Maia’s Growth


Early one day, Rana and Mara were ankle-deep in the pond when Maia showed up. Mara started vocalizing, and in response, Maia stopped. She turned her body around and pointed her rear towards them in a submissive gesture. It seemed to be clear communication that she was listening to Mara’s reaction, realized Mara may not have been completely comfortable with her approach and adjusted her behavior in response. It would be normal behavior for Mara, Rana, and Lady, but it was not something we usually see in Maia.

Around dinner time that same day, Scott was giving Rana and Mara a drink from the water hose along the fence when Maia showed up. Mara was so focused on Scott and the water that she didn’t see Maia until Maia was very close. Mara seemed a little caught off guard – she made a little noise and turned to the side a bit. Maia walked between Mara and Rana, very gently and slowly. She reached with her trunk and gently touched Mara’s face. Mara just stood there for a minute, and then backed away and made a little trumpet with big eyes. Maia then reached over and gently touched Rana’s face. Again, it all seemed sweet.

Maia started playing in the mud, and Mara moved behind Maia. Mara still had big eyes, but she seemed to be working up the courage to walk between Maia and the fence. There was enough space for her to fit, but it would be a vulnerable position for her to be in, so it required her trust in Maia. She almost did it but stopped about two feet away. There were lots of rumbles from everyone.

After a little bit, and after the moment had passed, Scott went to feed. Scott had all of their dinners piled on the 4wheeler, so he assumed Maia would come first – she is the fastest and most food motivated. Maia waited, and let the other two go ahead of her. Mara ended up taking the lead, with Rana second, and Maia behind them. Maia wasn’t being pushy and was slowly walking around 15 feet (five meters) behind them. Mara was a touch faster than usual, but everyone seemed very calm and relaxed overall.

Scott got everyone settled on their dinner somewhat near to each other; then, he stayed to observe a little bit. Maia is a fast eater, so he gave her a few extra palms and hay to try to keep her occupied if she finished first. Once Maia finished her dinner, she stayed there quietly, eating her palms, without checking out everyone else’s food. Maia does love food, and this shows she is becoming more conscientious. She could have easily eaten her food quickly and then helped herself to Mara or Rana’s dinner. Indeed, even Mara and Rana do that to each other sometimes, but Maia did not. She stayed where she was until they finished eating, and then she walked over.

It would’ve been easy for us to lead Maia further away from the other two to eat. The distance would have mostly eliminated the chance that she would take their dinner, but that wouldn’t have been of service to anyone. It’s easy for caregivers to go out of their way to protect those they love and to be overly cautious in avoiding certain situations. That isn’t fair to the elephants, though. We have to give Maia a chance, and so does Rana and Mara. Just as importantly, Maia has to provide herself an opportunity to grow and evolve. It’s not about the growth of an individual elephant, although it’s an essential part of it. It’s about the growth of all of them together. That’s what a herd is.

August 6, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Carol D says

    Beautifully described and understood. Your sharing in these behavioral details helps us all in our connection. Thank you.

  2. REPLY
    Barb says

    Descriptions of the girls is music to my ears. I could visualize the events. Thank you so much!

  3. REPLY
    Paula says

    Benditos sean!!!
    Sí, de eso se trata, el crecimiento de todos ellos juntos!
    No existe un solo día que les deje de agradecer a ustedes todo lo que le dan a los elefantes! Son admirables…Los amo mucho por esto.
    Las damas ya casi lo están logrando, bravo!!!

  4. REPLY
    Wim says

    Yes and every herd needs a Mother Superior who’s a genius in creating spaces and confidence. How beautiful the girls all seem to blend in and caress each others shadow.
    It must be the spirit of the sanctuary creating miracles. ?????

  5. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    In my mind’s eye, I see Maia and Guida touching each other in the pond, so full of love and trust, and my heart aches for Maia knowing what she lost. I also know how important it was for her to have even had that chance with and for Guida, too. Sweet Rana waited so long for someone, first Ramba, then maybe even reuniting with Mara. So, when I see the above photo of Maia looking so thoughtful and conscientious, and read your posts about all of Maia’s growth and efforts, I can’t help but be happy for her and for all of them. Lady is finding her way, too, in her way. I hope the best for all of them, and their new herd mates to come.

  6. REPLY
    Bertica Valdes Suarez says

    It’s in their blood to be curious about each other and to pay close attention to each other, huh? It’s very sweet. Thank you Kat for noticing their stories and telling them so beautifully.

  7. REPLY
    Irene says

    Wow very interesting! Being a herd and establishing the pecking order? I feel so bad for Maia, she lost her best friend but now is starting to want to belong! Beautifully said! Such brilliant creatures! Lvlvlv?

  8. REPLY
    Sallie says

    Well, Girls will be Girls! Everyone is on a mutual pathway to Understanding . . .

  9. REPLY
    Leslie Sodaro says

    I love this!

  10. REPLY
    Bobi StaySee says

    “Maia walked between Mara and Rana, very gently and slowly. She reached with her trunk and gently touched Mara’s face. Mara just stood there for a minute, and then backed away and made a little trumpet with big eyes. Maia then reached over and gently touched Rana’s face. ” This gesture, speaks volumes — written with great love and respect . Beautiful Maia!

  11. REPLY
    Sheila says

    bravo maia? it appears to me that maia is desiring a relationship with mara and rana yes maia was very respectful! she was time and space sensitive and offered a little gentle touch to mara ?and ?rana also! she gave up her little dashing to get first to mara and rana at dinnertime also! im thinking little chunky ?maia wants to join mara and rana i believe maia is so lonely! its a year dear guiida passed! perhaps maia is done grieving. so nice to see maias respect to rana and mara in her wanting to be near them! i think a “herd” is forming

  12. REPLY
    Bo says

    Brave. So brave these elephants are.
    Trying to imagine what they might have been through for so so long, it amazes me how strong and brave they are.
    And what amazes me the most, is how they still are so sweet!
    Same when you know a dog has been mistreated, or a horse, donkey,…
    And then, with enough patience and the famous Tender Loving Care, you get them to trust a human again and the darlings are still nice and sweet even though they have been so mistreated and damaged in the past.

    I guess because a lot of animals, and so yes, the elephants, their core-character in general is nice and sweet.
    Of course, in the wild, to survive, they have to fight at times and be warriors.
    But they are indeed as some call them: gentle giants!

    Thanks to the team of humans over there they get to show how sweet gentle giants elephants are indeed 🙂

  13. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    I am so often captivated by these blogs and this one really did it for me. Kat and Scott, many times over the years you have demonstrated your empathy and compassion for these elephants…and all the other animals and wildlife sharing the space. You seem to have incredible insight and ability to understand them and to allow them to adjust to new friendships when and if they are ready. They couldn’t have better carers and we shall all be watching and waiting to see what happens next with our marvellous Maia. Maybe she is ready to to take her place with Mara and Rana and wants then to reach out to her.

  14. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Warms my heart and brings tears of joy to my eyes, thank you for such an in depth description of the girls wonderful positive progress ?

  15. REPLY
    Julia Mercedes Eden says

    Truly heartwarming and touching and also, as is often with elephant ? stories, tear inducing too ❤️?? God bless you all at Global Sanctuary Elephants, Brazil ?? ❤️??? Shall be sporting the new T-shirts soon too.

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