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Born in 1987 to Qualida, Qamakunji was a member of so-called QB family. The family was first sighted and photographed in 1976 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
By the end of 1977 Cynthia managed to name all the young females in the family. The upcurved-left female was called Qualida; the even-tusked one Qessala; the straight-tusk Qatara; the two-broken tusks Qola; and the broken right tusk Qalypso.
The tusks (and ears) are a major feature that researchers recognise the elephants from. Like humans with their hands, elephants can be left- or right-tusked. Tusks grow permanently at the rate of 15-17 cm per year, but the length of the tusks cannot be used as ageing criteria as there is great genetic variety, some elephants having only one or even no tusks. The latter is probably due to a shift in genetic material through the effects of poaching.
By 1987 the researchers started to run out of the common first names to use for elephants so they decided to start using themes. All the calves born in a single year would have names based on a theme. They started this system for the 1987 calves and chose as a theme place names in Kenya. But then they realised the problem was that there were no places in Kenya beginning with Q – they got around this hitch by turning the K sound into a Q. So Qualida’s daughter was named Qamakunji, stemming from Kamukunji Constituency (an area of Nairobi County, Kenya).
Qamakunji grew up to be a beautiful female and a mother of two: Quintia and Queenia.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service