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Born in 1992 to Prudence, Pongola was a member of the so-called PA family, who were first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
Cynthia Moss spent many years monitoring and recording elephants and published most valuable information about these magnificent animals. 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. P family most likely due to size and some differences split into PA and PC and by the time of Pongola’s birth they were both well and truly split, and only rarely associated with each other anymore. Pongola’s family then numbered an impressive crowd of 31 elephants!
Elephants live within a network of complex social relationships. A typical cow-calf unit (family unit or breeding herd) consists of an older matriarch, her offspring and her daughters’ offspring, to include about 8 – 15 individuals (this number varies greatly and extremes of 2 – 21 are known). Pongola was brought up in very large family unit – with a lot of babies to play with and grow up with too.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Frank af Petersens