How we Name Elephant Calves

Mon, 2010-11-15 07:35 by cmoss · Forum/category:
Arden: named at 4 years old

From the very beginning of the Amboseli Elephant Research Project we had a system of naming. As we took identification photos, sorted out the members, and got to know the various families we assigned each a letter of the alphabet and then everyone in that family was given names starting with that letter. We did this as an aide memoire and it certainly did help. Eventually when we had reached 27 families and the letter ‘X’ we had to start going through the alphabet for the second time, the A family became the AAs, the second A family became the ABs.

In the beginning we named elephants after friends and family or just used names we liked, but then it started to get harder. We resorted to Names for Babies books and even a Dictionary of Saints. In fact to save names, we don’t even name the calves until they are four years old because there tends to be more mortality in those first years than later on. Up until four a calf is referred to by a code based on its mother's name and its year of birth. For example, before Caleb was named he was referred to as CYB84 meaning Cybil's '84 calf. After a while we ran out of the usual first names despite having seven Names for Babies books. It was then that we started using themes. The first year we did that was 1987 and we have used this method ever since. So for the 1987 calves we used Kenya place names. For example, in the GB family the '87 calves were named Gilgil, Garissa, and Garba Tula, all towns in Kenya. For the 1988 calves we chose the names of African musicians: for example, Tabitha and Tallulah’s male calves were named Tee-Jay and Tabu Ley, while Slit Ear and Theodora’s female calves were called Tshala and Tata Bamba, all well-known African singers. Other themes have been: plants that grow in the Amboseli area; mountains in Kenya; rivers in Africa; names from India; names from Norway; pop singers; Hollywood actors and actresses; football players; old biblical names; etc. Also in 1987 I started an Amboseli elephant naming program for donors and this definitely helped with new names. There are now over 200 calves named by donors. These, of course, don’t have to follow the birth year theme. To find out more about our naming program see: ATE Naming Program; or write to us at info©


Mon, 2010-11-15 22:27 by Donna

Thank you, Cynthia. I certainly learned a lot about the newer naming systems.

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