Today marks six years since Maia and Guida became the first two elephants to grace our lives – and our habitats – at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil. Since those early days, we have been on a journey together, from learning individual personalities, to watching Maia (and the late Guida) adapt to sanctuary, witnessing the two thrive through a beautiful friendship, dealing with Guida’s loss, and seeing Maia step back into life again on her own terms. Today, the elephant we know has been transformed through self-exploration and courage to become both independent and an integral member of the sanctuary herd, standing by our new resident Guillermina as she tackles her first experience with loss.
One year ago, Maia was taking baby steps toward becoming a member of the group of Bambi, Mara, and Rana. Although she previously had a relationship with Rana, and briefly with Mara, that all changed when Bambi arrived. But she gradually seemed to be growing more curious about what the others were doing and who they were, and to have more confidence in herself, particularly when it came to Bambi and her strong presence in the threesome. During those days, we would occasionally watch them over the camera at night to see Maia calmly standing near the other elephants, something that was much rarer in the daytime. Eventually, Maia appeared to become more confident and would join the three during the daylight hours, particularly around mealtimes.
Still, since the passing of Guida, Maia enjoyed time to herself – perhaps sometimes out of a desire to be in her own company, and other times out of a lack of certainty as to what would happen if she joined the “Powerpuff Girls,” who had formed a tight-knit group. She has gradually become more interactive and let her personality shine more frequently these days. Maia’s been more willing to work on group dynamics in addition to relationships with individual elephants. Her spunkiness has seemed to come back and the other elephants gradually widened their circle to allow Maia to join them during those times when she was interested in doing so. In fact, during a recent day spent on her own, Maia’s return was met by great excitement – particularly from Bambi, who she once seemed most cautious of.
Once Pocha and Guillermina joined the group at sanctuary, Maia was the first to touch them – though she did so with the more confident side of her personality on display. She seemed to want to establish a strong presence from early on. As time went by, Maia adapted her energy to match Pocha’s most of the time, while keeping up an assertive, but playful, front with Guillermina. Guille tested her, and still does so at times, and Maia would show a confidence that months ago she didn’t seem to have when gently correcting Guille. Now that Pocha has passed, Guillermina seems most drawn to Maia’s energy, even though Maia is the more dominant of the two. She appears to be standing by Guille’s side, literally and figuratively. We will never know what or how elephants communicate, but Guille seems to be welcoming everything that Maia has to offer.
As dynamics continue to shift at the sanctuary, Maia finds herself in a completely different place than she was one year ago. Where she once seemed unsure, now she has become a leader of sorts. Though she once seemed reluctant to build relationships, she has now created strong bonds with others, even though she doesn’t seem to need to be around them all the time. Her growth in one year exemplifies what sanctuary allows – freedom to choose, the chance for introspection, the possibility of change for the better, and the creation of bonds that can last for a lifetime. Maia’s strength impresses and we continue to be proud to watch her grow into herself. She is a perfect example of how none of us have to become stuck in our ways; we have the opportunity to expand our horizons no matter what we’ve been through. Happy re-birthday, Maia. Your presence helped make sanctuary much of what it is today.
Photo of Maia exploring