Ingo: On Being Vulnerable

This week, Ingo is back to talk about what he’s learned – and is learning – about being vulnerable with elephants in our care. Among the most important things he emphasizes about communicating with elephants is being honest about your feelings and state of mind. “Don’t pretend to be someone else,” he says. “Just be yourself and show this to the elephant. Be transparent in all you do when around them.” Elephants observe every step you take when you’re around them, so it’s important to make things easier for them to understand while you are working with them. “We can see who they are if we show them who we are. They will open up toward us whenever they start to feel more comfortable.”

As part of learning about the specific elephants at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, Ingo believes that showing them respect means giving them the time they need to build trust in caregivers, in the environment around them, and in themselves. Trust is the foundation for recovery from the past and what each elephant has gone through physically and psychologically. “These things earn an elephant’s trust. It’s all about providing them space – vast space – and supporting their autonomy, their free choice to have a bath when they want to, and to scratch when they want to scratch, and to ‘talk elephant’ away from human forms of communication.” When given this, Ingo believes that elephants will adapt to their circumstances and to new situations. “Yes, elephants adapt easily to improved conditions and can recover to a certain level and build up trust, as long as you are honest with them and try to see the individual elephant itself.”

Photo of Pocha and Rana


  1. REPLY
    Pam says

    Wonderful insights, important learnings for all of us. Thanks, Ingo, and thanks, Sara, for another well-written piece. Your writing flows so gracefully between quote and content.

  2. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    I love that we also learn how elephants learn. We learn along with them.

  3. REPLY
    Audrey says

    That just makes sense. Any animal senses when something is different.
    After seeing the abuse these magnificent beings have gone through in their lives, I guess they would know kindness, though, it has to be learned by them, as cruelty stays with them longer.
    What an experience to be able to communicate & work with elephants. It must be very rewarding.

  4. REPLY
    Charlotte says

    I love this! These precious ladies have no doubt never been shown respect before–how they must truly love their GSE caregivers for how they’re treated now!

  5. REPLY
    Julie says

    So grateful you’re on the team, Ingo! Thank you for your insights!

  6. REPLY
    Wim says

    Truly beautifully spoken. Elephants are pure of heart they can peak into your soul anytime.

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