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Born in 1980 to Ruth, Rex was a member of the so-called RA family. They were first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
In 1984, there was a serious drought in Amboseli and many elephants died from lack of food and from spearing by the Maasai whose cattle were in conflict with the elephants for limited resources. The RAs did not do as badly as some families. Sadly, Rex’ mother Ruth died in July 1984 and then Rex followed her in September 1984 at the height of the drought. Even though Rex did not need his mother’s milk for survival at four years old, he died only two months after his mother did. Calves as well as adolescent elephants suffer terribly after losing a family member and losing a mother is the biggest tragedy to them – a wound that sometimes doesn’t heal.
In addition to the emotional set-backs older calves suffer terribly from draughts as they need vegetation and struggle at their size because the earth may not provide enough that they can eat.
Amboseli always has fresh water because of the underground rivers coming from Kilimanjaro. These rivers create permanent swamps in the Park. So most animals don’t not die of thirst but rather from hunger. In addition, in the case of the elephants, as they weakened they appear to have succumbed to disease as well. It’s extremely sad to see those magnificent creatures be threatened by so many issues: from droughts, human-wildlife conflict and poaching.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service