In Memory of Pocha
Rescued May 2022
Died October 6, 2022
Necropsy determination: Severe chronic kidney disease in association with a long-term granulomatous inflammatory disease, in response to a mycobacterium.
Age: estimated to be 57 years old
Former zoo/ecoparque resident
Pocha was a quiet joy to have at sanctuary – constantly observing her surroundings and opening up to the wonder of her new life. When we first met Pocha, we knew that sanctuary would change her life forever. After decades of living in a cement pit – 24 years of that time with her daughter, Guillermina – she had forgotten what it meant to be truly free. When the two finally arrived at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, it took her hours to step out of her crate and into the barn; that transport crate was the only thing that had ever been “hers” and she didn’t want to let it go. While she waited and considered walking out, we witnessed the joy she exuded when she broke a water pipe, making mud to cover herself with. It was an experience like no other, for us and for Pocha.
While mother and daughter were acclimating to sanctuary life, neither of them thought to look up and beyond a few feet in front of them. They were not used to anything being there other than a wall. It took some time, but eventually they began to see the world fully and with new eyes. There was no doubt that excitement and wonder lay ahead, but the going was slow at first. Pocha seemed to be the elephant who wanted to explore new things first, but stayed back until Guillermina was ready to move forward. She always led the two into new spaces, first out of their transport crates and into the barn, then out of the treatment chute and into the yards. We saw her as a potential trailblazer, but she also knew the importance of allowing Guillermina to take time to herself and see the possibility of building relationships with other elephants for the first time.
Pocha had spent over two decades being a mother to Guillermina, who had never experienced life outside of their concrete enclosure. There is no doubt that she put her heart and soul into teaching Guille the best she could under those circumstances. In our minds, she was a “Supermom”. While Guillermina arrived at sanctuary full of exuberance and great energy, Pocha would often stand back, watching her daughter thrive and experience a world that was new and healthy. We knew that Pocha might face challenges adapting to sanctuary life, since she had to learn who she was outside of being a mother. Still, she moved forward at her own pace, taking time to build relationships with the other elephants and finally allowing herself time to explore who she was. Often, when the others were vocalizing, she ran toward them as if she were going to join in – but stopped herself just before making a sound. She just wasn’t ready yet and her journey was still in process.
She was, by far, the loudest trumpeter at the sanctuary and she and Guillermina loved to vocalize together. Pocha also loved to dust herself – something she did from her first day at GSE until her last. Once she reacclimated herself with mud, she spent hours in the mud wallow, covering herself in the squishy stuff from head to toe. We laughed that she was like an “elephant in a china shop” because she liked to break tree limbs and generally trod over just about anything in her path.
Pocha’s cheeky smile told us that, no matter what she was experiencing along her journey, her heart was full. Her bright eyes may sometimes have shielded a hesitance, but they also shone brightly when watching Guille experience life at her own pace, in a natural world. Guille’s playful spirit undoubtedly resulted from Pocha’s encouragement and adoration.
Though Pocha only knew sanctuary for a short period of time, we felt as though she’d been here forever. Every moment of freedom for an elephant is worth the effort and we are honored to have watched Pocha soak in a life she always deserved.
Pocha left this world having experienced the freedom of sanctuary and knowing that her daughter would be surrounded by friends, loved, and well cared for the rest of her time here on earth. Our hearts a broken, but knowing this brings us comfort.
Pocha and Guillermina
“Mother and daughter never truly part, maybe in distance but never in heart.” – Unknown