Healing Is a Long Process

Maia, Rana, Mara

Some of you may have noticed that Maia was missing from the video yesterday. Don’t worry; it’s a good thing.

At the sanctuary, some healing and growth are immediate, while other processes are ongoing. Maia changed overnight when she arrived at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, as did her relationship with Guida. Once built on aggression, they talked things through literally overnight (we slept at the barn- they chatted all night) and left the barn the next morning as friends. Guida taught Maia that if she wanted a friend, she needed to be willing to evolve, and Maia did. Because of it, she was rewarded with a friendship that changed all of us.

Since Guida’s passing, Maia has not become close with another elephant. She is friendly, will interact with them, and spend time with them, but she hasn’t connected the same way with anyone else. Something we haven’t seen from her since is a willingness to adjust to another elephant’s needs. Maia isn’t aggressive, but her energy is immense, she moves quickly at times, and her presence can be a little much for some elephants. If we hadn’t seen her make this exact adjustment for Guida, you could think it was possible she doesn’t realize, but her past actions have shown that she does.

In the past couple of weeks, we have noticed a shift in Maia’s behavior. The other day, she came over by where we were doing treatment with Lady. A fence separated the two, but there were three buckets of treats, hay, and palms. This would usually cause Maia to beg, or put her trunk up over the fence, but instead, she walked over to the tree that was right there and began grazing in the shade. Lady’s eyes showed that she saw Maia’s arrival. Still, she didn’t break stride in anything she was doing; she remained completely relaxed. Because of both of their behavior, when Lady was done, we put down hay for them close together. They spent a couple of hours tranquil, eating and grazing.

When these things happen, you never know if it’s a one-time deal or not, and we always try to squash any expectations of our own. Later in the week, we saw something similar with her and Mara and Rana. We were doing treatment with Rana, as Mara stood close by, and Maia began to come over (they were in the same yard). Rana was done with her treatment, so we decided to do Maia so that she could have a turn. Rana and Mara stayed about 10 yards away, eating hay and watching. When everyone was done, they all stayed at their piles of goodies, calmly eating. At other points, Maia would have been happy to help herself to someone else’s hay and treats, but she stayed with her own, and they all spent a couple of hours close to each other.

Another few days later, as you saw in the video yesterday, we brought out the water tanker to the girls, to empty the tank in a fun way. Rana and Mara were there, getting silly, and Maia started to come up the fence line in their direction. The girls clearly noticed her, and once they did, Maia shifted direction. She walked perpendicular to the fence, waiting until the tanker was empty and the energy level had subsided before she came over. Now some may think it’s sad that she didn’t want to play with them, but what she seems to be doing is recognizing that waiting is better for everyone. In that heightened excitement, Mara and Rana may have left, but since Maia waited, they stayed, and again, they all spent a few hours together.

Because of this conscious shift in Maia’s behavior, we decided to allow her to share space with Mara and Rana overnight. We always intended to do this, but we were waiting to see all three of the ladies appear more settled in each other’s company. It was a shift both Scott and I recognized individually and thought Maia had made it clear that she was ready to try. We can hear the girls vocalize during the night because of where our house is situated, and Mara is definitely not a quiet girl. It was a pleasantly calm and uneventful evening. In the morning, the three were in a different part of the habitat than the night before, but still very close to each other. With access to both large yards, they could have walked far away from each other, but they chose to remain close.

They have now spent a few nights sharing the habitat and will continue to do so as long as all three elephants remain comfortable. We will alternate Lady into the mix, allowing her to share a large yard with Mara and Rana while Maia is in the other. Lady is not yet at a place where we feel she would be ok with sharing a yard with Maia. Mostly because we still believe Maia would walk right up to Lady, and Lady hasn’t shown she’s ready for that quite yet. And with elephants like Lady, pushing too far, too fast can put her numerous steps back in her progress.

It may sound silly when we say we are proud of Maia, but we are. But we’re also happy that her being willing to change shows that she may be ready for more, which is good for her heart. Healing is a long process, and Guida was an enormous loss for her. And although she’s not ready for a ‘best friend’ at this point, she is working on opening her heart up a bit to the other elephants around her.

Left to right: Maia, Rana, and Mara

July 19, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says


  2. REPLY
    Sherry says

    You know sometimes you get some elephants to come live at sanctuary in time for healing and living beyond their years.
    Sometimes some elephants do not live beyond their years, but they do desire too. I am so sorry for those who do not live
    beyond their years and enjoy themselves.
    Thank you, sanctuary for all you do for all of them.

  3. REPLY
    Sallie Robbins-Druian says

    We can see the progress happening very slowly with these adorable, lovely girls, but surely . . . Patience wins the race, and “The Sorority Sisters” will eventually be thick as thieves, swapping fruit and tall tales!

  4. REPLY
    Bo says

    This is such a wonderful example to make it so clear to us readers and followers of all the happenings over there at the sanctuary how you all, as a team and as individuals, have a gift for sensing the elephants and their characters, their own special souls and behaviours.
    One word comes to mind and that is elephant whisperers. Or something like that.
    What they need and perhaps more importantly what they don’t need which is stress, situations that might upset them (esp because we know they have been far from stress-free), from all the stories, the video’s, the updates, yes, there are not enough words to describe how amazingly special all of your loving and caring is.
    The elephants at the sanctuary there in Brazil, oh they have and are in the best caring hands, no doubt!!

    • REPLY
      Tammy says

      sweet Maia, you’ve been through so much pain and sorrow in your life most of which we know nothing of we can only hope and pray your heart heals enough and soon to welcome new life long best friends into it you deserve all the happiness in the world and so much more! ????

  5. REPLY
    Bo says

    I meant to write (in the previous comment) : you all try to figure out what the elephants need and more importantly make sure to keep them as stress-free as possible.
    And elephant whisperers, though that is two words and not one, woops, that is how I consider you all to be because I think whisperers do try to put themselves into the position of the other living soul and I’m sure that is exactly the whole point of the sanctuary, why you decided to create it.
    I hope I am making some kind of sense 🙂

  6. REPLY
    Sheila says

    Thank you for your explanation on maia anf the other ladies Yes indeed from circus anuse maia was abit aggressive and bullying! But yes indeed guida and maia knew they lived each other! Clearly to see one night of elephant talk at the perfect wonderful forever jungle home maia knew she could change! I guess it was like maia and guida and her no longer needed to defend themselves due to chaos of horrid circus life I remember when rana arrived! The next day they went pond! And maia ?made sure she placed herself between rana and guida! But only because maia and guida were so closely bonded! Sadly guida died! And poor maia is still grieving but happy to be around rana sometimes too ! I pray as puky and pupy join the herd maybe ??? More bonding will happen there could be 2 herds of 3 ladies!?? It is such a blessing The ladies r all happy! Healthy and love life with scott, kat and staff❤️

  7. REPLY
    Wim says

    The newest studies reveal Elephants grieve can last long. The space they give and take shows a beautiful growth in many directions. Must be very exciting to watch any new uncharted steps from all of the ladies. Experiencing their freedom will certainly be a huge stimulants. ??❤️

  8. REPLY
    Paula says

    Tiempo y paciencia… como todo lo bueno en la vida!
    Maia lo está haciendo genial, igual las demás chicas.
    Es hermoso que ustedes vean los cambios y el crecimiento de cada una de ellas ❤

  9. REPLY
    Bernadette says

    I read your comments every morning with my coffee. It has now become a ritual. Thankyou

  10. REPLY
    Lila says

    One of your best posts. So interesting and so endearing. It is thrilling to see the slow but sure process of each elephant, how every step is a solid step. And it is also very inspiring to see how well you know and feel them, how sensitive, prepared and intuitive you, their humans, are. We can learn from witnessing this beautiful process to heal our own wounds. Thank you for sharing, and most of all, thank you for making such a difference in these girls’ lives, for making this world better.

  11. REPLY
    Patricia says

    That was beautiful! I drank in every word! Such a soul connection you humans have with those elephant girls. Thank you, eles and humans for dwelling in such a space of love. All of you are blessings to our benighted world.

  12. REPLY
    carey says

    What a great change, Maia the Magnificent.

  13. REPLY
    Dorcey Berndt says

    What a beautiful post, about such a beautiful girl. It hurts my heart to think of Maia suffering the loss of her dear friend Guida. And like all loss, it takes a while to process and sort out feelings and grief. I am so happy to think that my dear Maia is moving through her grief and coming out the other side.

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