As part of the addition of a new treatment stall (see the dogs enjoying it here), there’s an adjoining yard for the elephants to explore, if they walk through the chute. Mara generally “asks” to take her meals in the chute if she is in the area so, when we are out in the habitat and she requests her meals be given in the Yard 4 chute, we happily oblige. Afterwards, we can open up behind her and she can exit back into Yard 4, or we can open in front of her and Mara can walk into this new annex yard to the side.
On the first day the annex was completed, we opened the treatment chute and Mara walked right into the new space. Rana was quick to follow, because she loves to explore new areas and seek out new opportunities for snacks. Bambi was much more hesitant and opted not to go through the chute on that day. Her choice was totally fine, since there was no real need for her to go into the annex yard. It had taken Bambi longer than some of the others to warm up to the treatment chute after her arrival, so we weren’t going to push her to take a step that she didn’t need to make at that moment. Her choice to walk through the chute and enter the yard could happen on her own time, when she found her own comfort with it. We tend to leave the gate open some mornings, in case anyone wants to pass through. If Rana and Mara do go into the annex yard for grazing, we offer Bambi some hay so she can still snack from the outside.
Last week, Bambi was finally ready to pass through the chute and into the yard. She spent some time there hanging out with Mara and Rana and feeling out her own comfort level. While Bambi has a big personality she, like Maia when Maia first arrived, sometimes uses it as a bit of a coverup for her insecurities. For instance, if you look at her rescue, she was very tentative to enter her crate for her transport; other elephants may approach the crates more quickly and with more curiosity, but Bambi seemed fearful and unsure if this new thing was positive.
In Bambi’s case, she’d experienced some past trauma that may have resulted in increasing her insecurities. As a result, she was hesitant to enter her crate for many days. Since then, treatment chutes have not exactly been her favorite thing. We’ve definitely worked with her quite a bit on positive reinforcement training, to encourage her to feel safer in the chute, but it has been more of a process than with many elephants. Her caregivers continue to work through insecurities with her, but Bambi will also need to come to terms with her past on her own, as all elephants at sanctuary will do. At the moment, we are letting her make those strides forward at her own pace and realize that she is safe and secure.
P.S.: With all of the excitement about Giving Tuesday, we posted updates about the new annex in the Global Rumblings newsletter and not in the blog. You can read that post here. If you haven’t signed up for our monthly newsletter, you can do so here to make sure you don’t miss any happenings, photos, or videos.
Bambi, initially hesitating at the entrance to the treatment chute