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Tia was a member of the so-called T family, first sighted and photographed in 1973 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants. During 1975 there had been low rainfall in the Amboseli Park (Kenya) and surrounding areas, and in 1976 the rains failed with only a miserly couple of inches falling during what was supposed to be the wet season. There was a brief flush of green in April and May and then a serious drought set in. During this harsh and difficult year four calves were born to the Ts. On April 7 Tia was found with a tiny newborn baby, another male, making her the mother of two sons.
However, it was a very bad year to be born in Amboseli. There were 29 recorded births of calves. By the end of the year only 15 remained. Of those that died most were probably the victims of drought. It was devastating for the researchers to watch these calves get weaker and weaker and then disappear. Tia’s baby survived.
The next few years proved to be ones of higher than average rainfall and a time of relative peace. For in the Amboseli area, the poaching stopped and there was also relatively little spearing. Little change occurred among the Ts. Then during 1980 the Ts had their own mini baby boom: and Tia joined the in with another calf, and another one in 1983.
It was 1984 that proved to be a terrible year for the Ts. Another serious drought developed, and with the Maasai cattle and the elephants competing for very little food, there was acute elephant-human conflict. Many elephants died including Tia. The cause of death appeared to be illness, perhaps attributed to the drought. After her death, three of her calves died over the next months. It was a truly devastating loss to the family and the observing researchers.
Photo and text credit: Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust For Elephants, Kenya Wildlife Service