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Mara’s Health and Happiness: Our Commitment

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

Comments(33)

  1. REPLY
    Cintia Abney says

    And we will continue to send her prayers, good energy, reiki and the assurance tgat if she is up to, we will fight for and with her. Lots of 💚💚💚

  2. REPLY
    Nicole says

    Thank you for the update and the insight. Mara is at the best place imaginable!

  3. REPLY
    Patricia J Richardson says

    Thank you for this letter of transparency, clarity and depth. Thank you for your love, care of and respect for these beautiful, complex ladies and for being there for them in the best possible ways, and for sharing that our lives become more full.

  4. REPLY
    Melinda says

    You are all wonderful! Thank you so much for loving and caring for these magnificent beings! Love and prayers for Mara

  5. REPLY
    SHEILA says

    DEAR ❤️🐘MARA! IT WOULD BE SUCH A SHAME IF SHE GIVES UP ! I DO NOT DOUBT YOU FOLKS AT SANCTUARY ARE DOING ALL YOU CAN TO HALP HER GET ENOUGH NOURISHMENT! I FEEL SO SAD SHE GETS IN SUCH PAIN! YES INDEED THE PAIN CAUSES A HUGE LACK OF ENERGY AND FEELING KIND OF WOBBLY❗️IVE EXPERIENCED THIS ALSO! ITS HORRIFIC AGONY! I GUESS MONITORING HER BLOOD! PAIN MGT! AND GREAT DIET OF SPECIAL FOODS IS ALL YOU CAN DO! IM PRAYING SWEET DEAR MARA WILL OVERCOME THIS ISSUE AS SHE IS IN SUCH A MAGNIFICENT 🌴🌳JUNGLE HOME! SHE HAS EVERYTHING HERE TO MAKE HER HAPPY BUT NOW HER GASTRIC ISSUE HAS IMPAIRED HER LIFE! HOPEFULLY WITH THE ❤️LOVE OF 🐘 RANA AND 🐘BAMBI SHE WILL WANT TO KEEP FIGHTING THIS ISSUE!
    PS, ❓IS THERE ANY MEDICATION VETS USE FOR COWS OR HORSES FOR BLOAT AND DIGESTION❓

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Medication for cows and horses are not helpful in this case. Her bloating has gone down and she is more comfortable because of that. We will simply follow her lead and assist her to the highest possible degree. She is still happy and that is important to us.

  6. REPLY
    Rachel says

    Appreciate your honesty about all of this. My support for all you do, whether easy or tough, is unwavering. Sending tender love to Mara and positive, supportive thoughts for all of you. 💝

  7. REPLY
    Bonnie says

    Thanks for the update on Mara and for explaining everything and being honest and like saided in the other comments she is in the best place ever and safe and she knows this kisses and big hug for Mara and the other girls

  8. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    Still praying for Mara. Whatever she decides we’ll love and respect her. Sweet Bambi her constant companion.

  9. REPLY
    Suzanne says

    This makes me so sad and tearful, but I know you are doing all you can for dear sweet Mara. She has the love of her small “herd” and a beautiful place to live. Thank you for loving and caring for all the girls. Much love to Mara.

  10. REPLY
    Jean says

    Thank you for giving Mara the best life possible❤
    My prayers are with all of you.
    May you continue with God’s blessing doing the magnificent work you do.
    ❤❤❤❤🐘🙏🙏🙏🙏

  11. REPLY
    janet stone says

    I pray for Mara and all the elephants for the cruelty they lived thru…..I hope she can find health an peace for her life here and happiness she so deserves….Thank u all for caring an being great humans…..I still cry for her even though she is fighting to keep health…..

  12. REPLY
    Debra Moore says

    Sweet Mara, take it slow and easy, Girl, you have all the time in the world.

  13. REPLY
    Sallie says

    Thank you for the details of Mara’s health and situation. We all who love her to bits, are so concerned. She is a very special personality that we look forward to hearing about! Love and prayers for Mara. 💕💕💕💕💕🎺🐘

  14. REPLY
    Julie says

    I know the environment you all provide brings Mara much joy and satisfaction, finally. Being happy for her for each day she is able to spend with the wind and sun on her face, the natural ground on her feet, and Bambi and Rana’s trunk giving her love pats all over her bodyis a beautiful blessing. Thank you for what you do and for writing what are surely difficult posts. Thank you. Thank you!

  15. REPLY
    Wim says

    Thank you very much for this transparent briefing concerning Mara’s health situation. Luckily she has a strong mind and dito spirit.
    Elephants have a strong spiritual connection and know when the light is calling. Wish you strength and courage Mara hoping for some Beautiful Sanctuary quality time.
    🙏🐘💚

  16. REPLY
    bo says

    the whole idea of the sanctuary life is to make them as happy, as comfortable and as healthy for as long as possible and yes, that is the loving caring treatment we know the elephants (and all the other animals) are getting from you all at the sanctuary, no doubt!
    we all appreciate and say thank you indeed for being very realistic and honest.
    we all know that no one has magic powers.
    loving and caring!!

  17. REPLY
    Beji says

    Mara is in the best hands, in the best place and at the best time. You are ALL in everyone’s thoughts and prayers. Fighting the good fight isn’t always easy.

  18. REPLY
    Carolyn Stearns says

    Has your vet team considered Hardware disease? I know it is prevalent in cattle who show similar off and on symptoms. With a girl as big as Mara maybe you would need a metal detector over her belly to check. Wishing her more comfortable days!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      It is possible that she may have ingested any number of things in her lifetime that we will never know about. If something like that were causing a blockage, we would not be able to perform any type of surgery to remove it. So, we will work on keeping her as healthy and happy as possible.

  19. REPLY
    Audrey says

    I’m sending Mara love ❤️ & healing thoughts from 🇨🇦 Hopefully she won’t be suffering much longer & her GI will improve soon.

  20. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    Once again with your transparency we have a clear understanding of Mara’s condition. So easy to become alarmed when we know the possibilities, and with your transparency, that alarm is eliminated. After all the abusive years, she is now blessed with friendships of her own kind, expert medical care, a beautiful habitat and freedom of choice. May she continue to be blessed with all of these things for many, many years. 🐘♥️

  21. REPLY
    fernande poitras says

    Quand même de bonnes nouvelles de Mara j en suis heureuse Merci à vous pour ce beau partage tantôt drôle et d autres fois plus triste j ai toujours vos hâte d avoir des nouvelles à tous jours

  22. REPLY
    Sunny says

    Mara, you out of that zoo is the world I’ve always wanna live in… Thank you for your strength. 💕

  23. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    Straightforward is best…As Guida sadly showed us, the quantity of time these ladies get to spend at Sanctuary is not a 1:1 ratio with the miserable years earlier. Nothing anyone can do to change the past.
    So. That means that the present and the future must be filled with quality. I know in my heart that Guida, and Ramba after her, we’re at peace, at the end.
    Because elephants live in the now, I believe they heal more completely and more quickly than humans would.
    I will be eternally grateful to all of you at GSE for doing for the elephants what I cannot do. We all go eventually. That’s why every breath is precious and we should all strive to be happy…right now.
    ❤️to Mara…❤️ to the Team, to the girls and to all the other lucky critters who call GSE home!

  24. REPLY
    Ann-Marie Jacobs-Brown says

    Thank you for your straight talk.

  25. REPLY
    Terry Feleppa says

    Honest assessment of Mara’s condition is so appreciated and respected. Could you elaborate a bit more on the natural treatments provided for her G I?I know diet is one very important area you address daily. I’m curious and wonder if elephant G.I. tracts are far different from ours? This might be too technical for a comment section, so forgive me if it is!

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      Without writing a book, we use acupuncture points, flower essences, homeopathy, essential oils, and others. Their GI tracts are most similar to horses.

  26. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    I just saw your Facebook post of the Rana and Bambi Party in The Rain, and I have to say to you and them, thank you, it did my heart good. (I have to answer here, as I am not on FB, but that may change as FB is getting awful particular in letting us non members keep up sometimes, ugh, that’s another story, though)

    It was great to see Rana going ALL OUT (She deserves it, she’s been such a great Big Sister to All lately) and Bambi being there with her. But, on reading, I found out it was Bambi that enticed the party off camera, leaving us to see Rana B going all out by the time the cameras were rolling. That Bambi is something special herself, isn’t she?
    Your point on the many lessons this gives, humans on enjoying their own moment as well as humans realizing……..an old lady Grandma elephant may have the chance for lots of continuing life and fun, a trip to a Sanctuary is always worth the thought, hopefully that lesson gets through.

    With all the worries coming and going, there and everywhere, this was a great reminder of just being in a moment and enjoying it. I’m so happy that Bambi brought this out for Rana in this moment. I think it’s much deserved. I just had to post now, couldn’t wait for the new video and post to make it here, LOL
    Sending love to all the girls there, humans, too.

  27. REPLY
    margareta Kjellström says

    Thanks a lot for your lines. Things would be much better if elephants could talk. You are doing a great job with Mara, hope she will recover. 57 ages is that very old for an elephant?

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      Yes, the average lifespan for a captive Asian elephant is approximately 40 yrs old.

  28. REPLY
    Sandra Paquet says

    So glad that you’re all there for all of the elephants and for Mara! They’re all so sweet and thank you for keeping us updated. Hopefully, Mara will be able to live her life with comfort and friends and all of you there to help her. Sending hugs for all of you.

  29. REPLY
    Carey says

    Strength and love to all. 🙏
    Remembering when Mara first met Rana…. the excitement, she’s much loved

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