Conflict kills elephants

17 March 2023


Every elephant matters. Our Editor Celia Nicholls remembers the shocking death of Emily Kate, a special young elephant who died after being speared.

Emily Kate the elephant stood next to her young baby Ewok

Together with so many Born Free supporters, I had known and loved Emily Kate since the day she was born – Thursday 3rd August 2000.

Headshot of Celia Nicholls

Celia Nicholls, Editor & Publications Manager

Like her mother, the wise matriarch Echo – who gave birth at the grand age of 55 – the engaging baby was adventurous and self-assured. She was cherished by her entire, extended family, named the EBs by elephant expert Dr Cynthia Moss. With her team, Cynthia has monitored the elephants of Amboseli National Park in southern Kenya since 1972. It is the world’s longest running elephant study, supported by Born Free since 1992.

The EBs are a close-knit and loving family, made world-famous thanks to the BBC’s popular Echo of the Elephants TV series. Emily Kate became Born Free’s adopted elephant and was hugely popular, with thousands of adopters. Their adoptions helped to keep her safe, not least from ivory poachers, and to safeguard her savannah home. Like all little elephants, the enchanting youngster was endlessly fascinating. Over the years I watched her grow, delighting in her exploits. How we celebrated when, at 13, she had a calf of her own, named ‘Ewok’ in a Born Free competition. You can see them together, in the photo above.

So, you can imagine our horror when, aged just 17, Emily Kate was injured by a spear and died – leaving Ewok an orphan. We were devastated but, this wasn’t a one-off atrocity. Both Emily Kate’s elder sister Erin and aunt Ella were also killed by spears over the years. Just last summer, four more EB family members were treated for spear wounds by our Amboseli Trust for Elephants colleagues.

But why would anyone try to kill an elephant? Sadly, ‘human-wildlife conflict’ is a growing problem. Negative encounters between people and wild animals can lead to tragedy. A hungry elephant can destroy an entire crop in minutes, wiping out a poor farmer’s only source of food and income. Habitat loss due to human development and climate change pushes people and animals into closer contact. But competing for space and resources can be devastating.

Conflict with people is one of wildlife’s biggest threats but, with your help, Born Free can face these challenges head on. Your gift today will fund simple, cheap solutions such as bee-hive ‘fences’ to protect crops from elephants and provide a source of income from honey. Together, we can help people and wildlife to coexist. We can train and employ local people to be Elephant Guardians. These vital advocates can fly the flag for elephants amongst their communities, help respond to crop-raiding incidents and support education.

Your generosity could transform lives and help people and elephants live together. In Emily Kate’s memory, please send a gift today to fund humane solutions and end conflict. Together we can help ensure a brighter future for elephants AND local people.


© Amboseli Trust for Elephants