Happy 6th Re-Birthday, Maia!

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


  1. REPLY
    Pam says

    Beautifully written, Sara. Thank you for weaving the two storylines — Maia’s and Guillermina’s — together so seamlessly!

  2. REPLY
    Katherine says


  3. REPLY
    Sunny says


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    Cintia Abney says

    Maia totally understands what Guille is going through so it seems a really good match to help Guille overcome her grief when time is right. Maia is a strong figure for Guille.. ❤️

  5. REPLY
    Alejandra Enquin says

    Maia sos una gran elefanta por dentro y por fuera.Tu introspeccion y luego tu s ganas de socializar con las powerpuff denota mucho crecimiento asi como tu actitud de madrina fuerte desde que llego Guillermina.Tambien me gusta cuando sos intrepida y exploradora como despues de los anteriores incendios que cruzaste el charco para investigar y comer los primeros brotes.Felicidades amor por tus 6 años en casa🙏😘🐘👋❤️

  6. REPLY
    Nancy says


  7. REPLY
    Robin Kern says

    So amazing to see how each of these beautiful ladies learns about each other and themselves while experiencing the freedom and care that Sanctuary gives. God bless them and all of you!

  8. REPLY
    Allison says

    Happy Birthday beautiful sweetest soul! You are loved and safe. Enjoy!

  9. REPLY
    John says

    My favorite memory of watching Maia is a video where Scott was next to her, and I believe she was first getting to know Bambi. Maia looked over at him with those expressive eyes as if to say, “Oh hey Scott, how are you doing?” Scott replied “Hi Mai Tai”. It was quite gentle and touching.

  10. REPLY
    Rachel says

    Happy, Happy Re-birthday Sweet Maia!! Your growth and determination inspires me. Cheering for you from afar always. Gentle pats and love. 💝

  11. REPLY
    Julie says

    Oh, Maia! You’re such an inspiration, and I’m so proud of you and happy for you!. Thank you for stepping in big for Guille. You’re a rock star! Happy Birthday, dear girl!

  12. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Happy Happy 6th re-Birthday beautiful Maia 🎉 your courage and strength are amazing you’re always there to help others 💗 you’ve got a heart of gold sweet girl we love you we wish you the best day ever you deserve it 💞🐘💞

  13. REPLY
    Rachel Bose says

    What a lovely story. To see what they achieve through just being at sanctuary is wonderful. Maia understands more than most Guillermina loss and I am thrilled she has had the courage to show empathy. Her light will shine more and more as she becomes more accepting of others company. The others will support all who come to sanctuary and understand it takes time to adapt to herd life when you have been on your own for so long. Happy Birthday Miai may you have the best one yet!

  14. REPLY
    Wim says

    Happy Re-Birthaday Maia. 🥳🍉
    You invite us on an inspiring journey day after day. Personal growth seem to have no limitations. Thank you for shining brightly.

  15. REPLY
    Andy says

    Hope Maia had a lovely day, today 💞🐘

  16. REPLY
    Tere del Hoyo says

    Feliz cumpleaños Maia!!! Gracias por tanto gente del Santuario.💖🤩

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    Nancy Crider says

    Happy re-birthday Marvelous Maia! You have inspired us all with your grace and growing confidence!

  18. REPLY
    Suzanne Eaton says

    Sara, you have a remarkable way with words. This piece is beautifully written about Maia and her journey. Thank you to everyone who has allowed her the space and encouragement to grow.

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    Zoi Flores says

    Happy rescueversary my beautiful girl! You have lived every second of these six years and learned that life continues and every dawn brings something new. Hope you like the goodies I sent to you 💖

  20. REPLY
    carey says

    ecstatic with Maia’s journey, and in awe. 6 years already, WOW! lovely info thank you 😀

  21. REPLY
    Beji says

    Wish I could see you blow your candles out. Happy birthday!!

  22. REPLY
    JamesMichael says

    Happy 2nd Re- birthday, Sweet Maia. Have a happy, beautiful fun-filled 2nd life. I will always love you, Sweet Girl.

  23. REPLY
    Cintia says

    Does Maia still pond-blob?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      That’s something she generally does when it’s warmer.

  24. REPLY
    Monica Crespo says

    Beautiful witten note on Maia’s evolution in the sanctuary! Elephants are such amazing complex creatures! I am in love with them and enjoy reading your observations! Happy 6th re-birthday beautiful Maia!!!!

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