Guille Continues to Build Trust

As Scott mentioned in an earlier post, Guille is still working on having an emotionally open and honest relationship with her caregivers. There seems to be a veil that is blocking the emotional element of trust that we know will take time to pull back. That became evident in a recent training session with Scott and Mateus. 

Initially, Scott was working on Guille’s feet and she was doing incredibly well. As we’ve explained before, we like to have someone hold an elephant’s trunk during treatment because it creates a sense of intimacy and allows the caregiver to get – through any tension or movement in the trunk – a sense of any stress or anxiety, or even relaxation.

While Scott was doing some foot trimming, Mateus came over to hold Guille’s nose. Because Guille was being so calm, Scott decided to give Mateus the opportunity to trim her feet. As Mateus is still learning, he is very gentle in his approach. But once he started, Guille immediately leaned her head into the fence to show she was not happy with the new arrangement. Scott explained to her that they were doing the same thing as before and the two tried again, but Guille was not interested. Scott tried to resume trimming himself and Guille was still not fully settled. Since, when Guille normally doesn’t want to participate, she walks away, Scott decided to give her some time to decide what she wanted to do. She continued to be engaging, so he asked her to do a couple of other behaviors, which she responded to very quickly, and then they tried to work on her feet again. Mateus came over to hold her nose and she was back to being ‘perfect’. Ultimately, they were able to finish the area they had started and end the session in a good place.

This is just one example of how Guillermina is quick to lose trust in others and how small changes in new routines can still feel significant to her. For instance, though she has had bloodwork done multiple times and will position herself perfectly, when it comes time for the needle stick, sometimes she turns around quickly, as if to say: What did you just do? Then she’ll settle back in easily. Though she has never experienced any dominance-based training, she sometimes responds to situations in a way that physically abused elephants do. Though the facility where she and Pocha lived was psychologically damaging, there was not any intentional physical harm done to them. And yet, she still has a hard time taking that next big step with her human caregivers. 

Guille is still in the early days of her sanctuary life and has a lot to work through and figure out. Right now, we’re just happy that she is doing amazingly well and focusing her time and attention on improving her relationships with the other elephants. The rest will come in due time. 

Photo of Guillermina


  1. REPLY
    Pam says

    Thank you for this update on Guille. My heart still breaks thinking of Pocha’s passing, and Guille having to deal with that loss on top of her other issues. I think there was a blood test done on Guille, to see if she has any signs of the disease that took Pocha’s life — have any results been received on that test, or when are they expected? Thank you.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We don’t have any blood test results on Guille yet. We’ll make sure to report when that’s available.

  2. REPLY
    María Elizabeth Alvarez says

    Thank you for the update!!!

  3. REPLY
    Nancy Crider says

    Thank you for these detailed accounts of Guille’s progress at sanctuary. They are very appreciated.
    It warms my heart to read that she is slowly adapting to her new life. I have no doubt she is still mourning the loss of the mum who was her guide and protector those many years. It is gratifying to hear that she is slowly developing friendships with the other eles. Those friendships will help her heal.

  4. REPLY
    Wim says

    I can imagine after being in captivity your whole life there is no new normal.

  5. REPLY
    Carey says

    Thank you, very heartwarming to read. When you talked about her turning after having the needle stick, it reminds me of having injections and being calm as I know it’s necessary and then silently “ouching” when it’s done! I realise no-one ever intentionally hurt her at the zoo, but this medical checking and toenail filing and foot work is also very new no? I’m quite sure Matteus is wonderfully gentle with them all, but she’s still a baby, as you said, younger mentally than her years. I remember how she would normally wait for her mother to test all the new stuff out, and try to “protect” her mother if she didn’t like what she was seeing her do, where as a younger elephant growing up with all that, would be way more ‘over that’ now. If Pocha was there to show her the way in working on her physical treatments I think it might be easier for Guille. She really is a big baby, and I’m sure, as you say, it will all come in time. Well done Scott for having gained her trust!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Footwork is completely new to her. Until we put up the training wall in Mendoza, there was no way for them to provide foot care. She’s doing really well at learning new behaviors. It’s lovely to see.

  6. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    She seems to be doing great learning and taking it day by day. Being the “baby” of the group and all the significant life changes she’s had, she couldn’t live in a better place than ESB. So happy she’s there and has her aunties as well to be there for her.

  7. REPLY
    Susy says

    Gracias por este informe, por compartir momentos tan importantes en la vida de Guille. La amo tanto que todo su comportamiento es para mí motivo de emocion: Amor , paciencia y comprensión. Me uno a Pam, para saber cual ha sido el resultado de los análisis realizados. Un abrazo fuerte a todos los seres del Santuario.

  8. REPLY
    Bonnie says

    Nice to hear she’s trying Guille to trust people is going to be hard and probably take longer she sounds like she’s really trying but something spooks her but just from reading about her treatment with Scott doing it she’s fine maybe because she remembers Scott saving her and her mom I remember in one of the videos when Scott was bringing them to the Sanctuary and still on the truck you could hear Scott talking to them telling them it’s going to be ok your safe now if I remember correctly but I believe she’s going to trust it just takes time this is new for her but she’s in really good hands and has a family who loves her

  9. REPLY
    Patricia says

    I have a lot of mistrust of humans myself, especially in a concrete zoo setting. Maybe it’s just because Guille has always had her way and she wants to be in charge. (Listen to me, the big expert! LOL!) My beloved ESB folks are showing this precious girl the way, and I am so grateful! Love to every living creature there! xoxoxo

  10. REPLY
    Heather Parsons says

    Perhaps Guille could sense that Mateus was “concerned” about hurting her, or did not show confidence in handling her feet. I’m not for one minute saying he could not do the job, I’m thinking Guille picked up on his emotions. Possibly, I hate to anthropomorphic her actions, but we all know how smart and sensitive Elephant’s are.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      I suppose that could play a role, but it seems to be a much larger thing than that one moment.

  11. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Guille is such a beautiful elephant once you gaze into those beautiful eyes of hers you are in love! She’s been through so much in her young life i look back at my own life losing both my parents at a very young age in my late 20’s and pregnant it was and still is difficult to manuver through certain circumstances when you depend on when you need your mom and dad the very most but Guille will be just fine! Sending all my love to Guille she’s got an amazing support system both with her circle of sisters and her phenomenal caregivers! God bless you all and thank you everyone 🙏 ❤

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