Guillermina’s Lesson From Maia

We’ve mentioned before that Guillermina has spent much of her life with little to no discipline from Pocha, who has generally let Guille do whatever she wants. Knowing this, it’s important to be mindful of how individual interactions will play out once the two elephants begin to expand their social circles. Elephants have an efficient way of determining dominance that doesn’t necessarily involve aggression, so Guillermina will be discovering the role she plays within the changing herd dynamics as she continues to mingle with the others. 

A few days ago, Pocha and Guille were snacking on either side of Maia. Everyone was mellow and a little sleepy. Guillermina took some hay from Maia’s pile, walked away to eat it, and Maia let her. Then Guille decided she wanted more of Maia’s hay – so she took it and walked away again. Maia let her know this wasn’t appropriate behavior by giving Guillermina a little nudge. The girls will often “share” hay, but they stay and snack together. Just grabbing hay and walking away isn’t quite as acceptable. Maia’s correction was gentle, but it was also a definitive way of saying, “That’s not how that’s done, little one.” Guille didn’t respond; she may have been caught off guard that someone admonished her, since she isn’t used to that. These small corrections will be good for her as she begins to understand what it means to live with other elephants. Everyone will have to determine what will work and what won’t as relationships are built. 

This interaction is a good example of the benefit of introducing one or two elephants into a group at a time, within a larger area. Each individual gets a chance to find their own way and adjust behaviors when they are with specific elephants – and take time away if that’s what they need. They learn to consider the needs of others and how each elephant may have a different response to their presence or their behaviors. The sanctuary’s larger space lends itself more to teaching moments, like this one between Maia and Guille. Guillermina got the message that Maia was trying to send, and the girls went back to snacking from their own piles. Maia’s response worked well.

Guillermina with Pocha in the background


  1. REPLY
    Katherine says

    How interesting, you are doing such a great job .

  2. REPLY
    Pam says

    Thank you for these daily posts! I especially appreciate these glimpses into the interactions between the girls. It will be interesting to see how Guille’s behaviors change over time …

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    Tammy says

    Great explanation this is so very interesting and what great examples of teachable moments from an elephants perspective. Maia is a rock star so gentle yet firm Guille will catch on quickly I’m sure with fantastic role models shes got how can she not. Momma Pocha did what she had too under the circumstances she was forced to endure she gets huge applause for being so strong so brave under those horrific conditions I really hope she bonds soon with one of the girls she needs to experience what being a free happy elephant with many sisters is all about as we’ve seen Guille can sure be sassy pants at times to her momma 🐘💞🐘

  4. REPLY
    Kayle says

    An extremely insightful commentary! I so appreciate GSE taking the time to enlighten me. Thank you!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thanks for reading along. It means so much.

  5. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    A great teacher. One does not have to use the cane.

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    Patricia Richardson says

    I love this insightful description of what happened in such a nuanced manner. As small and intricate as this admonition was, it is also exciting (like fireworks) in our hearts and minds as observers! Thank you for these moments which fill me with joy!

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    Julie says

    Love it Auntie Maiai!

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    Elizabeth says

    I am glad that Maia provided an appropriate correction to Guillermina. I was thinking that Pocha was in the concrete pit alone since she was one year old, so she most likely did not even learn how to give corrections. I am happy that they are in such a special home now.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Pocha may have wanted to give her daughter as much as possible – even if that meant getting her way most of the time. There are so many joyful things about Guillermina, and Pocha is a big part of that personality growth.

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    Zoi Flores says

    My sweet miss Maia 💖. Thank you for sharing this important chapter in Guille’s life.

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    Wim says

    Miss Maia marvelous mother superior!

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    Leslie says

    So, I have herd [pun intended] that there would be some “gentle corrections” and was wondering what that might look like. Thank you so much for explaining this. I love that Pocha and Guillermina are learning and growing and giggling! This rescue has been really impactful for me and I am so very grateful for your continued sharing of how our joint journey carries on. Love to all.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Ha! Nice one. And thanks for reading.

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    Barb says

    Good that Guillermina experiences some “lessons” from her sisters. Pocha can take a break 🥰

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    Christine says

    Thanks so much for your
    daily updates. its good to know that Guille has taken her discipline so well. With one of the kindest teaches we know. Is one of the girls considered Matriarch among them as they are in the wild? I think Maia would be a candidate as she tends to greet newcomers with friendliness and understanding. Will you remind us again of the age scale of all the girls, how’s Lady coping, l know she can be shy at times.
    God bless you all for giving a new life to all of them.🙏💖💓🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🙏

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Our herd here at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil does not have a true matriarch. Many people believe that Rana would make an ideal matriarch in a natural herd situation, but here at sanctuary she has quietly taken on the role of a passive leader. As for their ages, the youngest is obviously Guillermina at 22, and the we believe the oldest to be Rana, who we estimate to be in her mid-60s, or perhaps older. Lady is doing well and is still curious, and is spending most of her time in Yard 5, often swimming and seemingly content.

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    Debbie Sides says

    Guille will learn and this was a gentle correction by Maia. Pocha may now have the support of the other ladies and one may become a nanny figure yo Guille. It takes a village💚

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    Gayle says

    I love reading about all the nuances that go on in the elephants’ world at the sanctuary that unless they are relayed to us, we would never know. They really have such a rich and gentle way of letting each other know which behaviors are acceptable and which are not.

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    Sheila says

    Very interesting. Day of learning For Guille! Swiping hay from Maia was a great place to start Guille getting reprimanded gently. I hope she will remember not to do this again however I think she may. I hope Maia will teach her nicely again if Guille swipes hay for fruits. It great HERD LEARNING FOR GUILLE INCASE SHE SWIPES GOODIES OR TRIES TO FROM OTHER LADIES. U were very loving Maia!

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    Charlotte says

    This is fascinating! I was hoping the ladies would be able to work things out. Changes seem to be happening very quickly for P and G. Thank you for sharing their lives with us!

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    Susan says

    I’ve been training dogs for over a decade and I find it so interesting how the animal world communicates. Dogs primary do it through body language, as do many animals. Your example today shows how powerful one small move (in this case a nudge) can be. Awesome!

  19. REPLY
    Sue says

    I love reading about their daily lives.
    I just signed up for receiving the daily blog (vs trying to follow on Twitter).

  20. REPLY
    Sandy Falcon says

    So cute regardless.

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