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Born in 1993 as a late child to Sandy, the family matriarch, Sabachi was a member of the so-called SA family. They were first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
Sabachi barely managed to experience childhood, when 1997 turned out to be a tragic year for the family. First Sandy disappeared in January, suspected to have died of natural causes as she was 54 years old. Not many of the Amboseli elephants get beyond this age. Sabachi was just old enough to survive without a mother. Then in March, perhaps because they had lost the wise leadership of Sandy, the SAs found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, attacked and speared by Maasai warriors. A few of the elephants died, Sabachi managed to survive again.
Raised up by aunts and sisters, like all male elephants after pubescent years spent in the female-dominated world, Sabachi broke out and began spending time with other male elephants. 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.
Although males leave their birth family at an average age of 14, they don’t leave family life altogether. Instead, they might move off and join another family, or move from family to family – and up to age of 25 they mostly spend time with other family groups. So despite Sabachi’s terrible losses and pain, he managed to survive the tragedies and live in company.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service