Cynthia Moss is an Amboseli (Kenya) pioneering researcher that spent many years monitoring and recording elephants and published most valuable information about these magnificent animals. Back in 1975, in the early years of the study, Cynthia was working out how many families there were in the population and who belonged in a herd. As the adult females were photographed and the composition of the groups recorded, the groupings began to emerge as families. Each of these families was then assigned a letter of the alphabet. Thus the first family photographed became the ‘A’ family, the next the ‘B’ family and so on.
Cynthia was working very much part-time in Amboseli and not living there, so it took quite some time to get to know all the families. The ‘L’ family was not recorded until March 23, 1975. That was the first time they were sighted and photographed. Luckily, they were a neat, small self-contained group consisting of seven members, however, the original seven were not always all together. There was often an unusual grouping of just youngsters; sometimes they were on their own; sometimes back with the up-curved female. Cynthia was intrigued why such a young female would go off on her own with just calves.
During 1976, the family was seen 22 times. By the end of that year Cynthia had registered many families, in fact so many that she actually had to start through the alphabet a second time! The A family became AA and the new As became the AB family. The same system was used down the alphabet. Thus the L family became the LAs when it was necessary to assign another family the letter L. The new family became the LBs.
The individual members in the designated families were also named, each getting a name beginning with their family initial. In the LA family Cynthia named the big adult female with the up-curved tusk, Lillian. The next adult female was called Lynne. The third adult female had disappeared and so never got named. The 8-10 year old female was named Louise. Eventually the two female calves were called Libby and Lee and the young male was named Accident Prone because he kept getting big gashes out of his ears.
Cynthia Moss’ research is the first of the kind; monitoring movement and behaviour of the gentle giants giving us invaluable insights on their behaviour and incredible characters.
Text & photo credit: Cynthia Moss & Amboseli Trust For Elephants