Update on Mara from Friday evening:
It’s been a long day – sorry for the delay in sharing an update. Mara is with Rana and Bambi eating hay right now, but this morning started very differently. When we arrived, Mara was lying down with her two sisters standing over her. She appeared calm and, although sometimes at night they will remain laying down when we arrive, this is not normal during the day. Bambi and Rana were calm, but very attentive to Mara, touching her with gentle reassurance and sometimes both standing side by side, protecting their sister. After a few minutes, we were able to separate the other two girls, moving them to the other side of the nearby fence and into Yard 4, allowing us to more thoroughly assess Mara. All the while Rana and Bambi stood nearby watching everything that went on.
With closer observation, we could see that Mara was relaxed, both in her face and body. The area around her was moderately disturbed, without any notable sign that Mara had been struggling to get up. We mentioned the other day how deeply exhausted she looked, so the choice was made to let her be for the time being, make plans for different scenarios moving forward, but allow her to help determine the next steps. A big part of that decision was knowing she needs the rest, and not wanting to disturb that chance if it was all that she was doing. We have known several elephants who, when ill, laid down for 6-8 hours and were much better after. Yet, when people see an elephant down at a time and in a position that is atypical, many times it triggers a panic mode, wanting to immediately “save” her. Our approach is to let them lead us, allowing them to dictate what they need and when.
This is far from our first time dealing with an elephant who is down, sometimes ending well and other times not, so we are able to stay calm and go about our approach in a methodical way, which helps the elephants remain relaxed. There was no stress when we arrived and no need for us to be the ones to introduce that. Meds were given, blood was drawn, and hay bales were brought out to help prop her up, if needed. While she rested and Rana and Mara watched her and ate, we discussed a medical approach with our vets, the caregiving team, and our international elephant vets. We began talking about placing an IV catheter as the next step (standing near her) and about three minutes later, Mara showed signs of being ready to get up.
The ease in which she stood was actually impressive for her condition. Some healthy elephants rock back and forth several times to get momentum on their side, but Mara rocked once and was propped a little bit from the hay bales. It was clear she was thoughtful of her movements, she paused for a moment, got her feet under her, placed her front legs carefully, stood on them, and then her back legs. Within seconds she was up, a little muddy, but standing.
Almost immediately she took a few steps and started eating some of the hay that had been for her. We threw her some produce, and she took that as well. Her abdomen was no longer distended; the gas pocket had resolved. Whether it resolved last night, and she decided she wanted to lie down due to the increased comfort, or lying down helped get rid of it, we don’t know. But it was gone. Aside from one blowing noise from Bambi, her sisters remained calm throughout it all, and that is how the morning continued.
Somewhat surprisingly, Mara seemed really bright. A little tired, but her eyes were very lively and she was even playful. We leave the hay bales full when using them for support and she decided to battle the bale in trying to get it to break open. You can see some of this in the video. The more the hay resisted her, the more determined she became – typical Mara.
Mara ate for most of the day, came back to the barn on her own, had a good drink, and continued with more food. She came into the chute so we could give her a pain injection and also check her over. The stump that was by her face during the evening caused an abrasion on her cheek, but otherwise, there were no scrapes, bumps, or bruises, which can be widespread with an elephant who bloated or with colic, is down. One thing we did notice is that although her spirit seemed good, her body is weak. Her life and the issues from the past 8 months have all taken a lot out of her.
Where things go from here, we don’t know. She could be weak enough that she decides to lie down again and possibly decide she is done fighting. Or the long rest could be what she needs to start feeling better, or this may just be one part of a longer journey. Our job is to make sure that she remains comfortable and is supported in whatever way possible. Rana and Bambi offer her more emotionally than we ever could; in truth, there is no comparison. But we do what we can.
Right now, we are watching them on the camera. All three girls are helping to consume the muddy hay that was left from this morning’s saga, acting as if all is well in the world. It’s that living in the moment thing that us humans don’t seem to be able to do very well, yet seems second nature to them. We’ll go down again tonight at 10 pm to offer more food, and take it step by step.
Please send Mara your love, strength, and support.
This video was taken just a couple of minutes after Mara stood up. You can see her battle with the hay a bit. Rana and Bambi are also in the background, grazing and relaxed. They were very supportive sisters today. Their resilience and their understanding are humbling to say the least.
We would like to thank all of you for your love and support of the girls. Our team has also been phenomenal- relaxed, dedicated, and truly stepping back and making sure they are helping in a way that the girls need, not necessarily in a way that makes them feel better. Everyone pulling together this way makes it all much easier.