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I have some very sad news to relay. Echo died today (Sun, 3. May 2009) at 2:42pm in Amboseli. She collapsed yesterday morning and was unable to get up. ATE staff Katito and Robert stayed with her the whole time. We believe she died from a combination of old age and the long three-year drought Amboseli has been experiencing. Echo was probably the best known wild elephant in the world because she featured in three BBC documentaries about her and her family: Echo of the Elephants; Echo of the Elephants, the Next Generation; and Echo of the Elephants, the Final Chapter? as well as the book Echo of the Elephants. In addition she was in many other films, most recently the film about Martyn Colbeck's work called An Eye for An Elephant, and photographs of her have been seen around the world.
I arrived in the US a few days ago to start a fund-raising tour so I was not there for Echo's passing. I'm cancelling my trip and flying back to Kenya tomorrow. I need to be with my staff who are devastated and also to start observing the family to see how they will react to the loss of their matriarch. Echo was the leader of her family for at least 36 years. When we first recorded her in 1973 her family numbered seven. At her death it numbered 40. For all of them, except for her sister Ella, Echo was the only leader they have ever known. The loss will be very disturbing and disrupting for them. For us on the Amboseli Elephant Research Project she has been an invaluable research subject providing us with insights into elephant behavior, leadership, communication, social relations and intelligence. But she was more than that. She was a daily presence, almost a companion to all of us. She gave us joy and filled us with wonder.