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Willow, born in October 1991 to Winnie, is part of the so-called WA family in the Amboseli region in Kenya. Cynthia Moss, a pioneering researcher, was tracking and observing elephants families in the region and naming them after alphabet letters. After she ran out of them, she continued with two-lettered names – i.e. WA, WB, WC.
Willow is one of the five Amboseli female elephants who were chosen to be collared in 2011 for collecting data on the family’s migration patterns. Cynthia Moss and her team had a difficult time making the decision to collar these elephants, as they did not want to physically interfere with the elephants’ lives. However, they felt it necessary as to be sure that the elephants did not wander into unprotected areas where the risk of spearing by local tribes due to conflict over crops; or being poached for ivory by hunters is high.
When Willow was put down for her collar to be placed, her family became very protective of her. As she went to sleep from the anaesthesia dart, the WA family and her mother, Winnie, tried to keep her on her feet as long as possible by surrounding her in a circle. Elephant families always display an impressive amount of loyalty and trust, protecting each other in the face of danger. Willow was successfully collared and, to relief of her family, not harmed in any way of course – and aided protection of her family in the future.
Photo credit and text: Cynthia Moss & Amboseli Trust for Elephants