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Balancing Out an Elephant’s Need

Rana and Mara

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.

Photo of Mara (left) and Rana (right), with a faint rainbow in the background.

November 23, 2020

Asian habitat map rev6

Comments(13)

  1. REPLY
    FRANCINE FORD says

    What a BEAUTIFUL pic of Mara, Rana & faint rainbow!

    And what a juggling act you hoomans are doing in observing the Golden Girls & catering to their needs.

    I had a totally empathic moment while reading what you wrote about the differences in the Ladies’ lives from before Sanctuary & now. It makes my heart break not only for The Golden Girls, but also the ellies still living in their concrete & hard clay enclosures waiting patiently for their food which is probably not what the Sanctuary Ladies get. Makes me have bittersweet feels.

    I can’t express the thanks I feel for all of you; both hooman & ellies alike.

    Thank you so much for sharing what you do with us all. Again, words fall short…y’all ROCK!
    ❤🐘❤🐘❤🐘❤🐘❤🐘

  2. REPLY
    Sunny says

    Animals belong to nature. They are not things to entertain us. It’s painful think the way they live in captivity. We are animals, we must to respect to each other.

  3. REPLY
    Wim says

    Love your storyline with all the wonderful details. Balance is the most important layer of life. The girls are giant sentient sources and social caregivers. Wish humans were more like Elephants. 🙏🐘🙏

  4. REPLY
    SHEILA says

    DEAR MARA,🐘 I HOPE SHE STARTS FEELING BETTER SOON SO SHE AND 🐘RANA CAN GO OUT WALKING TO GRAZE THE LOVELY LONGER LUSH 🍃🌾GRASSES IN THE BIG YARDS!
    IS THERE ANY NEWS ON MARAS DIAGNOSIS KAT?? I PRAY SHES GOING TO GET NETTER VERY SOON! WAS VERY SURPRISED TO HEAR MAIA. DID THAT ATTEMPTED TAIL BITE TO RANA😪. I THINK MAIA MAYBE WANTED TO GET ATTENTION FROM RANA! PERHAPS DEAR RANA WAS NOT PAYING ATTENTION TO MAIA! BUT TAIL BITING IS A VERY BIG NO NO!! I THINK YOU FOLKS HAVEVA TOUGH TIME BALANCING THESE 5 LADIES LIVES WHEN. ONE LADY IS ILL AND SHE HAS 2 OTHER FRIENDS. MAIA AND BAMBI THAT LIKELY SHOULD BE HANGING OUT GRAZING AND HIKING AROUND THE BIG YARDS PRAYING 🙏MARA RETURNS TO HEALTH VERY SOON! AND THAT LADY AND AALL THE LADIES CAN CIME TOGETHER AS A HERD TO MENTOR THE NEW GALS THAT WILL BE ARRIVING SOON! THANKS TO THE STAFF DURING THIS TIME! AS IM SURE ROTATION OF THE SMALL GROUPS IS DIFFICULT AND FRUSTRATING FOR THE LADIES TO AS BEHAVIORS R STARTING TO SHOW! BE HAPPY MAIA! TIME TO DO SOME POND TIME SWEET❤️

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      Nothing new with Mara’s diagnosis, and we don’t expect anything new. We have done numerous tests, but we can’t do what would give us answers, such as ultrasounds, MRIs, etc, due to their size. So we continue to work with her diet and different medications, to see what gives us a positive response. Most likely we won’t have a definitive diagnosis, and this is common with elephants.

  5. REPLY
    John says

    That picture is amazing. Elephants continue to fascinate and amaze me.

  6. REPLY
    Linda Martin-Desy says

    Sometimes I feel overwhelming gratitude for what you do for these magnificent intelligent creatures. God bless you for your humanity.

  7. REPLY
    Susan Barnes says

    It’s so good to read this and feel your empathy when I so often feel overwhelmed with sadness and pessimism about the plight of elephants. Thank you so so much for what you do it is so very crucial and important and gives us hope and more importantly gives the elephants hope and peace and happiness I pray.

  8. REPLY
    Deb Moore says

    Are there noticeable changes in the plants available since the fire? Just wondering if the first plants to populate are as good for them as the other things coming later. Always interesting to see what comes up first and how it impacts their searches and behaviors.
    Is there more growth around ele poop piles?
    I am happy to know all are staying themselves, doing what they need.
    HUGS to the girls and caregivers.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      We don’t really have ele poo piles in the habitat- they either get cleaned up or the wildlife breaks them up. Right now, most of what has come up is grass, there aren’t a lot of plants that have resurfaced in the areas that burned. We will be watching to see how things develop over the next few months.

  9. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    Since elephants are such sensitive and intuitive beings, do you think Rana is being protective and staying close because she knows Mara is not well? I cannot express how grateful I am for your insight and knowledge about each one of these beautiful beings and each with their unique personality..

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      Simply, that is what friends do. Even when nothing is wrong, all of the elephant pairings we have known have been the same. Willing to self-sacrifice for their friend when needed. 🙂 Part of what makes them so beautiful.

  10. REPLY
    Terry says

    I see you mentioned again Mara’s health issues. I read almost every email I receive from sanctuary Brazil, and no doubt missed that one! You offer more freedom in every regard than any zoo or captive enclosure so NO apologies regarding the steps you need to take for our girls!!! You guys have such a handle on the nuances of each elephant, and every post connects us all to the Love and care you provide endlessly! Thank You. Happy Thanksgiving from the U S A!

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