All Things Kenyan

Elephant Memories By Cynthia Moss

Cynthia Moss spent thirteen years in Amboseli National Reserve studying the elephants there. The book Elephant Memories is the culmination of her work. Cynthia writes about the elephants as if they were her friends or her family. She is obviously as attached to them as one gets attached to a pet cat or dog.

Cynthia keeps family trees of the Amboseli elephants – noting births deaths etc. The names of members is the same family all begin with the same letter. That makes it very easy to keep track of each family as you are reading the book. Here’s an excerpt about the death of one of the elephants, Tina, and the other elephants reaction to it:


“Teresia and Trista became frantic and knelt down and tried to lift her (Tina) up. They worked their tusks under her back and under her head. At one point they succeeded in lifting her into a sitting position but her body flopped back down. Her family tried everything to rouse her, kicking and tusking her, and Tallulah even went off and collected a trunkful of grass and tried to stuff it into her mouth. Finally Teresia got around behind her again, knelt down, and worked her tusks in under her shoulder and then, straining with all her strength, she began to lift her. When she got to a standing position with the full weight of Tina’s head and front quarters on her tusks, there was a sharp cracking sound and Teresia dropped the carcass as her right tusk fell to the ground. She had broken it a few inches from the lip well in to the nerve cavity, and a jagged bit of ivory and the bloody pulp was all that remained.”


That was a very sad section of this book. Ok, I admit it, I cried. Cynthia shows how the elephants care about each other just as humans do. They are sad, just like we are, when a family member dies.

In Elephant Memories, you get to learn about the everyday activities of the elephants, how they play, eat, drink, mate. You learn what the elephants do during the dry and rainy seasons, what they do to survive a drought.

This book is quite long – 342 pages. Well, maybe it seemed long since it took me a long time to read. Maybe because this book is written by a researcher it’s a slow reading book. Not that Cynthia is a bad story teller, she’s quite good. If you are looking for a quick read, well it’s not Elephant Memories.

A nice thing about the book is the chapters are written in such a manner that you could simply pick any chapter, read it, and still get a lot out of it. Each chapter is its own story – no need to read previous chapters. If you were interested in the births of elephants, you could read just that chapter with having read the previous ones. If you are at all interested in elephants, definitely read this book.

A review copy of Elephant Memories was sent by the publisher free of charge.