Zoya was born in 1941 and part of the so-called P family. They were first sighted and photographed in 1975 by Cynthia Moss, a pioneering elephant researcher working along Amboseli Trust For Elephants.
Cynthia Moss is an Amboseli (Kenya) pioneering researcher that spent many years monitoring and recording elephants and published most valuable information about these magnificent animals. Back in 1975, in the early years of the study, Cynthia was working out how many families there were in the population and who belonged in a herd. As the adult females were photographed and the composition of the groups recorded, the groupings began to emerge as families. Each of these families was then assigned a letter of the alphabet. Thus the first family photographed became the ‘A’ family, the next the ‘B’ family and so on.
The P family was by far the largest group in the Kenyan elephant population ever known. The average family unit size at that time was seven – but the P’s were made up of over 20 females and calves. One day in 1975, Cynthia was out in the wild and found what she thought was a completely new group. She photographed them and assigned them the letter “Z” and named the two adult females that were present Zoya and Zelda. Later it became obvious that both females were part of the P family but split off from the main group from time to time.
Zoya became one of the 6 largest females of the herd and had four calves – Pia, Paloma, Pistol and Pizarro, who became one of the large independent males in Amboseli. (photo below).
In 2001, the greatest tragedy a family can experience occurred as the matriarch of the P family was poached and died. The death was a critical event for the family, because the survivors did not hold together; and the family broke down into sub-groups relatively soon after her death. Zoya and Zelda’s part of the family finally formed a sub-group with a new matriarch Octavia.
Sadly, in 2005, Zoya was also killed by a human spear. She did not have a young calf at the time and her daughters all survived and remained in Octavia’s group.
Photo and text credit: Amboseli Trust For Elephants