Orlanda was the second adult female after matriarch Olga discovered by Cynthia Moss. Orlanda, who I estimated was born in 1955, became the matriarch when Olga died, which was probably at the end of 1974. Thus, Orlanda had to take over the roll of leader when she was only 19 years old, which was very young. However, she appeared to be capable and had managed to keep her little family together.
Orlanda had a few calves, before drought came. She had managed to get her latest calf through a terrible drought in 1976. Many calves in the other families died.
After the drought, the OAs joined a baby boom. In 1980 two calves were born of which Orlanda gave birth to a female. The little family had grown to eight. These new calves caused great excitement among the OAs since the last newborn calf they had in the family was in 1975. The babies were excessively fussed over, fondled and almost certainly spoiled.
Amboseli underwent the worst drought in living memory in 2009. Nearly 400 elephants died including 250 calves. In the OA family there were 12 deaths. Most of these were calves under two years old, but much more devastating three of the big females died: Orlanda, Odette and Olive.
Losing a matriarch is very hard for an elephant family. Orlanda had been their leader for 35 years. She was their anchor and their leader. Normally the family members would turn to the next oldest female, in this case Odette, but she soon died herself, and the third oldest female, Orabel was at the time moving in her own separate subgroup. The fourth oldest female was Orlanda’s daughter, Olive but she also succumbed to the drought. It was left to Orlanda’s 29-year-old daughter Olympia to guide the family.
Text: Cynthia Moss & Amboseli Trust for Elephants
Photo copyright: Drakonis24