We have noticed that Mara, Rana, and Maia all seem a little bored lately. Due to Mara’s ongoing health issue, we are keeping Mara (and therefore Rana) in the smaller yards close to the barn right now. This proximity allows us to observe Mara better, gauge responses to treatments, and separate her for meals to ensure she is eating sufficiently. While we refer to Yards 1, 2, and 3 as the “smaller yards,” we want to clarify that they are still several acres in size. Each of those yards is still several times larger than what any of these elephants had in their previous lives. That said, we are seeing changes in the girls due to this shift from normal. Rana seems a little aimless at times, but she also isn’t interested in leaving her friend. As a more recent arrival, and the beneficiary of extra food, Mara doesn’t seem quite as bothered at her time in the smaller yards as Rana does.
Maia is spending most of her time in Yards 4 or 5, but she likes to have regular check-ins with the others. Sometimes, it’s just a few minutes here and there, and other times it is for a few hours, or most of a day. She regularly heads back to the barn to see her friends, which is good for her, but it also means that she, too, is spending more time in the smaller yards.
This appears to be causing some pent up energy in Maia lately – her spunk has a bit of an edge. When she was hanging out with Rana and Mara the other day, Maia got a little overly playful and put Rana’s tail in her mouth. While Maia didn’t bite or hurt her, Rana was not pleased. She walked away for a little bit, and Maia seemed to understand that her behavior wasn’t welcomed.
Due to the late start to the rainy season this year, the pastures were extremely dry. They are only now returning to the lushness that our residents have come to expect. In the wild, elephants spend 16-20 hours each day grazing. Having observed sanctuary elephants with unlimited grazing, we see them reach a meditative, almost zen state when grazing. Their bodies fall into a rhythm of gathering, pulling, shaking off the dirt, and chewing. There’s a sense of peace to it. It’s trance-like even when watching. Though the lushness is returning, the grazing isn’t as unlimited in the smaller yards. We see the shift in the elephants without being able to engage in the constant behavior of grazing.
The value of sanctuary is something we live by. We understand space is a big part of that. Sometimes, like right now, we have to balance out an elephant’s needs for space, friends, and healthcare. We understand the value of their needs, and we work hard to provide the right balance. Despite this, it’s still quite the reminder of what a difference in both physical and emotional well-being there is when the elephants have smaller spaces and limited grazing. It’s hard to imagine them living their lives in even smaller areas with no grazing for decades. It was all they knew before they came here, and we are grateful it will never be their lives again.