Skip to main content

The Amboseli Elephants

A Long-Term Perspective on a Long-Lived Mammal

Elephants have fascinated humans for millennia. Aristotle wrote of them with awe; Hannibal used them in warfare; and John Donne called the elephant “Nature’s greatest masterpiece. . . . The only harmless great thing.” Their ivory has been sought after and treasured in most cultures, and they have delighted zoo and circus audiences worldwide for centuries. But it wasn’t until the second half of the twentieth century that people started to take an interest in elephants in the wild, and some of the most important studies of these intelligent giants have been conducted at Amboseli National Park in Kenya.

The Amboseli Elephants is the long-awaited summation of what’s been learned from the Amboseli Elephant Research Project (AERP)—the longest continuously running elephant research project in the world. Cynthia J. Moss and Harvey Croze, the founders of the AERP, and Phyllis C. Lee, who has been closely involved with the project since 1982, compile more than three decades of uninterrupted study of over 2,500 individual elephants, from newborn calves to adult bulls to old matriarchs in their 60s. Chapters explore such topics as elephant ecosystems, genetics, communication, social behavior, and reproduction, as well as exciting new developments from the study of elephant minds and cognition. The book closes with a view to the future, making important arguments for the ethical treatment of elephants and suggestions to aid in their conservation.

The most comprehensive account of elephants in their natural environment to date, The Amboseli Elephants will be an invaluable resource for scientists, conservationists, and anyone interested in the lives and loves of these extraordinary creatures.        

400 pages | 88 halftones, 119 line drawings, 50 tables | 8 1/2 x 11 | © 2011

Biological Sciences: Behavioral Biology, Conservation, Ecology, Natural History


“This important book is a compilation of the almost forty years of elephant research conducted at Amboseli National Park, Kenya. This well-written and very accessible volume will no doubt serve as a foundation and model for future elephant ecology, genetic, social, and behavior studies throughout Africa. Chapters addressing ecological change, genetic drift, sociality, and behavior will also serve as important comparisons to elephant studies in more arid environments in Southern and West Africa, or to studies on elephant populations that have experienced acute or chronic social disruption due to human activities. The Amboseli Elephants is a critical guide and reference for current and future elephant researchers.”

Caitlin O’Connell, Ph.D., author of The Elephant’s Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa

The Amboseli Elephants is the most outstanding book ever published on these magnificent animals. Its significance and global appeal rest on the reputation of the contributors, the diverse topics considered (including social behavior, behavioral ecology, cognition and emotions, and encounters with humans), the amount of long-term data that have been collected for known individuals, its real-world approach, and its suggestions for the future of elephants as they are forced to interact increasingly with humans, many of whom wish they would go away and are making this happen. This unique and most welcome collection of essays is a must read for anyone who cares about the future of animals and of humans and will serve as a model of what is needed for many other species in peril or rapidly heading there. Read it and share widely.”

Marc Bekoff, author of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animal s

Table of Contents

Robert A. Hinde


1 The Amboseli Elephants: Introduction
Cynthia J. Moss, Harvey Croze, and Phyllis C. Lee
Box 1.1 Defi nitions of Terms Used throughout the Book
Annex 1.1 Glossary of Maa Place- Names and Synonyms

Part 1: The Amboseli Context: Ecology, People, and Genetics
Section editors: W. Keith Lindsay and Harvey Croze

2 Amboseli Ecosystem Context: Past and Present
Harvey Croze and W. Keith Lindsay
Box 2.1 Amboseli, a Non- equilibrium Ecosystem
Annex 2.1 Population Size over Time

3 The Human Context of the Amboseli Elephants
Kadzo Kangwana and Christine Browne- Nuñez

4 The Population Genetics of the Amboseli and Kilimanjaro Elephants
Elizabeth A. Archie, Courtney L. Fitzpatrick, Cynthia J. Moss, and Susan C. Alberts
Box 4.1 Population Genetic Methods

Part 2: Habitat Use, Population Dynamics, and Ranging
Section editors: W. Keith Lindsay and Harvey Croze

5 Habitat Use, Diet Choice, and Nutritional Status in Female and Male Amboseli Elephants
W. Keith Lindsay
Box 5.1 Size and Energetics of Elephants Phyllis C. Lee

6 Ecological Patterns of Variability in Demographic Rates
Phyllis C. Lee, W. Keith Lindsay, and Cynthia J. Moss
Box 6.1 Life Tables

7 Patterns of Occupancy in Time and Space
Harvey Croze and Cynthia J. Moss
Box 7.1 Ranging of Bulls outside the Park: Data from Radio and Satellite Tracking Iain Douglas- Hamilton

Part 3: Behavior, Communication, and Cognition
Section editor: Joyce H. Poole

8 Signals, Gestures, and Behavior of African Elephants
Joyce H. Poole and Petter Granli

9 Behavioral Contexts of Elephant Acoustic Communication
Joyce H. Poole
Box 9.1 Methodology
Annex 9.1 Behavioral Contexts and Associated Call and Context Types

10 Vocal Communication and Social Knowledge in African Elephants
Karen McComb, David Reby, and Cynthia J. Moss
Box 10.1 Illustrations
Box 10.2 Structure of Elephant Contact Calls
Box 10.3 Contact Calls: Individual Identity in Call Characteristics
Box 10.4 Spectrograms of Contact Calls

11 Elephant Cognition: What We Know about What Elephants Know
Richard W. Byrne and Lucy A. Bates

Part 4: Reproductive Strategies and Social Relationships
Section editors: Phyllis C. Lee and Joyce H. Poole

12 Female Reproductive Strategies: Individual Life Histories
Cynthia J. Moss and Phyllis C. Lee
Box 12.1 Comparative Life Histories Phyllis C. Lee
Box 12.2 Dominance in Female Elephants Phyllis C. Lee

13 Female Social Dynamics: Fidelity and Flexibility
Cynthia J. Moss and Phyllis C. Lee
Box 13.1 Some Family Histories of Fission and Fusion Cynthia J. Moss
Box 13.2 Personality in Elephants Phyllis C. Lee

14 Calf Development and Maternal Rearing Strategies
Phyllis C. Lee and Cynthia J. Moss

15 Friends and Relations: Kinship and the Nature of Female Elephant Social Relationships
Elizabeth A. Archie, Cynthia J. Moss, and Susan C. Alberts
Box 15.1 Non- invasive Genetic Sampling

16 Decision Making and Leadership in Using the Ecosystem
Hamisi Mutinda, Joyce H. Poole, and Cynthia J. Moss
Box 16.1 Terminology and Methodology

17 Male Social Dynamics: Independence and Beyond
Phyllis C. Lee, Joyce H. Poole, Norah Njiraini, Catherine N. Sayialel, and Cynthia J. Moss

18 Longevity, Competition, and Musth: A Long- Term Perspective on Male Reproductive Strategies
Joyce H. Poole, Phyllis C. Lee, Norah Njiraini, and Cynthia J. Moss
Box 18.1 Genetic Paternity Analysis of the Amboseli Elephant Population
Julie A. Hollister- Smith, Joyce H. Poole, Cynthia J. Moss, and Susan C. Alberts

Part 5: Elephants in the Human World
Section editors: Cynthia J. Moss and Kadzo Kangwana

19 The Maasai- Elephant Relationship: The Evolution and Influence of Culture, Land Use, and Attitudes
Christine Browne-Nuñez
Box 19.1 Consolation for Livestock Loss: A Case Study in Mitigation between Elephants and People Soila Sayialel and Cynthia J. Moss

20 The Behavioral Responses of Elephants to the Maasai in Amboseli
Kadzo Kangwana

21 Ethical Approaches to Elephant Conservation
Joyce H. Poole, W. Keith Lindsay, Phyllis C. Lee, and Cynthia J. Moss

22 The Future of the Amboseli Elephants
Harvey Croze, Cynthia J. Moss, and W. Keith Lindsay

Appendix 1: Methods
Appendix 2: Large Animal Species Referred to in the Book

List of Contributors

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press