Born in 1981 to Qola, Qoqo was a member of the so-called QB family. The family was first sighted and photographed in 1976 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.

One of the striking things about the QB family that Cynthia observed was that they had a very skewed sex ratio with 14 females and three males. The overall ratio at birth is 1:1. In early 90s, things began to change and more girls were born into the family: including Qola’s daughter Qoqo, whom she had at the very early age of 14 years old.

All was going well for the QBs in the 80s and 90s, but a double tragedy was about to occur. The worst drought in living memory hit Amboseli (Kenya) in 2009. By the end of that year 83% of the wildebeests, 71% of the zebras, and 61% of the buffaloes had died. Close to 400 elephants perished from both the drought and an upsurge in poaching. The problem was that there was almost no vegetation left to eat. Amboseli always had fresh water because of the underground rivers coming from Kilimanjaro. These rivers create permanent swamps in the Park. So the animals did not die of thirst but rather from hunger. In addition, in the case of the elephants, as they weakened they appear to succumb to disease as well.

But something even worse happened to the QBs. While a portion of the family was in Tanzania, they got into some trouble with locals, who chased them over the rim of a deep quarry and they fell to their death. Six elephants died in this most horrible way. Some died immediately but most of them had to be shot. Amongst the ones who died was Qoqo. Fortunately, this was a very rare event but depicts sadly of the threats that elephants face besides ivory trade – a human-wildlife conflict over the land.

The photo shows Qoqo with her newborn calf and her younger sister Qaratina allomothering; when Qaratina was a baby Qoqo had allomothered her.

Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust