Born in 2001 to Kilifi, Kingolotto 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 Kingolotto’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. Some families suffered severe losses and those were mostly of elderly elephants and the calves born after 2006, often leaving only adolescents and adults alive. 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. To give some perspective, 83 calves were born in Amboseli during 2009.

Kingolotto survived and continued to spend time with the KA family for a few more years – but as all young males he eventually went independent. Some male elephants break out of the family as young as 9-10 years, others as old as 19-20 (these are called “Mama’s boys”), but the average age is around 14. This is a very risky time for young males. As they are gradually going independent they venture off on their own and run into trouble, such as getting too close to Maasai settlements or cattle herds.

While males may not form the same kinds of close-knit friendships as female-led groups, research has proven that male aggregations are far from random. The older males mentor the youngsters and guide them through the adult world.  Kingolotto managed to make it out on his own and strives now as a guide to other younger males.

Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Edelmond Williams