Maia at Sunrise: A Symbolic Silhouette

On a recent morning, Scott had woken earlier than usual – just as a gorgeous, orange-pink sun was beginning to crest over the horizon. (He and Kat’s house, “The Treehouse,” is ideal for watching sunrises.) It took a few minutes for the light to shine down into the valley but, when it did, he saw Maia grazing in the pasture. 

With Ingo at sanctuary, there have been many discussions lately about autonomy and that having what we call “fences of freedom” creates massive amounts of safe space for elephants to roam at all times of the day and night. Ingo recently made the point that this is the first sanctuary he’s worked at where elephants are left to make their own decisions at night, rather than have their time outside dictated by humans.

It is almost never the norm for captive elephants to be able to roam freely at night. Most zoos have schedules for times when animals are inside and outside; other sanctuaries around the world might bring elephants in at night for security restrictions or other reasons, unable to allow them to wander the habitat, under the moonlight, when the rest of the world quiets down and a whole other natural world wakes up. When you zoom out to look at the big picture, so many captive animal schedules are loosely based on the human work time clock. 

But here, at first light, Scott saw Maia grazing in the pasture, and it truly punctuated the type of mind shift that elephants experience when they have autonomy over something as simple as their own time; there will not be any time clock for them to adhere to. When no one is around, the elephants can do what they want; that is profound, impactful and, unfortunately, rare.

This photo of Lady was actually taken at sunset, but she is headed off to an evening of freedom.


  1. REPLY
    Tracy H says

    Both sunset and Maia are absolutely stunning! Sanctuary has changed their lives forever!

  2. REPLY
    Rachel says

    Beautiful – and a perfect reminder of the true meaning of freedom for these now fortunate elephants. Soooo very grateful to be able to pause and read posts like these in these heartbreaking days of war…

  3. REPLY
    Carey says

    When we know that elephants are so active in the cool of the night in the wild, this is a great thing for them, I’m so glad you are able to allow them this freedom

  4. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    This photo truly encapsulates the autonomy the elephants have in possibly one of the most splendiforous places on our planet! Thank you so much for sharing. ❤️

  5. REPLY
    Suzanne Eaton says

    The bells of FREEDOM ring at GSE.
    So much love for our sentient beings.
    Thank you for sharing.

  6. REPLY
    Angie Gibson says

    As it should be…she is free and safe. Even better than the wild regarding current key issues worldwide: Protected from poachers, human-ellie conflicts, overdevelopment . I wish this for all animals! Maia is captivating in this beautiful sunrise shot❤️🐘❤️ This sanctuary is such an incredible blessing —here’s to never-ending spectacular sunrises and sunsets over GSB🙏

  7. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Wow, very nice that’s a gorgeous picture and one that has to be in next years calendar for sure! 💗🐘💞

  8. REPLY
    Wim says

    Totally perfect nothing can beat nature.

  9. REPLY
    Barb says

    “Special effects” sky just for marvelous Maia!

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