Since they left the PA family in 1983, the PC family has stayed small, partly because of their tendency to have male calves that eventually grow up and leave the family. The family is even smaller because they lost six females in the 2009 drought, leaving Placida and Petula to lead the survivors. They have a special place in the hearts of the research team, because of the fantastic characters that established the original family, and also for how bravely these young females are coping with their losses.
The good news is that all the females left are young and healthy, and they should be able to build their numbers back up over the coming years. They have already made a good start. Lovely one-tusked Placida has been leading her group outside the Park for long periods, but with young calves to consider, she may change tactic soon: larger families find it easier to protect calves from predators like lions and hyenas, and she might decide that joining forces with Petula is a good idea. When we see Placida and her family, they are usually with Petula’s group, although Petula’s group is more resident so we see them more often. The two families have retained their friendly bonds; when they meet each other they greet, the equivalent of an elephant group hug, to reinforce their relationship. Both families are still friends with the PA family, as well as with the GB and IB families, using similar areas towards the south of Amboseli National Park.
Placida and Petula are almost the same age, so in order to reform a family, they will have to agree more than they do currently about where to spend their time. This will depend on what plants are growing, where water is to be found and where they feel safe to rest. Maybe Petula will become more adventurous, and follow Placida further out, but that will take some trust that Placida’s choices are better than what she knows from closer to the Park. Following these kinds of stories is what makes following elephants so fascinating.