Bala was born into the so-called BB family in May 1990. They were observed and documented by a pioneering scientist Cynthia Moss from Amboseli Trust for Elephant, who was naming each family after a letter of alphabet (after running out of letters, she introduced AA, AB etc.).
Bala’s mother Bev was a beautiful elephant, inheriting her beauty and large ears after Bala’s grandma – Big Tuskless. Unfortunately due to natural causes Bala never got to meet her grandma Big Tuskless who died in 1986 at the age of 63. The 90’s were prosperous years as Amboseli Park experienced higher than average rainfall and the BBs, as well as baby Bala, continued a healthy grow.
The year 2000 however turned out to be a terrible one because of a drought. At times like this the Maasai and the elephants are competing for the same meagre resources, tempers become short, and conflicts occur. Fifteen elephants were speared and nine of them died before the drought ended in December. The BBs, under the wise leadership of Barbara, avoided the Maasai and came through the drought with only one youngster dying. Bala was already strong and experienced in feeding on vegetation.
In January 2001, a huge amount of rain fell in Amboseli and the grass was soon up to the elephants’ knees. With such a super-abundance of food the elephants and other wildlife grew positively fat on the lush vegetation. Feeling good, the elephants formed huge aggregations of 200-300 and there was a tremendous amount of play. Even the big adult females lost their dignity and ran around with the whites of their eyes showing attacking imaginary enemies in the long grass. It would be wonderful if it could always be like that, but nothing is predictable in African savannahs. Following the favourable conditions, in 2003 Bala has given birth to her first child Barrymore.
Text & image by Cynthia Moss & Amboseli Trust for Elephants