The dynamics of family fission, including the creation of new family units, are not straightforward. Only once in the study has a large family split neatly in half and stayed that way. Most of the time it’s a messier process, and can takes a long time.
The two oldest females in the OA family are Orabel and Olympia. Although Olympia is younger than Orabel, they each lead a section. These sections are often close by to one another. A sign that the two sections still have strong bonds is that members greet each other with exuberance. The OAs are also good friends with the CB family and have been since the start of the study. Elephant loyalties run deep, and the OA family appear to be especially loyal.
The area the family now likes best is on the north-eastern boundary of the National Park. It makes it hard to get to them by vehicle when it’s been raining, as they use areas well away from the road network, but the plants out there smell wonderful and we aren’t surprised they like it so much. The family suffered badly in the 2009 drought and lost many members; now they have a lot of fat, happy calves, and are doing well again. Most of the females are young and relatively inexperienced mothers, and they rely on the support and experience of Orabel and Olympia to help them get things right. These females have a busy time of it, since there aren’t many adolescent females to babysit and stop mischievous calves getting into trouble!