A few days ago, Maia and Rana were sharing close space and Rana walked over to Maia; Maia did what you see here: rested her trunk on top of Rana’s head. This is one way that Maia exhibits dominance and it is a sign that she is navigating her way within the group. Rana clearly doesn’t care; Maia is just resting there and appears to be almost sleeping. This interaction only lasted a few minutes. Bambi eventually came close, which caused Maia to walk away.
In the past, Maia has been a more physically dominant personality around the other elephants at sanctuary. She had to learn not to be forward with the others, who were sometimes intimidated by her (though Guida was not). When we use the word “dominance,” it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially in this specific case. If Maia seemed aggressive or was pushing her head down heavily on Rana’s, that would not be considered a positive interaction. But Rana appears content to allow Maia’s behavior – and Maia even lets Rana put her trunk in Maia’s mouth to see if there is anything good in there. The whole interplay is very mild.
This behavior reflects part of who Maia is. We feel this shows that Maia is opening up again and feeling comfortable showing a bit more of who she is. She has a big presence. When some people hear the word “dominance,” they might be concerned. But, with almost all groups of animals (even humans), there is a dominant personality in the group. Some friends are louder, more boisterous, and more opinionated; others are quieter and just fine with allowing others to make decisions. It was an intriguing moment to view and one that may be telling of how the relationships among Maia, Rana, Bambi, and Mara will evolve.