Mendoza Mail – Guillermina’s Progress and Challenges

Things at the Ecoparque Mendoza have been a little challenging recently. Training is a process, whether you are training a dog, an elephant, or a child. Even outside of training, Guillermina is complex, due to her limited life experiences and strong-willed personality, which we’ve always been aware of.

Living her entire life in a pit, Guillermina hasn’t had any stimulation, which has created some behavioral problems. Looking at her enclosure and her life, we expected her to have more significant issues than we have observed, which is a testament to what an incredible mother Pocha is. That said, Pocha doesn’t enforce boundaries with her daughter. Guillermina gets away with many behaviors that other elephant mothers wouldn’t allow  under ‘normal’ circumstances. Guillermina can be a bit pushy with her mom. While she isn’t super rough, she isn’t gentle either. Believing that she can do whatever she wants to her mom is a behavior that spills into other parts of her life. 

The most challenging part of preparing for the 30-day in-house quarantine required for an international move is often the blood draw. As far as we know, Guillermina has never had a blood sample taken in her entire life (She’s 22). She did well with the training leading up to it and seemed ready for her team to try it with a needle. As is often the case, training for a blood draw and actually getting poked with a needle are two very separate things, which humans can relate to. When the vet tried to draw blood for the first time, Guillermina was really good, but reacted negatively after. She was given a reprieve for a few days, but when they tried again, she had a stronger reaction and became somewhat agitated for several days. Not only was she not completely cooperative with training but, at times, she would block her mom from entering the training area..

After being given a bit more time, Guillermina is doing better. Pocha has continued to be consistent throughout the process. She’s seen life outside the walls of Mendoza, so she seems to understand the bigger picture more than Guillermina. During our many elephant rescues over the decades, we’ve noticed that elephants tend to understand what is happening in a way that can’t be explained. They seem to comprehend that we are there to help and that there is more going on than what meets the eye when a crew of new humans and a transport crate shows up.  

Many people describe the same thing when they are helping an injured wild animal – that the animal senses the human is there to help.  While there’s no way to understand their actual perception, they seem to intuit something out of the ordinary is happening. The elephants tend to open up and trust us quickly, and they seem to want to cooperate.  Pocha’s behaviors seem similar to those of many elephants we have relocated, but Guillermina’s limited life experiences aren’t helping her see the bigger picture. 

This process will continue to be complicated because Guillermina’s life has been so limited, but this is just part of their journey. We knew these sorts of challenges were a possibility, and we will continue doing our best, adjusting to her needs, and doing what is needed to bring them to sanctuary.

Photo of Guillermina facing the camera, with Pocha just behind her


  1. REPLY
    Kenneth Newman says

    Can’t wait for the journey of Pocha and Guillermina to begin………Brazil is calling……..hopefully coronavirus won’t get in the way……..

  2. REPLY
    Sue says

    Such a complex situation, I can’t begin to imagine what is going through G’s mind through all of this. I know the team and caregivers are all on the same page with safety and caring high on the list. One step at a time, elephant time ?. Thank you for all you are doing!!! Love and hugs. ❤️?❤️

  3. REPLY
    Cintia Zanfra Abney says

    Tough situation.. Time for our Reiki team to go into action, sending healing and encouragement messages to Pocha and Guille, specially Guille..
    I really have faith on it and I remember Bambi negative reaction to the crate, steps back, process starting over.. then all at a sudden she entered the crate and said “Let’s go, humans.. let’s go to the Sanctuary! I am ready” 🙂

  4. REPLY
    Carol says

    Patience and fortitude. We are supporting your efforts 100%!!! How glorious will be the day that these ladies arrive at sanctuary. ????????

  5. REPLY
    Claudia says

    Poor Guillermina. What a barren life. I hope she learns from her mom to trust you soon. Thank goodness you’re getting them out of there.

  6. REPLY
    John says

    They say patience is a virtue! Good luck! Wishing y’all the best.

  7. REPLY
    Julie says

    Prayer is definitely in order here. The difficulty of Guillermina’s personality is in direct proportion to her need to get out of there. I will be on my knees tonight!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We appreciate that you are keeping everyone in your thoughts.

  8. REPLY
    Joy says

    Oh my!!! I was certainly hoping for better news. Onward!!!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We all wish things could happen more quickly, but everything will happen when the time is right. Thanks for thinking of our girls.

  9. REPLY
    Charlotte Hansen says

    Wow–I will add my prayers to this complicated situation! God bless you all!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thank you.

  10. REPLY
    Jillyp says

    What a good mum Pocha is, she has done her best in difficult circumstances with no help from aunties in a herd. Thank you to all the team for your training for them and patience with Guillermina. Hopefully she will soon realise that training is ok and become more cooperative. Oh I can’t wait to see them settle into sanctuary life and begin their healing journey ????

  11. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    Maybe Pocha will be able to communicate to Guillermina that they will be okay and this is all to help them to get to a better place.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We hope so. Guillermina will just have to learn some things on her own – just like most children do at times.

  12. REPLY
    Beji says

    These extraordinary girls! So many challenges. Its only going to get better every day. Some days will be rougher, some will be easier. But they’re forever life is calling and they will be trumpeting their answer. Yes, we will be there soon. Home…Sanctuary.

  13. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    I will keep thinking good thoughts for Guillermina, until she can do so herself. I’m glad to hear that Pocha, even after all this time, seems to understand this will all be a positive in the end. Hopefully, Guillermina will pick up on it.

  14. REPLY
    Anita Janusz-Wong says

    Well….at least they drew blood twice already so it is progressing…not sure how many time they have to do that but surely we are moving forward with the whole process….I am sometimes in total despair that with epidemic and training and quarantine the whole process will stretch through whole year!…..and they both sooo need to be out from that pit! Such detailed news….Thank you….am very grateful….

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      They weren’t actually able to get any blood drawn, though they tried. We still to complete tests, so we need that to happen before we can move forward. She will have to learn to accept needle sticks, even if it’s not her favorite thing. For instance, there were times when Mara needed to receive medicine and she wasn’t eating well – so she received it through injection. She didn’t love it, but she knew what was coming and accepted it because she knew it would help. Guillermina will eventually have to learn the same, even if some of that happens at sanctuary. She will at least have to become a bit more willing in order to complete her quarantine testing. But it is a scary new thing. Even small progress is still progress!

  15. REPLY
    Katie Howard says

    I cannot actually fathom the difficulties you are dealing with, in this instance. Two elephants at the same time is a challenge in and of itself, and to add to that, you are dealing with an elephant who has been totally isolated from life for her entire life. I have total confidence and unwavering hope that your team will do everything humanly possible to bring these two to Sanctuary – but it may take a long time. ❤️??❤️

  16. REPLY
    Bertica Valdes Suarez says

    Question: Has Guillermina ever stepped on grass? : (

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      No – Guillermina has never stepped on grass. That’s a sad fact, but also helps explain why all of these new changes are a little bit frustrating for her. The world has been really small and limited for her so far.

  17. REPLY
    Wim says

    Wish you much strength to succeed in preparation of the journey. It’s a pity there so much damage done in captivity. Hope there’s a breakthrough when you don’t expect one. Elephants have a special kind of timing as you already know.

  18. REPLY
    Sara B says

    I appreciate the news from Mendoza. I have been wondering if either or both of these elephants has yet been far enough in the crates to see what’s on the other side (especially Guillermina)?

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Pocha has gone in with all four feet and Guillermina has had three feet inside – so definitely progress!

  19. REPLY
    Patricia says

    I am praying constantly for these darlings. Guillermina is such a cutie, and I want her to know the wonderful life that awaits her. Sending mountains of love, too.

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