After lunch, Maia was resting against a tree; she may have been taking one of her treasured post-meal naps. But, as Maia was standing there, Mara took the initiative to walk over and start to play.
This is an unusual configuration of elephants, considering what we’re used to seeing. Mara may have felt a little more confident than usual, as she’s never approached Maia in this way (that we’ve seen). Mara has always behaved in a submissive manner toward Maia. When Mara first arrived at sanctuary, Rana would encourage them to spend time together in her typical uniting way; she’d stand together with the two of them and then slowly walk away until Maia and Mara were together – just the two of them. That dynamic seemed to be developing until Bambi arrived and changed the group’s interactions again.
Here, Mara seems to be testing the bounds of her relationship with Maia by having an interaction that includes touching, trunks intertwining, and general silliness. Mara isn’t doing anything aggressive toward Maia and Maia is clearly unbothered enough that she lets Mara continue. Considering the amount of time that Maia spends playing with Guille, this level of interaction is very mild.
Perhaps most interesting is that Mara is more receptive to Maia than she’s been in the past. Her behaviors reflect those of an elephant who doesn’t necessarily feel insecure around their herd mate, as she might have in the past. Of course Maia, being the good sport that she is, lets Mara continue, though she’s still the dominant figure in the scenario.