cynthia Moss with BBC's Martyn Colbeck behind the camera. Echo appeared in the films sequels now popularly known as the ‘Echo Trilogy’.

The ‘Echo Trilogy’ includes Echo of the Elephants (1993), Echo of the Elephants: The Next Generation (1996), and, the most recent, Echo of the Elephants: The Final Chapter (2005). Most recently, Echo has appeared in the film about Martyn Colbeck's work called An Eye for An Elephant.

According to Moss, the loss of Echo will be very disturbing for her elephant family.

“For all of them, except for her sister Ella, Echo was the only leader they have ever known”

says Moss in a communication to WildlifeDirect also posted in the ATE website. Moss will be observing how the elephants handle the transition from Amboseli, Kenya.

Echo was of great value to science. Moss says

“For us on the Amboseli Elephant Research Project she has been an invaluable research subject providing us with insights into elephant behavior, leadership, communication, social relations and intelligence”. But Echo was not just a research project. “She was more than that. She was a daily presence, almost a companion to all of us. She gave us joy and filled us with wonder”

For all those who knew Echo, this is indeed a great loss. Dr Paula Kahumbu asked readers of the blog Baraza to light a candle for this magnificent mother, while Joyce Poole and Peter Granli remembered the moments they spent with Echo while studying elephant vocal communication on their blog at Elephant Voices.


  • Poor elephant!

  • Anne

    Another report said that Echo languished for two days, and this begs the question why did they allow her to suffer, instead of being given the dignity of a humane death?

  • I mourn her passing like that of a dear friend. Thanks for the memories.

  • @Anne, Echo collapsed on Saturday and died on Sunday, that would sound like two days. Naturally, once old elephants collapse, they may never get up and they mostly die of starvation after some days. Echo’s wait for her final breath was short.

  • Sauda

    May her soul rest in eternal peace. Condolence to the family and the WILDLIFE society at large especiall the one’s who were with her on her last breath.

  • The passing of Echo was a really sad moment for me having enjoyed conducting game drives in this park for a couple of years and showing my clients our “cousin”
    Echo because of her intelligence to lead a family.
    I remember with nostalgia after heavy rains in 2007 how she managed to group all elephants in one big family as it was very flooding.
    We will miss her but am sure her successor will lift up the mantle.REST IN PEACE ECHO.

    Michael KARIMI.

  • Kaz

    I have seen all the documentaries on this awesome mother, leader – Echo. I watched last night the documentary of when she passed and how things were and are – of course I cried my eyes out ….again. God Bless Echo and her wonderful family. Also, God Bless all at ATE for their work.

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