From Kat: Bambi Lying Down in the Morning

Bambi at sunset


This afternoon, we wanted to share some words about a recent occurrence directly from Kat. Here she is, offering some details for you:

The other morning, caregivers went out to feed the 5 ladies, Mara, Rana, Bambi, Guille, and Maia. They could see 3 elephants by the pond and assumed it was the “Powerpuff Girls”. Maia was spotted at the square, so everyone was prepared for speedy Guille’s arrival. As Mara and Rana approached, they realized that the third elephant was actually Guille and that Bambi was missing, which is not what was expected. As everyone was coming up with a plan for the morning and where to look for Bambi, you could see that Guille was actually standing next to an elephant who was lying down. It was impossible to see anything except the point of someone’s belly above the grass.

To safely assess the situation, all other elephants needed to be closed out of Yard 4. Maia, Rana, and Mara all shifted easily, but Guille was reluctant to leave Bambi. She walked most of the way to Yard 3 where Maia was, but came back by the pond, closer to Bambi, multiple times. Caregivers eventually ended up walking with her, along the fence line, to get her to go into the yard with Maia. It’s understandable that she would have concerns after losing her mother, especially considering the bond she shares with Bambi. At that point, we couldn’t even determine if Bambi had passed, if she was hurt, or what the situation was.

Once the other elephants were all behind other gates, we could enter the habitat and see that Bambi was alive and resting. She wasn’t actively struggling to get up but, by the imprints in the mud, you could see there had been some failed attempts, and there were also other elephants with and around her. In these situations, a ton of thoughts run through your head, but all of that needs to stay in check, so you can act appropriately and not bring your own stress into a situation that has probably already been stressful for the elephant. Some facilities will immediately get a crane and try to lift the elephant, but the reality is, if they are not rested and don’t have the strength to hold themselves up with their own legs, that is all futile. And we don’t know if she is lying down because she is sick, or injured, or what the situation is.

With observation and assessment, we felt that it was mostly likely that she could not get up because of the angle she was lying down (her head was downhill) and her leg that does not bend was on her downside. This makes it incredibly difficult to get that leg underneath her, enabling her to push herself up. So a plan was made just to observe her, allowing her to rest. We brought out some food and water but wanted to restrict her from bathing because creating a big mud puddle would make standing very slippery. Hay bales were also brought out, in case she indicated that she was going to try to get up. 

The act of an elephant rising on their own is fairly ungraceful. They have to rock back and forth, usually multiple times, to shift their weight and begin the process. When an elephant who is struggling to stand rocks and shifts their weight, you can quickly push a hay bale under their side to help prop them up, making it less work the next time they make an attempt. During this time, discussions are being had and plans are being made for what to do if it starts raining, if it gets too hot, if we can set up tarps, pulling together straps for lifting (we have a premade downed elephant kit that has all needed supplies), making sure the backhoe is available to help lift her if it seems she is struggling and wants to stand, but is unable to do so on her own. Our veterinarian/caregiver Mateus was already working that morning, so he was there for the entire process – plus we were in touch with Dr. Trish, messaging all morning. 

Thankfully, what we had suspected was correct, that Bambi was in a position where she just couldn’t manage getting up the normal way. After a little rest, she decided she was ready to try again. Once she began to rock, hay bales were put in place, and she took a minute. She quickly attempted to get further up and, this time, was able to get into somewhat of a sitting position. Because this is a position she has put herself in alongside the pond and in mud wallows, she has muscle memory of how to get up from there, making it easier and minimizing stress. After a couple of minutes of additional rest, she decided she was ready again, and this time was able to stand fully. 

Bambi was a little tired but ate some watermelon and drank immediately. She initially seemed like she was going to head toward the annex yard where Rana and Mara were, but changed her mind and took a standing nap in the shade trees next to the pond instead. A little later, when Bambi went towards the annex and seemed ready for other elephants, gates were opened to allow everyone (except Lady) back together again. 

Interestingly, for quite some time after Bambi got up, Rana and Mara did not go over to her, though she seemed to be waiting for them to rejoin her. However, Guille came bounding down the fence line and somewhat surprisingly slowed her speed when she came close to Bambi. She tentatively smelled her and stood next to her, switching from one side of her to the other. It was nice to see someone celebrating Bambi being up and to see Guille’s visible relief that Bambi was standing and okay.

Unfortunately, this scenario is not unfamiliar when working at sanctuary, especially with a very aged population of elephants. Except for Guille, the elephants here in Brazil are over the average lifespan of captive Asian elephants (37 years old) and considered geriatric and very geriatric (ages ranging from at least 50 to at least 65). We know that any morning we could find that someone has passed. Although heartbreaking, it would not be totally surprising. As a sanctuary, we often receive elephants who have had a difficult life, inappropriate care, and physical compromise. Our hope is we can give them any amount of time here and allow them to be part of something bigger than themselves: a herd. The joy of experiencing the space and safety to find themselves, and a chance to experience the simple pleasures of grazing on fresh grass, coating their bodies with inches of mud, and being able to choose whatever path they want to go down each day. Just 24 hours at sanctuary is remarkably transformative, although when an elephant passes, even when they have been here for years, there’s still a piece of us that always wishes it was longer. So this morning, we were handed a reminder of that reality but were graced with an outcome that left us relieved for Bambi, and with an even greater appreciation of what Guille has lent to the group and what they have grown to mean to her.

Photo of Bambi with her ears out at sunset


  1. REPLY
    Wim says

    Must have been a scary and nervous situation.
    Hopefully a onetime occasion.
    Wish you many more sunrises dear Bambi. 🫶

  2. REPLY
    Carol says

    Wowww. What an ordeal. Thank goodness the outcome was positive. Guille is precious for standing by. She has been through the trauma of losing her mom which the rest of the ladies have not experienced. I came across a You Tube posting of elephants who knew a visitor was pregnant, very early stage, and it was mind-blowing to watch. Elephants are miraculous beings.

  3. REPLY
    June Ross says

    Thank goodness Bambi is okay! My heart would break if something had happened to her! She is my favourite!
    Love Guille also especially for showing her concern for her sister.
    Thank you for being there for Bambi. YOU are all amazing!

  4. REPLY
    Christine Strickling says

    I was holding my breath as I was reading this. Thank God and the staff at GSE for this outcome. Every elephant deserves all the days they can get at the sanctuary. Also, my heart would break if Guille had to suffer another loss this soon.

  5. REPLY
    Irene says

    Oh my goodness, so glad that Bambi is doing well, I was holding my breath the whole time I was reading about her. Thank you for using your expertise and giving Bambi time to try to get herself up. Guille is such a sweetheart, she was so concerned about one of her herd. All new experiences for her! 🥰♥️♥️

  6. REPLY
    Silvana Soranna says

    Conmovedor!! Gracias por cuidarlas como tesoros. Ellas lo merecen. Mi Guille querida tan alerta porque experimentó lo que es ver morir a su mamá, a su lado. Deseo de corazón, que Bambi logre estabilizarse y siga disfrutando de la hermosa vida de santuario y amigas. Me emociona mucho lo sucedido y su atenta respuesta. Kat, Scott, equipo SEB, GRACIAS !

  7. REPLY
    Eileen says

    So glad that all ended well. While we know their times are coming (as it is for everyone at some point!), we rejoice that they have had time at the sanctuary, to just be. ♥

  8. REPLY
    Rachel says

    What a nail-biting story! And such a relief too. Wonderful to hear all is well and the girls are back to doing what they normally do, even if it takes a bit of time to get there after all the stress. Thanks for the play-by-play update! 💕

  9. REPLY
    Nancy says

    Thank You Kat

  10. REPLY
    Greg says

    I’m so glad to hear that Bambi is OK and up and about again. Hopefully she has many more years left in the tank!

  11. REPLY
    Sue says

    Thank you for sharing. It is a jolt of reality when things like this happen. I can only imagine how it affects the Girls and everyone at Sanctuary. It is easy for me to get caught up in the daily happenings that we are privy to and try to tuck away any sad feelings from the past. I feel so much love for everyone there, and especially these beautiful Girls. I get so much joy watching their growth and love of life and when something like this happens, it is just heart wrenching. The thought of them in any type of distress after all they have gone through in their lives is always hard to hear about. I am thankful to hear Bambi was able to get back up on her own and so grateful she had you there by her side, keeping the atmosphere calm. Thank you, with all my heart, for the care and love you provide, it is truly profound. ❤️🐘❤️

  12. REPLY
    Jillyp says

    What a worry for you seeing an elephant down and so much to consider for the best outcome. Poor Guille, I can see why she was so worried and it was lovely she celebrated Bambi being on her feet again 💜🐘🐘 🦶🦶👣🐾

  13. REPLY
    Lisa Sisson says

    Thanks for this beautiful and heartfelt post..what a scary time this must have been for everyone. Thank you for your devotion to these remarkable elephants. It seems you know exactly what to do in any situation! We appreciate your dedication and love. ❤️

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thanks. We certainly try!

  14. REPLY
    Zoi says

    I was afraid to start reading and find bad news. What a joy to know that Bambi was able to get up and Guille can continue by her side. Thank you very much for all the love you give them.

  15. REPLY
    Sheila says


  16. REPLY
    Leigh says

    So glad Miss Bambi is okay and you were able to help her get up on her own.

  17. REPLY
    Greg says

    Have you thought about getting her a “Life Alert” Necklace in case she falls again and can’t get up? 🙂

    • REPLY
      Sara says


  18. REPLY
    Johnny says

    Happy our dear Bambi is Ok! So interesting to hear about how the other elephants reacted and responded to her trouble.

  19. REPLY
    Vicki V Bowen says

    I am so happy that Bambi was finally able to get up! Bless you, Guille … ♥️ Thank you for telling us about this situation especially since the outcome was a happy one. Bless you All.

  20. REPLY
    Marcia says

    Kat, you always write so eloquently. Now that we know this story has a happy ending, what a joy it always is to read one of your stories.

  21. REPLY
    Bonnie says

    Bambi glad your ok and thank you for sharing kat

  22. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Oh boy that rush of sadness washed over me I wasn’t sure what was coming next but thankfully Bambi and the girls are okay and on their way back to family life. Thank you Kat for giving us such a detailed description of what happened and a very interesting plan of action for getting this sweet girl back on her feet you just can’t pick em up can you! These ladies are in the best hands possible and so so lucky to have all of you on their side looking after them loving them as much as we all do, God bless 🙏🐘 💞 🦋

  23. REPLY
    Gayle Janzen says

    Bambi, you gave us all quite a scare! So happy you were able to get back up and carry on with your day although a bit tired from your ordeal. I’m sure you were happy that your wonderful caretakers were able to help you get back up. Take care, Bambi and keep enjoying your sweet life in the Sanctuary. ❤️

  24. REPLY
    Carey says

    That must have been worrying for everyone and shows us the amount of things that have to be in place for such a situation, quite a mission. I can only say very well done indeed for configuring the best way for Bambi to help herself up. I forget how geriatric they are sometimes, and this is a timely reminder. Guille’s behaviour was also marvellous! strange about Rana and Mara and indeed Maia, that they didn’t show their feelings for Bambi – or join Guille, who knows…it may be part of their own past trauma? very much hope that Bambi is her charming old self again today, and Guille is ok too.

  25. REPLY
    Terry says

    Oh sweet Bambi! Heart stopper for us all. I’m so glad all is well!!!

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