When I first met Alabama in 2005, she was a young adult leading a seemingly happy and secure life under the watchful eye of Georgia, a sage, old matriarch. Her family, known as the States, was quite small with only one other sub-adult female, named Virginia. The family visited Lewa on a random basis, disappearing for months at a time. But, upon their return, it was always easy to spot Alabama because she has very unusual tusks that curl under her trunk; in fact, at first glance, she can easily be mistaken for tuskless.
|At first glance, Alabama appears tuskless|
|Alabama's tusks curl under her trunk|
In 2006, Alabama gave birth to a calf, presumably her first baby -- a female that we named California. Alabama appeared to be a very good mother, and young California made it through her precarious first year. Approximately, 15% of calves do not survive the first twelve months, and this number rises to some 50% during a drought.
In February of 2009, the States returned to Lewa. Georgia was missing, but her six-year-old calf, Arizona, was still with the family – an almost sure sign that Georgia was dead. Alabama and Virginia – both too young to be heading a family – were bravely carrying on, taking care of Georgia’s young daughter,
as well. Alabama’s life became even more challenging
later that year when she gave birth to another baby girl, Mississippi. By this time, Virginia had disappeared and
Alabama was left to care for three young elephants without the guidance of
Georgia or the companionship of Virginia.
|Arizona was just six years old when|
she lost her mother, Georgia
|Arizona helps care for baby Mississippi|
Amazingly, the resilient Alabama has managed to keep her little family in tact. Like Celine, Alabama is often seen in the presence of other families – she seems to favour the Flowers and the Asian Cities. But, she never stays with any one family for long, and I often find her wandering Lewa on her own with her three young charges in tow.
California and Arizona are now young adults and will soon be having calves of their own. So, before long, Alabama will become the matriarch of a “proper” elephant family. A title she truly has earned.