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The History of the AA Family
The AA family holds a very special place in the Amboseli study, because it is the first family that was sighted and photographed on the very first day of the study on September 1, 1972. It has since become one of the best-known families in the population. I have continuous records of its births and deaths, good times and bad times over the past 38 years.
On that first day I was with my colleague Harvey Croze and we were trying to contact as many groups of elephants as possible and photograph at least the adult members. We drove out to the western part of the Park crossing the causeway over the Enkongo Narok swamp. Just along the shore we found a group of females and calves. Unfortunately, they were disappearing into the deep swamp, but we managed to count 13 animals and note that there were two calves less than a year old. Harvey took some photographs of the adult females. Two days later on September 3rd we came upon this group again and this time we were able to get better photographs and record the age and sex structure. The family appeared to consist of the following:
We took the films back to Nairobi and developed them. On that trip we had seen and photographed seven definite families each of which we gave a letter of the alphabet. The first group was called the "A" family and the adult females in that family were named with letters beginning with "A" with one exception. The female with the wart on her ear never got an "A" name but continued to be designated Wart Ear. The largest female, the matriarch, was called Annabelle. The adult female with straight tusks was named Alyce, the young adult female with splayed tusks Amy, and the adolescent female Alison. In our data coding sheets we used the first three letters of the females' names as their code and so we tried to give them names with unique first three letters. Thus we spelled Alyce's name with a "y" so that she would not have the same code as Alison. The young male was given the code number M31, but was usually referred to as Slit Trunk. He had an open eight-inch slit in his trunk that went right through to the inner nasal passage. However, it had healed well and did not seem to cause him any problem.
To read the remainder of this story click on the link to the attached PDF below.