The bull known as M10 was one of the first to be photographed and named when the Amboseli Elephant Research Project was started in northern Tanzania in the 1960s. He was a strong bull and 50 years old, when he was killed together with another bull in Nairobi, in 1996. His death led environmentalists to demand tighter security on the Kenya-Tanzania border to prevent poaching.
“Local Maasai elders reported that the elephant was killed around February 15, 1996 when they heard gunshots,” said Cynthia Moss, director of the research project. “There are reports of other carcasses in Longido, northern Tanzania, which if confirmed, make seven out of 29 large breeding bulls dead or missing.” M-10 was found shot dead one kilometre from the border, with his tusks sawed off. The killing of M10 violated a hunting moratorium imposed by Tanzania’s authorities after the December 1994 shooting of three of Amboseli’s virtually tame, breeding elephants. Since the moratorium, no elephant hunting permits have been issued in that area.
Amboseli’s herd, which numbers 920, survived the intensive poaching for ivory during the 1980s, when Africa’s elephant population was reduced from an estimated 1.3 million to around 300,000 today. It is one of the few herds in Africa that are relatively intact, spanning the whole age range from newborn calves to females in their 60s. The group’s social and reproductive patterns are being used as a model for assessing other populations in Africa.
Text: Moyiga Nduru
Photo credit: Amboseli Trust for Elephants