In the area known as Lemomo near the international border between Tanzania and Kenya, three of Amboseli's famous female elephants from the Q Family, including Qumquat, her daughter Quantina 13 years old, and another daughter Quaye at just 10 years old, were gunned down by Tanzanian gun-toting poachers on the 28th October 2012.
Tanzania is currently one of the main hotspots for poaching in Africa where there is evidence of collusion between armed Tanzanian poachers and tribesmen in neighbouring Kenya who pass on information about the movement of the famous Amboseli elephant herds.
Traditionally Amboseli elephants migrate into the Kilimanjaro forests within Tanzania and have done so since time memorial, following an ancient migratory route firmly implanted within their mysterious genetic memory. The Amboseli population is the only elephant population in Africa where some elephant families remain naturally intact, led by old and wise matriarchs such as Qumquat, many of whom carry sizeable tusks as do some of the old bulls, such as Ezra who was also senselessly killed, not by poachers but by disgruntled Masai tribesmen demanding more of the tourist revenue from the Park. The famous matriarch known as Qumquat was born in l968 and was one of Amboselis famously identifiable icons. Having been studied for years by the Amboseli Trust for Elephants, she and her family, just 24 hours previously, were photographed together by Big Lifes Nick Brandt, and they were calm and trusting of their human admirers. Quantinas first born calf of just six months old remains missing to this day, but fortunately Quanza, Qumquats latest calf was spared.
Qumquat was the leader of the researchers Q elephant family who carried distinctive beautiful long thin tusks, having matured to become the leader of her family, keeping them safe for over 4 decades. Her baby Quanza, born on the 12th October 2011, was the first to be born following the devastating drought of 2009, which took such a heavy toll on many other species as well. Her baby was given the name Quanza the Swahili word for first. In fact matriarch Qumquat had been successfully treated for gunshot wounds in March 2009 by Dr David Ndeereh the KWS Veterinarian seconded to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts Tsavo Mobile Veterinary Unit.
Qumquat survived that poaching incident and lived on as an international icon with a magnificent and awe-inspiring presence, a lovely gentle nature and wonderful leadership qualities. Dr Cynthia Moss and her team of researchers have monitored the Amboseli elephant population over the past 40 years, meticulously recording all elephant hatches, matches and dispatches, making the elephants the subject of numerous documentaries and films, which have brought world-wide acclaim to Kenya, not to mention increased tourist revenue. Their lives are followed by literally millions of caring people world-wide. The death of each and every one of their number is an appalling indictment on the evil ivory trade and the avaricious greed of humankind.
The brutal killing of Qumquat is a very real loss to the world as a whole and the images of her mutilated face hacked in half by axes to dislodge her beautiful slender tusks, out of which to make a trinket, are particularly shocking. The world needs to ponder the fact that it takes two years to make an elephant and only 9 months to make a man. The appetite for ivory in Far Eastern nations and especially China drives the current poaching epidemic and is decimating Africas priceless elephant herds. Once only the prerogative of the rich, today ivory is affordable to Chinas wealthier masses who also now regard it as a status symbol, and because of this less than 400,000 elephants remain alive in Africa today, whose numbers are falling rapidly. The Forest Elephants of Central Africa are nearing total annihilation, whilst many former Elephant Range States have been left with none at all. What will the International Convention for Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) do to stop this madness when the Parties meet again in Thailand next year? Will they vote to ban all ivory and save the elephants or will they again vote for the greed for money driven by trade which has fuelled the current slaughter?
Qumquats baby Quanza was still standing beside her dead mother when this horrific poaching incident was first discovered. She was located and captured during the afternoon of the 30th October 2012 and flown back to the Nairobi Nursery that evening, arriving after dark, still in good health but understandably very traumatized and wild, understanding full well who murdered her elephant mother and her other family members. She probably even witnessed her mothers face brutally slashed and her beautiful long thin tusks being carried off by the thugs who shot her loved ones.
It took a few days for her to understand that not all humans are evil and in this she has been helped by the other 25 nursery elephant orphans who have been through the same loss, not least little albino Amboseli baby, Faraja who will impart to her the knowledge that she is fortunate to be amongst those few who have been rescued and who have found an alternative family and given a second chance of life, as no elephant orphaned under the age of 3 years can live without access to milk unless conditions are extremely favourable.
Some of those involved in the killing of Qumquat and her family have been arrested with the help of the community of Big Life and unbelievably it was discovered that the culprit had been previously arrested a year before and released. When will the sentencing fit the crime and in this case the loss of such an irreplaceable icon? Deterrent sentencing can go a long way to helping the situation and we sincerely hope this man will be made an example of for what happens to those that rob this country of such a priceless asset - Qumquat and her daughters. We take small comfort in the fact that her genes live on through Quanza and thank all those involved in her safe rescue.
Since Quanza's arrival at the Nairobi Nursery she has become a prominent part of the herd and has made some solid friendships having transformed into a very loving and gentle elephant. Although her emotional recovery has taken time bearing in mind her horrific ordeal, she has made a full turn-around, which is an incredible thing to witness. Having first come into the Nursery in good health, despite being more stressed than most elephants on arrival, Quanza never lost much weight and remained strong during her initial weeks in Nairobi, and she is continuing to grow into a beautiful and healthy young elephant