Guillermina’s Lessons To Learn

Guillermina brings a lot of charm and energy to the sanctuary. Because she never had a “normal” childhood, she is spending much of her time here being a big and boisterous kid. The other elephants find her engaging, but they are also getting used to being around a younger elephant who has a lot of life lessons to learn. Guille’s energy is fun and the others seem intrigued by it. At times, they work to teach her a little bit about what it’s like to live with other elephants; in turn, she’s showing them what life is like with a particularly charismatic and fascinating individual with lots of youthful exuberance, but not always the appropriate level of respect for her elders.

Now that Guillermina has been at sanctuary for a couple of months, she is learning more and more about what is right and what is wrong, as far as living with other elephants is concerned. There are some things she simply never learned. For years, Guille has made her own decisions about how to behave and pushed her mom around at times, often inappropriately. Pocha didn’t necessarily appreciate her daughter’s conduct, but she had nothing else to offer Guillermina – so she gave Guille a lot of leeway when she would act out. Many times, Pocha would sacrifice her comfort to appease her daughter’s demands.

When Guillermina gets assertive with the others, it’s generally when food is involved. She will occasionally try to nudge or push and sometimes hit another elephant if she’s interested in what they are eating; this doesn’t always go over well with the older girls. Depending on their mood, each will respond differently. Currently, Rana and Mara aren’t engaging during these moments; they’re often intimidated by her outbursts and choose to be more passive in their responses to Guille. Maia generally opts not to feed into any over-the-top energy; she doesn’t let Guille get the best of her, while influencing Guille to slow down. Bambi tends to stand her ground more than the others, with varying degrees of success. Regardless of their individual responses, each elephant has something they are teaching Guillermina. She just may not be catching on to every nuance just yet. Time will also be a great teacher for Guille when it comes to reining in her energy. 

Even though Guille can have aggressive energy at times, the others don’t go out of their way to avoid her. In fact, they are often fascinated. There are many times when they will choose to spend time with her, or at least not walk away when she comes near. This is all part of an ever-evolving dynamic of Guillermina learning what it means to be an elephant that is respectful, acknowledging that there are lessons to be learned in the world. The established girls also have some things to learn and manage – specifically what it is like to be around childlike energy and that patience can be involved when dealing with a young elephant. As one might expect, sometimes they are more patient than others. When Guillermina seems more relaxed, they are comfortable being close to her; when she has a harder edge, they are more resistant to her behavior. Respect is a big concept to understand. Our growing group of elephants are all on a journey toward mutual respect and a life together. 

When stepping back, it is actually quite remarkable to see how well each individual adapts, teaches and learns, given that all, with the exception of Guille, were taken from their families at infancy – many living a solitary life for decades before coming to the sanctuary. Yet their wisdom shines through, as they tap into their ancestral nature and let instinct lead the way through their ever-evolving recovery and reconnection to who they are and what it means to be an elephant.

Photo of Guillermina and Maia walking together


  1. REPLY
    Melinda says

    GiGi will learn, but it’s going to be difficult. She was completely spoiled and indulged for 20+ years, out of necessity. But eles are completely amazing and I think they will get her to the place she needs to be!

  2. REPLY
    Alejandra Enquin says

    Guille alumna y maestra.Una nena revolucionaria que llego a la manada para movilizar roles y mover estructuras.Tias y abuelas descubriendose y poniendo limites a su manera.Y una Madraza querida Pocha que ahora puede relajarse un poco 🙌😘🐘

  3. REPLY
    Bill says

    Since all of the girls have never been part of a herd, then they all are creating their own herd behavior. I am always amazed at all of their growth.

  4. REPLY
    Pam says

    Thank you for these insights into Guillermina’s personality, and into the dynamics of the relationships as they develop. I love how the authors both pick up on the subtleties of the elephants’ interactions, and describe them so clearly.

  5. REPLY
    Hayatun Nessa says

    It would be nice if you could provide the link so that we will see her in action. thanks for the information abut Guille

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      i’m not sure what link you are referring to.

  6. REPLY
    Carol Anderson says

    What would happen if one of the older Elephants got more aggressive with Guille? Would Mom step in to protect her daughter, or would she step back? Have you seen this kind of behavior yet?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      from what we have seen, it is doubtful that pocha would step in. guille would most likely step back.

  7. REPLY
    June Ross says

    What joy for these two new arrivals! Love every minutes of knowledgebase as to what is occurring at Sancturay.
    Thank you so much for all you do!

  8. REPLY
    Bonnie says

    I think the little youngster will learn from the elders but it will take time kids are something

  9. REPLY
    Terry says

    So respectfully written and stated!

  10. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Wow! Thank you for these fascinating insights into elephant behaviors! I feel like we’re learning a lot since P and G came to sanctuary–it’s the next best thing to being there ourselves.

  11. REPLY
    Wim says

    The long and winding road Guille!
    Are humans smart enough to understand elephants.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We can only try…

  12. REPLY
    Denise Spinharney says

    Do the older girls know or understand that Guille is younger? Do they understand age?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Based on Guille’s behavior and personality, it’s almost certain that they know she’s a youngster.

  13. REPLY
    Debbie Coulsey says

    I was surprised that Gigi sometimes hits, and sad that she did it with her mother. I know she is big, is there any chance her size intimidates others? You never see eles hit, they may push or do a side kick, use their trunks to move a child. I would think with the background many had with humans hitting it could be very hard for the other eles. Lets really hope she learns quickly that she can’t continue!!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      There’s always a chance that it intimidates others. But they have a natural way of responding that is excellent for teaching.

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