When something emotional occurs at the sanctuary, it gives each of us a new perspective on the individual elephants and how they process deep feelings. Though some may view Lady as our most sensitive resident because she is highly attuned to what’s going on around her, Maia is actually the elephant who appears to feel things the most deeply. She processes what’s around her with an intensity that we don’t see in the others. If she’s frustrated, there is no mistaking it; if she’s enjoying herself, that also shines through.
When Guida passed, the level of deep sadness that Maia displayed was powerful. The loss was so significant for her that there was no disguising it. After Ramba died, she seemed to understand that what happened with Guida was not unique to one individual, that other elephants can pass away. She was there for Rana in the best way she knew how to be, but her strong feelings and her distancing herself from the cause of those feelings, was still evident throughout the grieving process.
This is why when Pocha passed we were most worried that, after Guillermina, Maia might have the most difficult time processing what was happening. When Guille called for her friends after Pocha’s death, Maia was the last of the four to come – though she was ultimately supportive of her friend. We assumed correctly that Guille would turn to Maia for comfort because she seems to gravitate towards Maia in a different way than she does the others. Though we were concerned that the experience could be more than Maia might want to handle, she has stepped up and been there for her friend. We do see Maia leave and take time for herself occasionally, but we also see her staying side by side with Guille for hours. It likely helps that there are three other elephants helping Guillermina process the situation, so the need for comfort doesn’t fall solely on Maia. That allows Maia the space to work through her emotions and come back again to Guille. We will never know the depths of Maia’s understanding of loss. However, she is teaching us (and perhaps the other elephants) that one’s capacity for empathy can grow in ways you might never expect.
Photo of Maia and her fuzzy head