Born in 2002 to later a family matriarch Libby, Likzore was a member of the so-called LC family, who were first sighted and photographed in 1975 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
A few years later in 2009 Amboseli (Kenya) experienced the worst drought in living memory. By the end of that year 83% of the wildebeests, 71% of the zebras, and 61% of the buffaloes had died. More than 400 elephants perished from both the drought and an upsurge in poaching. The problem was that there was almost no vegetation left to eat. Amboseli always has fresh water because of the underground rivers coming from Kilimanjaro. These rivers create permanent swamps in the Park. So the animals did not die of thirst but rather from hunger. In addition, in the case of the elephants, as they weakened they appear to have succumbed to disease as well. To add to the troubles, the researchers witnessed an upsurge of poaching for ivory at the same time, possibly catalysed by the number of carcasses, and the desperate economic losses people in the ecosystem were suffering.
The calves were the first to go. There was nothing for them to eat and their mothers could not produce enough milk for them, especially as the calves got older. Luckily, Likzore was already grown up enough to survive it. His mother Libby as the matriarch was leading the family through the times of crisis.
After the drought Likzore spent a few more years in the family – but as all young males, he eventually went independent. Some male elephants break out of the family as young as 9-10 years, others as old as 19-20 (these are called “Mama’s boys”), but the average age is around 14. This is a very risky time for young males. As they are gradually going independent they venture off on their own and run into trouble, such as getting too close to Maasai settlements or cattle herds.
While males may not form the same kinds of close-knit friendships as female-led groups, research has proven that male aggregations are far from random. The older males mentor the youngsters and guide them through the adult world.
Libby suckling her son Likzore
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli