Things in Mendoza are progressing, albeit at a slow speed. Pocha continues to consistently do well with the behaviors required for her 30-day in-place quarantine. Guillermina is slowly returning to her normal self with training, but she isn’t fully there.
Every elephant is very individual. Within that individuality, most of the elephants we work with were born in Asia, ripped from their family at a very young age, and transported across the ocean in a crate to a new location, alone. Once there, they were often taught to submit to humans using dominance-based methods before ultimately ending up in zoos or circuses for decades.
Guillermina has had a different life. We would never call her life easy, but her background is different from those of most captive elephants. Pocha realizes that positive reinforcement training and, yes, even needle pricks aren’t that bad in the grand scheme of things. Understandably, Guillermina’s limited life experiences make her skeptical that this process could be for her own good.
Chrissy, who primarily works training elephants in Asia, recently had to leave Mendoza to meet her obligations at another facility. Karissa has a little more flexibility in her schedule and continues working with Pocha and Guillermina and their care team at the Ecoparque Mendoza. She is working with the team there to ensure they are ready to take over the quarantine process.
Pocha and Guilermina’s days are continuing as usual. There are no real changes to their routines. A few times a day, they are asked to participate in training sessions. The sessions vary – sometimes it’s just touching body parts to a target, and other times it’s pretending to draw blood. Guillermina, who was the rockstar initially, is slowly finding her way back. She is behaving normally outside of her training sessions again, but is still not fully back to who she was before her training included needle sticks. It’s a slow process to convince her that not only is this not all bad (she earns FrootLoops!), but it’s actually for her benefit. Both Pocha and Guillermina continue to have access to the crates, and they enter/exit them as they wish.
We are happy to see Guillermina slowly returning to her usual self with the support of her mom and humans. We are looking forward to her next steps, but only when she is ready.
Photo of Karissa, Ecoparque Mendoza caregiver Estaban, and Pocha