Our educational approach includes plenty of up-close, hands-on practical education, observations, and conversations. There are times when we feel it’s important for our care staff to have solo moments to make decisions, see what works well for them, and understand the scope of what still needs to be learned and explored. We work alongside them, of course, but anyone who plans to work with elephants long-term needs both a sense of confidence and an understanding of the massive amount of continuing education required. That is part of our goal as teachers and as elephant advocates. We recently asked Trish to detail what a day in the life at sanctuary looked like for her, on a day that she and the team took over the care of all of the sanctuary residents:
The morning here starts at 7am, or even earlier if you want to watch some of the most unbelievable sunrises at 5:30am.
One of the sanctuary dogs, Molly, has a variety of medical conditions and requires medications spaced throughout the day. She was following me around closely, so I packed up her mid-morning medicine for our trip to the barn – where she has been supervising us all lately.
The animals up at the top of the hill must be fed breakfast and given medications (if necessary), before we can head down to check out where all five elephant girls are. At the house, you can check the two cameras to see if any elephants are waiting for breakfast at the barn. You will usually find Bambi and Mara by the pond and know that Rana is somewhere close by.
On the way down from the house you keep your eyes open to see any signs of elephants in the yards or water missing from the troughs, indicating someone has drunk there recently. We then make a plan for the day, dividing up tasks and deciding who is feeding which elephants and who will be opening and closing each gate and cleaning the yards.There always has to be someone watching the girls as they eat breakfast, to ensure that everything is done safely.
Lady has been coming in to get her foot soaks and some of her treatments with me and Mateus, and has been so cooperative and enjoying all the extra treats. Around 4pm we usually let Mara in for her private dinner. As we know, Mara often brings her friends Bambi and Rana along. Sometimes they start heading to the barn at 2:30-3pm, and other days a short drive by the pond reminds them it’s around that time. Bambi and Mara are quick to head back to the barn, but Rana usually takes her time, showing up about 15 minutes after the other two and picking up leftovers wherever she can. Mara has been doing well with allowing both me and Mateus to wash her and apply bug spray, while she enjoys her dinner in the chute, away from her slightly invasive friends.
After Mara is finished, the sun is setting and sometimes, if you are lucky, there are toucans or macaws or flocks of parakeets flying over. It’s a very peaceful time of night. Rana and Mara and Bambi have all been fed dinner and are mingling around, all finishing up each other’s hay. Mara recently has been very cute asking for more food when all the hay is finished. I tell her the kitchen is closed, so no more orders tonight – but after-dinner dessert is being offered out in the yards.
While someone is feeding the three girls at the barn, someone else goes out to deliver dinner to Maia and Lady, and spread food around the yards for all of them to find throughout the night.
Back at the house, around sunset, all the roosters are getting into bed up in the trees or along the porch wall. The three dogs and two cats are waiting for their dinner in the kitchen. There is just a beautiful peaceful vibe as the sun magnificently goes down and all becomes gradually quiet.
One of my favorite parts of being up at the house has been the different faces I find outside the front door, obviously looking for something. Sampson, the rooster who’s blind in his right eye, comes for his daily fruit and nuts. Milo the sheep is the only animal to show his displeasure when he discovers that I am not Scott or Kat. I was told that offering him papaya might make him my friend again, but I just found out he’s also been looking for a salty snack. No wonder he’s been spitting out the fruit I’ve been giving him.
At 10pm there is one last feeding and treatment to do for Alma, the resident tapir. One of the dogs, Bugsy, always walks me from the house to Alma’s enclosure and patiently waits outside. It is so peaceful and beautiful here on a clear night, with so many stars in the sky.
In addition to Bugsy, there is a duck who walks to and from Alma’s enclosure, looking for company and, of course, food. Often Milo the sheep joins the group for Alma’s last treatment as well.
When you get close, Alma makes this loud chirping sound, excited you are coming with one last meal. Tapirs are nocturnal, so she is just waking up as I’m trying to stay awake. Bugsy and Minnie are then left to sleep on the veranda to protect all the other animals from hungry wildlife.
The days are full of hard work and I am so grateful to be here in this beautiful place helping Scott, Kat, and the sanctuary team. I am honored they have entrusted me with everyone’s care. Of course my focus has always been the elephants, but this time I am really enjoying getting to know the other beings that call the sanctuary home, too.