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Marcia was part of the so-called MA family, first sighted and photographed on March 26, 1975 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants. The MA family was a small herd with three adult females: Mariana, the matriarch, Mabel – the next oldest, and the youngest Marcia, just a teenager then, born around 1960.
The rains failed in 1976 and as a result there was a terrible drought in Amboseli, Kenya. Many elephants died that year particularly young ones. Fortunately good rains fell at the very end of the year and continued into 1977. The MA family flourished and grew over the next three years. During 1977 and 1978 only seven calves were born to the population, but there was a real baby boom in 1979 with over 50 calves born. Mariana was the first in her family to have a calf that year, and in December Marcia had a son, who was eventually called Mick. Conditions continued to be good for the Amboseli elephants and many of them had short calving intervals. The females who gave birth in 1979 gave birth again in 1983. Marcia had another son in February 1983.
In 1984 there was another serious drought and many more elephants died. That year Marcia and both of her calves died. She was suspected to have been speared by the Maasai who were fighting for the same food resources as the wildlife. Her ’83 calf died as the result of Marcia’s death.
Even today, Amboseli elephants are increasingly under threat due to environmental pollution and shrinking wild land as humans rapidly encroach on their migratory corridors and habitats. As a result, cases of human-elephant conflict are on the rise. Encroachment has been described as the greatest danger to elephant conservation because it is slow and silent, yet as deadly and irreversible as a poacher’s bullet.
Text: Cynthia Moss & International Fund for Animal Welfare
Photo credit: Amboseli Trust for Elephants