Since her arrival, Bambi has been a colorful example of how dynamics among elephants in sanctuary can shift with the entrance of a new individual. Not only are new relationships formed, but relationships that already exist between elephants who have known each other for years can also change. Every individual here has her own relationship with every other individual, one-on-one.
Bambi’s appearance at sanctuary has been relatively positive in that it has created a strong bond among Mara, Rana, and herself. But it has inevitably changed the relationship between Mara and Rana that existed long before her arrival and the relationships between Maia, Rana, and Mara. As a result of this shift in dynamics, we have seen interesting things emerge – like the growing bond between Rana and Maia.
Bambi and Rana’s relationship seems to be somewhat cyclical; there is a bit of ebb and flow. Bambi is at Mara’s side at almost every given opportunity. When Mara is having dinner and Bambi has some time alone with Rana, you can often see them having gentle and affectionate moments. Other times, there is a little bit of subtle conversation between the two over who is the “boss” at the moment. In moments when Bambi wants to assert herself, there might be a twinkle in Rana’s eye that seems to say, “Okay. I’ll let you think you are in charge,” and it is endlessly amusing. There have not been any drastic moments of pushing or fighting, though there have been a few instances of head nudging. We get a sense of how they are relating to one another by watching their body language: how their heads are positioned next to one another, how their trunks are sitting, the way they are holding their shoulders.
If you call them out in moments where they are quietly challenging one another, you can almost see them doing the elephant version of, “Nothing is going on here, no sir…” It can be amusing to watch from afar, though you might not notice anything happening if you weren’t familiar with their behaviors. We don’t always know what causes the changes in how they relate to each other. Perhaps it is something that Mara is doing. Or, because Bambi is particularly protective of Mara, if Mara is not feeling well, Bambi may be feeling a bit insecure.
These evolving dynamics impact not just their relationships with each other, but also how our care team responds to them. If we notice a slight shift in mood between Bambi and Rana, we adjust where we put their food and how much separation we place between the two of them during dinner, to ensure that Mara gets her meal without interruptions. If we are not paying attention, negative behaviors can be encouraged without someone realizing it. As is often the case, subtleties are the key. Keeping an eye out for slight behavioral changes helps us adjust their care and ensure everyone is getting the best out of sanctuary.
Photo of Rana