The Butterflies. The swahilis. The Acacias and the Artists. The Spice Girls and the Native Americans. Mothers, daughters, aunts and sisters all. These are some of the names by which we have come to know many of the 66 families of elephants that live in Samburu National Reserve and its surrounding ecosystem. Depending on the rains, these individuals can be joined by up to 500 more, coming together to socialize. This makes Samburu one of the finest areas on earth to see these majestic and threatened animals in their natural habitats.

Elephant Watch Camp is closely connected with Save The Elephants, the conservation charity based a few kilometres downstream from us. Our long and unique engagement between our guides and their researchers means that we are kept up to date with all new births, matings, or changes in the families. It is because of this deep insight that Elephant Watch guests enjoy a far greater understanding of how the animals here interact and of the nuances of their behavior and changing relationships. Over the years we’ve got to know them so well that they feel like part of our social circle.

Depending on how much time the families spend in and around Samburu, they are known either as residents, migrants or sporadics. Cleopatra, and Anastasia belong to the dominant Royal family and are residents. Babylon, Jerusalem and Nazareth, from the Biblical Towns, use Samburu as only part of their range, so are migrants. The Rift Valley Lakes family, with Natron and Turkana, visit only once a year in July and August. They are sporadics.

As well as the families – headed by a single matriarch and consisting of other related females and their young – there are about 120 adult bulls that roam through the Samburu ecosystem in search of food, friendship and females. Unfortunately, with their larger ivory, they are the primary target of poachers. They also tend towards a high risk strategy when it comes to finding food and sometimes detour into farmers’ fields to steal crops, putting them in the firing line of angry villagers who can lose a year’s harvest in one night of elephant crop raiding. Together, these factors mean we have lost many of our most splendid bulls, including Mungu, Picasso, Martin Luther King, and Gorbachev. We miss them dearly.

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