Many of our supporters know that a big part of sanctuary is honoring the space and boundaries of elephants. For today’s EleFACT Friday, we want to speak more about protected contact, what it means, and how it safeguards everyone here at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. We recently posted a video of Mara, Rana, and Bambi walking in the sunset, and shared that Scott kept his distance while filming. We received several questions about why this distance is important.
A sanctuary that operates under protected contact means that there is an emphasis put on the safety of both humans and animals – physical and emotional safety. There is always a considerable distance or physical barrier between us when we are out in the habitat or are performing physical interactions with them, like training, treatments, or just giving affection. This management style is imperative to how we operate as a sanctuary. Our sanctuary, and our sanctuary philosophy, focuses on the elephants and the relationships they have with each other, rather than our relationships with them. Even though they live in captivity, elephants are still wild animals, and we do our best to treat them as such. Providing them their own space and a physical barrier allows them to heal.
Many captive elephants have had issues with humans not respecting their boundaries for most of their lives, and this system provides a space that they learn is theirs. For elephants with aggressive pasts, understanding this separation exists often allows them to relax and they let their guard down, encouraging healing. Human relationships can now be developed on the elephant’s terms, rather than the human’s. We do offer affection, but only if an individual indicates they want it; elephants are not meant to be at our disposal and should have the ability to control when they are touched. While we enjoy that sort of interaction, this ensures that those feelings are mutual.
There are different sanctuaries and organizations that operate differently, and this is not about whose approach is better. Different organizations have different goals, with elephants of different ages and different backgrounds, who are recovering from different traumas and have different needs. At Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, we do what we think is best for the elephants in our care, to promote their individual healing.
Photo of Maia, looking gorgeous in her own space