Caregivers Who Connect

We recently wrote about Lady, her needs from caregivers, and how important it is to listen to the messages she sends. At times, Lady can be uncomfortable with unexpected or unnecessary noises or activities around, especially when she needs someone to focus completely on her needs. That means that having multiple individuals around when working on her feet may be difficult for her. 

It is common for us to hold an elephant’s trunk when we are working with them in the treatment chute or at the fence line. This creates a mutual connection between the person and the elephant. But, even in moments where there is physical contact with a caregiver, if Lady feels that the person working on her isn’t focused, she will let them know that she needs more.

About twice a month, we get a visit from a consulting integrated veterinarian named Luciana. Scott and Luciana were having a conversation about the nuances of caring for individual elephants – like needing to be present for Lady, knowing that Mara will be studying you to see if she can manipulate you in some way, or understanding that Rana might hold back until she gets to know you. Luciana works primarily with horses and wants to learn as much as she can about elephants, so she’s an eager learner. 

On this particular afternoon, Lady happened to be near the barn, which was unexpected. This gave Scott the potential opportunity to show Luciana a few things that are unique about Lady’s feet. When simply doing a “show and tell,” Lady has not always been keen in the past – especially if you become distracted by conversation. Scott, Luciana, and Ingo all looked at Lady’s front feet and she was wonderful. Then we asked her to present her back feet and, once again, she was happy to oblige. She was very tolerant of what we were asking her to do and Scott got the impression that Lady was sensing the kind of people that Luciana and Ingo are – that they are knowledgeable, have empathy for her, and were doing their best to promote relaxation in Lady during the entire process. 

Afterward, Luciana said the experience was a highlight of her life. For us, it was an inspiring and instructive experience. This is part of their education, but is also a reflection of what they bring to the table as caregivers. 

Photo of Lady enjoying the sunshine


  1. REPLY
    Elaine Decker says

    How do you ask for her feet? This is so fascinating!❤

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      That is part of the positive reinforcement training that we do to teach them how to safely receive medical care. Most elephants have been taught using dominance-based training, so they need to learn that they are safe here. It can take time, but we ask them to do a behavior and then do what’s called a “bridge” (in our case, that’s blowing a whistle) and then give the elephant a treat to let them know they’ve done well. Here’s a little bit of information on why we do that training:

  2. REPLY
    Caroo says

    Absolutely precious…both the humanity and compassion of Ingo, Luciana and Scott, as well as the loveliness of our Lady. Brought me to tears for the relief that she was at ease and content to receive the proper attention and focus.
    Love you ALL!!!!!

  3. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Wow, that a girl Lady how amazing is that what an impressive fantastic job! Looks as though there are two more care givers that are welcomed into her intimate circle of friends 😉🐘💞

  4. REPLY
    Wim says

    Sorry to steal this.
    Your once, twice, three times a LADY.

  5. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    That is a lot of trust! Kudos.

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