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