If you were to ask for a simple description of an elephant’s day here at sanctuary, you might get a joking answer like: nap, eat, chat, poop, nap, eat, play, poop, etc. But, of course, there’s a little more to it than that… sometimes.
As the sun comes up, our three night owls, Mara, Bambi, and Rana, are generally still active and mingling together, heading towards the mud wallow or pond. They may be starting to get a little tired, but still have some energy left from the night before. You can hear quiet vocalizations and see them doing some sleepy touches. Breakfast is scheduled for around 8am and those three stay at the far reaches of the habitat for their morning meal. When they hear the 4-wheeler headed their way, they walk to the closest fence line for food. Our care team has a strategy for feeding the three that involves keeping Bambi and Rana somewhat occupied, so that Mara can eat in peace. When they are finished eating, Bambi and Mara will ask for some water from the hose, while Rana hangs out and picks up scraps.
Maia usually goes down for a short nap as the sun comes up. During the hottest parts of the year, she sleeps right at the edge of one of the ponds for a couple of hours until about 20 minutes before breakfast; she has an internal clock that wakes her up in time to eat. If breakfast is running late, she’ll come to find us.
Lady’s morning may differ from day to day, depending on how she feels. She knows she gets foot soaks if she’s by the barn in the mornings – but sometimes she doesn’t wander by until the afternoon. Some mornings she likes to stay out in Yard 3, where there is a big shade tree and some nice grazing. If she comes to the barn, she often heads back to Yard 2 afterward for some hay and a standing nap.
The three take late morning standing naps. You can tell because their trunks are relaxed on the ground. Those usually last about 15-20 minutes. They’ll go into a rotation of dusting for a while, napping again, enjoying some shade, napping, and grazing. They’ll often take a splash bath as well.
Mara gets her lunch delivery around 12:30. Again, Mara and Bambi hear the 4-wheeler and head over. Rana doesn’t always join them, opting to spend time grazing on her own. Afterward, they go back to the same routine as earlier in the day – grazing, napping, repeat. Meanwhile, Lady is giving herself a bath in the trough or playing in the mud wallow. Maia doesn’t often make an appearance in the afternoon and, because we place food throughout the habitat, we know she is eating. She is our resident napper, so she will sometimes find a shady spot to rest or go back to the mud wallow for an afternoon nap or swim.
Dinnertime is scheduled for 4:30pm for Mara, Bambi, and Rana, so they often start heading to the barn around 3:30. Again, Rana may opt to stay where she is if she’s found a grazing spot she prefers. In those cases, she gets a food delivery. There is a nice dusting spot on the way to the barn, so they may stop there for a while or go off into the woods in Yard 2 – a spot they particularly enjoy. Once they arrive, Mara is let into the chute, as she prefers, and eats inside. Both Mara and Bambi get water from the hose, which they are adamant to receive. Rana is perfectly content to drink from the trough.
As with all meals, Maia’s internal clock tells her when it is time for dinner. If we don’t see her right away, she will start to follow us – which actually makes it harder to find her. She is often the most difficult to find because, even if you know where she was five minutes before dinner, that doesn’t mean she will be anywhere near there when it comes time to feed.
Lady is never not ready for dinner, but doesn’t really have a place where she prefers to eat. If Lady is near the other girls when they come by, she will sometimes interact with them – though she mostly watches. We’ll go to her wherever she’s decided to stay, and give her food and her nightly medicine. We leave some hay and a few extra treats in the yard, including an apple with her essential oils inside, to encourage her to walk around during the evening. It’s a bit of a scavenger hunt that gets her moving, which is good for her feet and her circulation.
We always put eyes on each elephant at dinner to make sure all is well. It allows us to do a quick visual wellness check or investigate anything that might need more attention. Otherwise, we give them their space at night, checking on things through the camera periodically.
Mara, Bambi, and Rana are typically most active at night. If we turn on the camera to watch them, sometimes we have to search more than once to follow their movements. The three socialize quite vocally at night and can become silly. We hear them multiple times after dark. They have little parties every time they get more than 10 feet away from each other, then come back together again.They also lie down to sleep for a couple of hours at a time later into the evening. Sometimes one will stand watch initially, but inevitably, they will all be lying down together.
Lady often lays down at night to sleep, which helps with taking the weight off of her feet and giving her body a break. On the days when she explores Yard 5, she tends to stay there all evening. Maia is also active and wandering during the late evening hours. We leave food for her in some of her favorite spots that we think she will wander through before morning. We don’t want her to feel left out, so we leave her random surprise goodies.
Each elephant has her own loose routine, but it varies depending upon their desires and mood that day. Less excitement is often better – with the exception of any joyful parties that might be thrown. Whether the routine involves lots of wandering or lots of naps, each elephant is in her own home and has the choice to do whatever she pleases.
Photo: Rana, Bambi, and Mara