Lady and the Importance of Listening to Elephants

Lady has become much more comfortable with her caregivers, and they’ve become more attuned to what she needs when receiving treatment. Still, we know that there are times when an elephant prefers one caregiver over another. For this reason, Kat has stepped back a bit to allow Lady to adjust to working with others. But she steps back in temporarily when trimming is needed on a sensitive area or something in her foot condition has shifted.

On a recent day when Scott was doing some trimming on Lady’s feet, Kat came down to the barn to lend a hand. Scott called Mateus over to show him the technique he was using for the trimming. Even though Lady’s feet aren’t normal, per se, observing helps Mateus see how feet should be handled in certain situations. Because Mateus does Lady’s foot care, she didn’t seem to mind his presence during the treatment. Around the same time, Shirlei was walking by, so Scott asked her if she would also like to see Lady’s feet; watching things up close is part of the learning process.

Lady is accustomed to Shirlei and responds well to her in most situations. But now there were four people looking at Lady’s feet and that changed the dynamic a bit. Lady gave Kat her nose and Kat asked for her foot – but Lady just put out her ears. So Kat asked for something different instead – for Lady to lean her head down. She did so and Kat bridged her and Lady got her reward. Kat asked again for Lady’s foot and Lady once again put her ears out. Lady just didn’t seem comfortable working with so many people around, so we stepped back and told her: it’s okay – we get the message. 

Shirlei and Mateus went back to other things, and then Kat asked Lady for her foot so they could continue treatment; Lady presented her foot right away. When Lady, or any elephant you are working with in a non-emergency situation, doesn’t want to do something, it is important to show you are listening. 

There was no urgency to the situation, so if Lady decided she didn’t want to continue, we could easily have waited until she was ready. It is important to let an elephant know that we hear them, we understand what they are communicating, and there is no problem. This is particularly important with elephants who have experienced trauma and, in Lady’s case, lingering trauma and discomfort in her feet. Things change from day-to-day, so Lady may react positively to more observers in the future, but each day and each individual is different – and respect is always a must. 

Photo of Lady enjoying some fresh grass


  1. REPLY
    Cecile Lemay says


  2. REPLY
    Nannette Stone says

    The trust Lady has in Kat, is beautiful. It’s all about their comfort and when they are ready. I adore Lady

  3. REPLY
    CAROL says

    Perfect! So relieved for the ladies, that they are, at last, being “heard”!

  4. REPLY
    Patricia Richardson says

    Wonderful care and sensitive observations — all this makes my heart swell with love and hope!!! Thank you so much for your well written, insightful report on these dear, dear companions of ours on this earthly journey.

  5. REPLY
    Angie Gibson says

    Not only are you the voice of the voiceless, Kat & Scott; you’re the audibility of their thoughts/feelings❤️ Lady is worthy to be heard- each of these souls deserves to be heard and respected . I just saw a beautiful quote: “ If your heart is broken, make art with the pieces “ and that’s what you’re doing every day—helping these Girls make a little bit of art with their broken pieces that they arrived with….we get to witness daily the coming together of their individual “mosaics” of new flourishing,enriched lives at this special sanctuary ❤️😭❤️ 🎶What a Wonderful [Global Sanctuary for Elephants Brazil]World🎵

  6. REPLY
    Wim says

    Well done Lady protect your boundaries. Her body language is interesting if you don’t listen she’ll put out her ear. 👏🐘

  7. REPLY
    Terry says

    You guys are amazing! Every Day amazing! I personally am a bit smitten with Lady too! She has a grace and a silent knowingness about her.
    I know you use various herbal treatments and soaks. Are you familiar with DMSO? Here in the U S. it has been banned for human use ( because it works) and it is only sold in feed stores. I have used it on an infection in my foot…took time but it drew it out…just FYI.

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      yes, one of her sprays has DMSO in it. 🙂

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