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NATURE: Echo: An Elephant To Remember

Airs Wednesday, August 13, 2014 at 8 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Echo, an elephant matriarch, was the subject of many films and the leader of a carefully studied herd of elephants in Africa.

Echo, the remarkable matriarch of a family of elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park, was most studied elephant in the world, the subject of several books and documentaries, including two NATURE films.

Echo, the elephant matriarch, striding out ahead of the family. Echo takes the lead and makes the key decisions every day.
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Above: Echo, the elephant matriarch, striding out ahead of the family. Echo takes the lead and makes the key decisions every day.

Electra's calf with trunk raised-sniffing
Enlarge this image

Above: Electra's calf with trunk raised-sniffing

The family on the move without Echo (after her death)
Enlarge this image

Above: The family on the move without Echo (after her death)

For nearly four decades, elephant expert Cynthia Moss, and award-winning filmmaker Martyn Colbeck were on hand to record the trials and triumphs of Echo and her family, documenting the intense loyalties and deep caring that are so fundamental to all elephants, creating a moving record of a life we all can share.

Echo died of natural causes at the age of 65 in May of 2009, leaving the family she had cared for and guided for so long to face the worst drought ever recorded in Amboseli on their own. It was a final test of the years of Echo’s leadership. Had she taught them all they would need to survive without her? Could her wisdom continue to provide for them even after her death?

With rich archival footage and warm recollections, Moss and Colbeck share their memories of Echo and her family as they follow the fortunes of Echo’s family during the drought. Echo is shown caring for her newborn son, Ely, who overcame the crippling condition he was born with thanks to her patience and extraordinary perseverance.

Echo is also shown making a heartbreaking decision to abandon her mortally-wounded daughter, Erin, in order to save Erin’s young calf, Email.

Moss and Colbeck have especially fond memories of Echo’s mischievous baby daughter, Ebony, whose playful nature was so endearing to them both. And they marvel as they recall Echo’s rescue of Ebony when she was kidnapped by a rival clan, remembering it as one of the defining moments of her leadership.

Happily, Echo’s legacy lives on. Though other elephant families suffer devastating losses, her family is able to survive the drought, retaining her wisdom for future generations, keeping her memory alive.

NATURE is on Facebook, tumblr, and you can follow @PBSNature on Twitter.

Video

Video Excerpt: Nature: Echo: An Elephant To Remember

Above: In this video clip, Echo and family respond when their charismatic daughter is stolen by another group of elephants. Echo, the remarkable matriarch of a family of elephants in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, was most studied elephant in the world, the subject of several books and documentaries, including two NATURE films. For nearly four decades, elephant expert Cynthia Moss, and award-winning filmmaker Martyn Colbeck were on hand to record the trials and triumphs of Echo and her family, documenting the intense loyalties and deep caring that are so fundamental to all elephants, creating a moving record of a life we all can share.

Video

Video Excerpt: Death of a Matriarch

Above: In this video clip, the people who knew Echo best reflect on their great loss. Echo, the remarkable matriarch of a family of elephants in Kenya's Amboseli National Park, was most studied elephant in the world, the subject of several books and documentaries, including two NATURE films. For nearly four decades, elephant expert Cynthia Moss, and award-winning filmmaker Martyn Colbeck were on hand to record the trials and triumphs of Echo and her family, documenting the intense loyalties and deep caring that are so fundamental to all elephants, creating a moving record of a life we all can share.