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Born Free USA Blog

Born Free USA Blog

The end of an elephant era

Published 05/22/09
By Zibby Wilder, Director of Public Relations

Earlier this month I was deeply saddened — as were thousands of others — to hear of the passing of Echo the elephant. For those of you who may not know of her, Echo was the matriarch of a large herd of elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. Echo was also perhaps the most famous elephant on the planet — for both her unwitting contributions to science and her superstar status on the small screen.

I traveled to Kenya this past October and spent 3 days in Amboseli, awed by the beauty of all the animals, and especially the sheer magnificence of wild African elephants. I also had the profound honor of being escorted amongst the wild elephant herds by Nora of the Amboseli Elephant Trust. This group, led by esteemed researcher Cynthia Moss, has studied the elephants of Amboseli for dozens of years and must still be reeling from this loss.

The good that has come out of Echo’s passing though is the celebration of her life as a wild and free being who had the honor to die when it was her time; as opposed to the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of captive elephants across the world, torn from their families and put on display for people to gawk at. These intelligent, awe-inspiring animals spend their time suffering: alone, in chains, beaten, and in pain. They become nothing more than shells of beings and you can almost sense the loss and emptiness inside them.

I once walked along with the elephants of a circus from a train yard to an arena in Norfolk, VA. As someone who cares about elephants, and animals in general, I could not understand how it was people failed to sense their pain. It was like electricity in the air ... but a sad, cold shock.

I hope Echo’s story and the thousands who were touched by her, continue to inspire people to fight for what is right for elephants — and that is for them to remain wild. It is cruel and unjust and heartless for us to do anything else. As one person posting on the Amboseli Elephant Trust’s web site put it: “It is impossible to know elephants and not advocate for their liberty.”

Thank you, Echo, for touching us all so deeply. You will never be forgotten and will always stand as a true example of how much one being can teach others — without the chains and bullhooks and fences and cruelty so many claim to be necessary for “teaching” about your kind. I hold you, and all elephants, in my heart. To me, this is the only place any of us should ever keep any wild animal.


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