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Born in 2004 to Keira, Kunene was a member of the so-called KA family, who were first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
First few years of Kunene’s childhood were relatively peaceful – until 2009 when Amboseli, Kenya, experienced the worst drought in living memory. Nearly 400 elephants died. Among these were 60 adult females of which 27 were matriarchs.
The calves were the first to go. There was nothing for them to eat and their mothers’ could not produce enough milk for them, especially as the calves got older. In 2008, 151 calves were born, which was a new record. However, the next year these calves were just at the age when they needed to supplement milk with vegetation and there simply wasn’t anything they could eat. As a result 97 of them died during 2009. The calves born during 2009 also suffered but they did a bit better because they didn’t have to eat as much vegetation. Of the 85 calves born during the drought 38 died.
On the other hand a few families made it through the drought with few deaths. One of these fortunate families was the KAs. Their matriarch Kerry got her family through the drought with no losses at all. And even more amazing the two calves born during 2009 both survived. Kunene is now healthy and strong – growing a family on her own!
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Save the Elephants