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Born in March 1983 to Willa, the matriarch – Wickstrom was a member of the so-called WA family. They were first sighted and photographed in 1975 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
Unfortunately, Amboseli (Kenya) experienced a bad drought in 1984 and some calves died due to lack of water, mother’s milk and vegetation – Wickstrom and WA family were lucky to survive. Some families that were reduced to less than five members had a much harder time building up their numbers again. Over the next years the family continued to grow and prosper.
In 2002 Wickstrom´s mother Willa died of an illness probably caused by a snare wound.The snare did not remain on Willa but it may have caused a systemic infection. The death of Willa was very sad for the family – she had done such a good job against the odds and leading her small family for 25 successful years.
At that point Wickstrom was no longer with the family. Like all male elephants, after pubescent years spent in the female-dominated world of mothers and maternal helpers, Wickstrom 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. There was a mistaken belief that young males get kicked out of their families. But this came from observations of males that had left their own family and joined another, where they are not as welcome as they would be with their own family.
Photo copyright and text: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service