Mara continues to do okay in her recovery since her bloating/gas episode and lying down on Friday. She has been slowly but steadily improving in regards to appetite, strength, and energy, although this morning was a little down. This is somewhat typical for how her gastrointestinal issues have ebbed and flowed over the past few months, but something we need to keep a close eye on. We had been writing brief daily updates in the comments section of the past few posts but wanted to go into things in a little more detail today.
There was a marked weakness in her back legs after she stood up on Friday, which continued for a couple of days, but we are not seeing it now. She’s not back to what would be normal for an elephant, but it does allow us to breathe a little more easily. That being said, Mara is not “out of the woods.” It is natural to want to believe that Mara will be fine now, but we have to be realistic as we continue to treat her. There is a complacency that can come with relaxing into thinking things are okay once an elephant is standing and seems more stable – but, as we have mentioned, Mara’s GI issues started years ago and have taken a toll on her. While we are able to celebrate her recovery from being down, we remain realistic in our medical assessment and hyper-attentive to any subtle changes.
One of the top theories about her condition has always been that something is restricting the passage of food through her intestines – a mass, stricture, or similar. This theory has only strengthened over time. If this is the case, her condition has been progressive for some time, and will continue in that direction. There is no treatment: only managing symptoms, supportive therapy, and adjusting diet. This does not mean we give up trying different things, but we want to ensure people have a realistic picture of Mara’s health. No one on our vast veterinary team is expecting to find a cure for what Mara is going through. She will most likely always suffer from intestinal issues, as do some humans. She presents as being comfortable, she still thoroughly enjoys exploring and her sisters, and continues to eat, although she is incredibly finicky. Our goal is to make sure all of those things continue.
Even though this is serious information and not necessarily easy to hear, please remember that Mara is a tough girl. She is stubborn as can be, and that usually works well for elephants with health issues (although not with medication delivery 😉 ). If she wants to survive, there is no doubt that she will fight and continue on. But we also know that at some point, possibly weeks/months/years down the line, she may decide she is tired and done fighting; that will be respected just as much as the sassy, stubborn side of her. We have seen in our decades with elephants at sanctuary that sometimes elephants find a peace that enables them to let go. After decades of fighting – to deal with a life that is lonely, void of mental stimulation, where they sometimes have to be guarded of the people around them or other elephants – they are finally able to relax and be. For some, this is only the beginning of self-discovery and joy, but for those whose bodies are a little more broken and worn, it may allow them the space to finally let go of the need to fight.
Because we know some of you will worry about the tone of this update, there is nothing we aren’t sharing. When we first mentioned her GI issue many months ago, many were worried we were alluding to something more dire. Last week, when we talked about her lying down, the response was similar in that people thought we were preparing them for something worse. All we are doing is what we always do: being transparent and honest with those of you we know hold the elephants close to your heart. You all make this life for elephants possible, we truly consider everyone here part of our sanctuary family, and we will always try to be as straightforward as possible. We can’t know the future, not for Mara, or any of the other girls. But we will continue to do what we feel is best for all of them and keep sharing their journeys with you.
Picture of Mara, with Bambi in the background