We want to do a little health update on Mara, but there isn’t much to say. Her appetite continues to be intermittent. Some days, she will eat absolutely everything, and other days, she is much more selective in her diet. Even on her selective days, she is still eating.
We don’t have a diagnosis at this point. We have done multiple tests, and none of the results paint a clear picture of the cause. If Mara were a reasonably-sized animal, we would follow those tests up with MRIs, ultrasounds, ECGs, and other diagnostic tests. Unfortunately, those machines don’t work on elephants due to their massive size. Limited diagnostics make it frequently impossible to know what the problem is with elephants.
Some days her selective eating includes 4-5 types of produce at a specific meal. Mara is learning to be a little spoiled and manipulates her care team members by pretending not to like certain fruits some days to receive additional amounts of a more exciting fruit. Once the person walks away and stops giving her the preferred food, Mara will start eating the other food she took and set aside. It is only an issue because Rana is often waiting nearby for Mara’s scraps. Sometimes, she will eat the food Mara set aside for later before Mara gets to it. We encourage them to separate at meals, but that isn’t always possible in the habitat. As you can imagine, Rana is gaining some weight, although, the other day, it was Mara who walked over to eat Rana’s grain. We are offering Mara meals every couple of hours to encourage GI movement and reduce any stomach acid build-up. We deliver her meals to her, as always, to minimize the interruption to her day.
She frequently doesn’t seem interested in hay, which, along with grass, should make up the bulk of her diet. Fortunately, it is now the rainy season. Hidden Pasture is already turning green, but it isn’t her favorite grass. The grass that grows there is a cultivated grass from when this land was cattle pasture. The other grass will be long enough to graze upon soon, which hopefully will shift things for her, as the elephants generally find the spring grass to be delectable. Our primary focus is to make sure she continues to eat enough each day to keep her weight up and keep this issue from progressing into something else. We are giving her supplements and medication for GI issues to address her symptoms while searching for a possible cause.
We understand that you have many questions, but we don’t have nearly as many answers. We are letting you know what we know, and we try to be open and transparent, which is why we are sharing this information. We will update you when and if things change – for better or for worse. If we learn anything, we will share it.