Female African Elephants
(also known as Kenia, Shakira)
WAITING FOR SANCTUARY
35 years old
Ecoparque Mendoza, Argentina
Can be guarded and defensive, but also affectionate and intelligent
We have no official history on her.
One tusk growing improperly, some foot issues, no other known health problems, but no testing done
A little on the chunky side
She once chased a reporter, who was standing next to her while doing a story, out of her habitat.
Her Story From Zoo...
Next door to Tami, about 100 meters away from the Asian male elephant Tami, is Kenya, the lone African elephant at Ecoparque Mendoza.
She comes with a history of stone throwing and demonstrative behavior. On our first visit to the Ecoparque, as we approached she moved around the corner and into her concrete barn, out of sight. When she emerged she walked over and stood face to face with one of her only companions, an elephant painted into a mural on the concrete wall. She appeared calm but distant. We had been warned that she had been struggling for a few weeks: anxious, pacing, and pushing against this wall.
Her yard is a semicircle of hard packed earth. Not dirt or sand – more like a crushed limestone that is virtually impossible to dig and dust with. No logs, no toys, just a few weeds, alfalfa hay, and her elephant mural. Because the ecoparque is closed to the public, Kenya does not even have people as a distraction from her sterility and monotony.
She’s big and imposing with her dramatic and beautiful African ears, though she wears a few too many pounds. Her eyes are sparkling and radiant; they speak nothing of her reputation. Scott walked to the back area behind her mural, where she has a concrete shelter that has a gate that is welded shut. This will be her exit to sanctuary, but for now this is where he can get a closer look.
She flips her trunk towards another member of our team clearly saying ‘Back away’. We listen and she responds with a wonderfully sweet self-petting. It’s a gentle flip, flip, flip with her trunk, that she repeats several times, occasionally against her ear, other times the side of her leg or neck and against the inner part of the trunk. Scott responds with praise for being a good girl, for showing us her sweet, vulnerable side and for her acknowledgment that we listened when she asked us to back away.
Elephants, even in this environment, want to communicate. They want to be heard and they want to listen. When we respond to the subtle cues, they communicate further, deeper, and they immediately start working towards trust. Due to the depth of inner suffering in captivity, this can take years and it’s rarely a linear process; it’s an ebb and flow of opening hearts and insecurity, then opening a little more. Today, just one day, is not enough, but at the very least she knows that we are listening.
Often when we visit new elephants, we are silent observers. That said, if there is one lesson that we carry closest to our hearts, it’s to follow your intuition. When this precious elephant opened her heart through vocal and physical communication, my body responded without premeditation, joining her to let her know that we are here and we are listening.
...to Waiting for Sanctuary
The female African barn is constructed and lovely. The fencing for the first three yards has been completed. Currently we are raising funds to expand this enclosure.
Trained for behaviors, blood draw yet to be successfully taken. Will need just a little more work.
30-Day In-House Quarantine