Who’s who in Amboseli National Park (OR Getting know elephants as individuals)

I’ve mentioned before how important it is to understand that elephants are individuals, as different from one another as you and I may be from our friends or other family members.

You may wonder how we tell individual elephants apart. In the same way when you start work at a new place you might remember people by their hair color or style, or how tall they are, when we start to get know elephants, we look at their ears, tusks and tails.

Elephant ears specifically, are like fingerprints and they are the principle characteristic for identifying individuals. The primary markers are holes or notches in the ears, the size of the ears, shape of the ears, proportion and especially, vein patterns. Veins are unique identifiers just like fingerprints, although they’re not always easy to discern unless the light is right.

I can identify most of the 60 families in Amboseli on sight--and if I don't know who it is, I can usually work it out by knowing who it isn't!

There are currently about 1300 elephants in the Amboseli population, and this number is growing all the time. The elephants are experiencing a baby boom and the latest count is 169 newborns since October 12, 2011. And we're still going! We know all these individuals through ID photos.

In this video, I talk about the many ways to tell elephants apart. Take a look. 

-- VF

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