The ‘EB Family’ is one of Kenya’s most prominent elephant families. Diligently studied by Amboseli Trust for Elephants and followed through a series of BBC films, their tragedies and triumphs have captured hearts around the world. Echo, the original matriarch, led the EB family until 2009, when she died of natural causes at the ripe old age of 64. Her legacy lives on through many generations of offspring.
The EB Family is a successful group of elephants, with more than half a century of collective experience to their name. However, even they can fall prey to the threats of our changing world. On 13th June, Amboseli Trust for Elephants (ATE) noted that four members of the EB Family were sporting serious spear wounds. As Kenya grapples with impending drought conditions, competition over resources is high. These four were likely speared as the herd ventured afield in search of food and water.
ATE alerted the Senior Warden of Amboseli National Park, who mobilised a veterinary treatment. Our Amboseli Unit was on leave, but we always have a coverage plan, so our SWT/KWS Tsavo Mobile Vet Unit sprung into action, arriving in Amboseli at midday.
What ensued was a marathon quartet of elephant treatments, racing the setting sun. In the course of a single afternoon, the team treated three generations of the EB Family.
With assistance from ATE, the Vet Unit identified the speared elephants and separated them from the rest of the herd. In the space of a single afternoon, they managed to sedate and treat all four patients. First up was an adult female (daughter of Echo) who had a septic spear wound on her rump. More than one life hung in the balance, as she also had a milk-dependent baby in tow.
The second patient was another adult female (also a daughter of Echo). She had a spear wound on her shoulder.
Next up was the youngster of the group, a four-year-old calf (great-grandson of Echo). He had a spear wound on his abdomen and a penetrating wound on his hind foot. Dusk was fast approaching, but still the team forged ahead.
Finally, they treated a ten-year-old bull (grandson of Echo) for a spear wound on his thigh. At this point, night had fallen, replacing sunlight with headlights. However, this did not deter the team and they were able to complete the treatment.
Dr Limo is optimistic that all four patients will make a complete recovery, but it is likely they will need follow up treatments. We are incredibly grateful to KWS and ATE, who raised the alarm and provided vital assistance throughout the treatment.
Every successful field veterinary treatment is cause for celebration, but this particular afternoon felt particularly poignant. Family is everything to elephants. Following the EB Family through the decades — or any elephant family, for that matter — is testament to that fact. This is a species who will walk to the ends of the earth for their loved ones. This afternoon, we were able to provide a lifeline to four elephants in an effort to keep an iconic family together.