Echo became famous through four films made by Cynthia Moss and Martyn Colbeck for the BBC between 1990 and 2009. She won a place in the hearts of audiences across the world, and her family is equally captivating. Known to the research team as “the Italians”, the EBs are wonderfully demonstrative, excitable and affectionate, with each other and with us.
They are also our camp elephants; Echo’s favourite area had always been the Ol Tukai Orok palm woodlands, where we have our research camp. This has made the elephants very comfortable around us; although they keep their distance during the day, at night we are often woken by the soft swish of grass as they feed, deep contact rumbles and, it has to be said, snores.
The EBs are wonderfully cheeky because they are so relaxed after being followed for many, many hours of filming. It’s not uncommon to have Enid, Ebony or Eliot resting so close to the car that it’s difficult to see the rest of the family. Essien loves to rest his tusks on top of the Land Rover and gently rock the suspension.
After Echo’s death in 2009, from the combined effects of old age and the drought, her oldest daughters Enid and Eliot grieved bitterly. Enid in particular was inconsolable, and stayed with her mothers’ body long after the rest of the family had ended their vigil, moving off to attend to the business of living by feeding and drinking at the swamps. Their recovery has been long, but the birth of 14 babies since 2011 has certainly helped!
Although Echo’s sister Ella is by far the oldest female, she hasn’t assumed leadership of the entire family, preferring instead to move with her daughters and their calves. Enid is stepping up to the mark, leading her sisters and their offspring with all her mother’s confidence.