The AAs were the first family identified in the Amboseli study for a very good reason: it turns out they have a small home range, and are found fairly predictably around the Enkong’u Narok swamp, in the centre of Amboseli National Park. The predictability of their ranging pattern might make them seem a bit dull, but it has allowed us to get to know the family very well over the years. They remain one of our best-loved families.
Character-wise, the AA family is quietly reserved for much of the time, although they are sweet natured and friendly. Some family members are more reserved than others: Alison’s oldest daughter Astrid is a particularly quiet elephant, perhaps because she has had a tough time raising calves. Although she’s a mother to two daughters, and a grandmother too, she has lost five calves, and suffered a number of miscarriages, the latest of which was in 2012.
The AA males are quite different; they are often boisterous and playful as youngsters and then mature into handsome bulls, usually with beautifully symmetrical tusks. The females are perhaps not as beautiful, but they have strikingly elegant tails with long, lustrous tail hairs. Unlike other families where there can be a lot of drama, the AAs seem to live out their lives in a calmer fashion, with only occasional outbreaks of emotion.
With 30 members, the AAs are a large family who often fission along three splits; the first two led by Alison and her sister Agatha, and the other representing a separate matriline, led by the much younger Amber. The stability of this pattern is changing in 2014, after the death of Agatha, late in 2013. Agatha’s oldest daughter, Althea, is only a year younger than Amber, and is old enough to lead a family on her own, but she might prefer to stay under Alison’s experienced guidance. Althea’s decision, and how this affects her sister Alexander and their calves, is one of the stories you can follow with Elatia.