Happy 1st Re-Birthday, Guillermina!

When we began the journey to bring Pocha and Guillermina to sanctuary many years ago, we had no idea the many twists and turns that would surround their pathway to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. But we were overcome with emotion when the two finally arrived at sanctuary, spending their first morning dusting in dirt, and gazing at the sunrise, rather than looking at a cement wall. The two had some of the most unique challenges in adjusting to sanctuary life of any elephants we’ve known. It took some time for both of them to learn that life was now big and their world spanned beyond what they could see; they perhaps couldn’t imagine that their lives would be more than they’d ever known – in so many ways. 

We watched as both elephants met the other girls, tentatively taking their first steps outside of their comfort zone of the treatment barn, to the smaller yards, and finally into Yard 4, where they began to merge into the group of Mara, Bambi, Rana, and Mara. Guillermina seemed more eager to make herself a part of the group, while Pocha tended to stay in the background, watching her daughter learn to be an elephant for the first time. But the two always found time to vocalize together, something that was often initiated by Guille when she wanted something from Pocha. It was lovely nonetheless.

All of us were shocked when Pocha suddenly passed away in October 2022. Her death was a tragedy and a symbol of the harsh realities of what captivity can do to an animal – physically and emotionally. Her necropsy results revealed she’d been fighting a long battle, but one that allowed her to finally enjoy some freedoms. Though Guille was clearly grieving, she sought out her sisters to help her process the loss

As time has passed, Guillermina has become more confident by leaps and bounds. Not only is she fast, she has been known to try to sneak food from others during snack times (unsurprising for someone who was once a round girl). Her energy seems boundless. She has built friendships with both Maia and Bambi – both of whom help keep her in check when she becomes “too much” for the other girls. 

These days, Guillermina continues to work on building relationships and learning about herd dynamics. There are times when her buoyant personality can still be a lot to process for some of the others, but everyone is learning to adapt in their own ways. She’s also building deep and trusting bonds with her caregivers – something that has taken time. We’ve found that Guille is incredibly smart and can grasp new behaviors quickly. That also means that we must pay close attention to what she’s doing and try to pick up on what she’s thinking during interactions. 

There is no doubt that Guillermina still misses Pocha and will likely mourn that deep loss for the rest of her life. However, her youth and willingness to grow are promising signs for the future. While we will always miss Pocha, we are grateful for all that she provided Guille over the 20+ years the two spent together in an underground enclosure. We are left with the gift of watching a young elephant learn and play and celebrate life on her terms, which is so much of what sanctuary is about.

Photo of Pocha and Guillermina


  1. REPLY
    Cintia says

    Happy rebirth day, Guille ❤️ We love you and Mama Pocha will be always be present in your heart and watch you from heaven ❤️❤️❤️

  2. REPLY
    Patricia says

    Oh, how I’ve loved them from the start! And I always will. Missing you, Pocha. 💞💞💞

  3. REPLY
    June Ross says


  4. REPLY
    Wim says

    Happy Re-Birthday Guillermina, amazing how you’ve grown into sanctuary life.
    Bless you dear Pocha wherever you are. 🕯

  5. REPLY
    Elke Riesterer says

    Celebrating Guellemina – and on mother’s day I will send my thoughts to Pocha wherever she is in elephant haven. So thrilled that this mother-daughter due made it to beautiful GSE. 💚😍🌿

  6. REPLY
    Maureen says

    Happy re-birthday Guillermina, we are all so very happy you are here at the Sanctuary. Your youth and joy are infectious!! Missing Pocha but happy she was able to see her daughter to freedom and experience it with her, however short her time was. No better mom was there than Pocha!!!

  7. REPLY
    Johnny says

    I celebrate the fine people at the sanctuary who make this possible. What an amazing place! Thank you all!

  8. REPLY
    Christine Curtis says

    Happy Re Birthday sweet girl!! I’ve loved since the first time I saw you and your sweet mama! You deserve to be happy and have as much love you can get! ❤️

  9. REPLY
    Audrey says

    Happy First Re-Birthday Guille. Sending lots of love from 🇨🇦 ❤️❤️ ❤️🐘 🐘 🐘

  10. REPLY
    Gioia Perry says

    I love your updates. Thank you!

  11. REPLY
    Carey says

    Love that she’s there and not still in that zoo, where Tamy her father still languishes

  12. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    Happy 1st ReBirthday to Guillermina, may it be one of many, many more. This photo reminds me…….I always did think Pocha was an extraordinarily beautiful elephant. Look at her big, sweet eyes. Missing her, but glad she knew her daughter would be ok.

  13. REPLY
    Tracy H says

    Happy 1st Re-Birthday precious Guille. Sending extra love to you on this special day ❤️. Sending extra hugs for sweet Pocha who I’m sure you miss terribly. I know all about losing a mom but being surrounded by loved one makes each day easier. So happy you’re at GSB surrounded by all your sisters. You have a beautiful bright future ahead..🐘❤️🐘

  14. REPLY
    JamesMichael says

    Happy , Happy 1st Re-Birthday,, Miss Guillermina. I am so happy that you have found Freedom and Love and Exciting Adventures at GSE. Best wishes for a hap-hap-happy day, with wishes for a long and happy live.
    I Love You , Guille-girl.

  15. REPLY
    Jo Alex SG says

    I’m so sorry for Pocha’s passing away. I do wish Gillie to recover from this dreadful loss and grow into a healthy and adult elephant, living many happy years, protect by such loving activists in the blessed sanctuary! Thank you for the updates, sharing this beautiful story for sure!

  16. REPLY
    Jo Alex SG says

    erratum: healthy adult elephant, not ‘healthy and adult,’ etc

  17. REPLY
    Bonnie says

    Happy birthday Guillermina and she will always remember her mom I’ll bet sometimes when she’s by herself she thinks of her she’s come a long way all of you at the Sanctuary have done so much and you all are amazing

  18. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Beautifully written!

  19. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    Happy re-birthday sweet girl! So happy you still have energy and enjoying your youth! Grateful for your sisters to help give you comfort & guidance. Love you Guille!💚

  20. REPLY
    Sharon Wheeler says

    Happy re-birthday gorgeous Guille ❤️

  21. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Happy 1st re-Birthday to you Guille and a Happy mother’s day to mama Pocha! You’re both shining examples of how strength and perseverance will see you through very tough times and finally bring you peace happiness but most of all the freedom you so deserve…God bless 🦋

  22. REPLY
    Alana says

    Wonderful story & I to want to wish Gille a very Happy Birthday.

  23. REPLY
    Anella Stewart says

    A very Happy 1st Sanctuary Birthday Guille. You’ve made such progress since arriving at GSE and we all couldn’t be more proud & happy to see how you’ve settled in so well despite having to deal with the devastating passing of your beloved Mom, Pocha. Keep exploring, growing & enjoying the beautiful GSE sanctuary life dear Guille….and never lose that special spunkiness you have that keeps the other girls on their toes….lol. Much love, xoxo

  24. REPLY
    Carol Andeersn says

    The story of Pocha and and Guille makes me cry every time I read it. How they survived the pit is amazing to me. So happy that they finally received freedom. Sad that Pocha died so soon after.

Post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.