More Baby Steps for Lady


When Lady first arrived, she wasn’t comfortable with or used to human touch. She preferred not to be touched, and, if we were touching her, she wasn’t relaxed.

Captive elephants need to be comfortable with humans touching them everywhere. You never know when or where a health problem will pop up, and we need to be able to provide medical treatment anywhere on her body. We already need to touch her for a few medical issues she has now (including the abscess on her face and her feet).

Lady needs to believe that human touch can be kind (and maybe even enjoyable). Since water relaxes her, we bathe her to get her relaxed and calm before transitioning into touching her.

Elephants – especially ones like Lady, who have access to water, dirt, trees, and mud – don’t need a daily bath, but we have made bathing part of her routine until she becomes more comfortable with physical touch from humans. In the beginning, as we ran the water on her, we would verbally let her know we were going to start touching her and then begin touching. She was often watchful, but there wasn’t any lashing out or other negative responses. We would begin with her hind end and work our way forward, keeping an eye on her reactions and attitude. At this point, we can touch her hind end, back legs, and manipulate her tail without the use of water.

It’s essential to make sure we always tell her what we are going to do before we do it. We don’t want to startle her or do anything to make her doubt her growing trust in our team. Even when it’s something they don’t like, like blood draw, we always let all of our girls know what is coming. The goal is always voluntary participation, and for them to know they have a choice. Guida walked away from us more than once when we showed her a needle.

Over the years, we have worked with many elephants who love back scratches from rakes and large floor push brooms (when you think about it, they are elephant-sized brushes…). We tried using a small scrub brush on a handle with Lady a few weeks ago. While she allowed it, she didn’t seem pleased after. Assuming it might be the pole, we disconnected the bristle end, and it seemed to be less intimidating to her.

This wasn’t her first introduction to the scrub brush. Initially, we used the brush on her back feet and cuticles, and she ultimately became comfortable with it. Now we are trying to scrub more of her body each day, just going slow and keeping it super positive. We will eventually put it back on the pole (it allows us to reach more of their really itchy spots). We want her to grow to understand humans as a positive addition to her life, not something she tolerates for food.

Recently, during a morning bath, she must’ve been more relaxed than on a day that her right hip was extra itchy. As we brushed and touched that area, she leaned in towards the brush and seemed to relish the contact. As was a surprise to her (but probably not to any of you), we were more than happy to oblige this cue, & gave her a lot of scratches/extra attention and a slightly longer bath.

Picture is Lady *after* her daily bath.

February 13, 2020


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  1. REPLY
    Julie says

    You are all wonderful amazing people

  2. REPLY
    g.j.hilton says

    The beauty, depth and sincerity of your respect for the girls never fails to move me. You are, all of you, – elephants and humans alike – my Valentines. x

  3. REPLY
    Kelejan says

    I love the way you teach us as well as Lady and keep us up to date with every little bit of progress.

  4. REPLY
    Sheila says

    nice news from lady‼️? yes lady sure not likely has much hands in affection or contact fom “nice humans”. in her life‼️ sadly she has become solitary and fearful other elephants? and humans‼️ hope u can soon plant some pats! huggs and kisses on her. trunk‼️ giving her treats likely will promote contact too by lady! yes shes a tough case this lil lady, ?very nice she is making steps to relax and enjoy your rear touches! ? funny how she allows . touch to her beautiful long her tail? i think shes going to. succumb very soon to your care she knows know the brush feels good! the water! do rana and maia come to barn then too that she can se getting treatments mentoring lady by rana and maia may be good too.

  5. REPLY
    CyrAnn says

    Before you know it Lady bug is going to throughly enjoy her spa treatments!!!!!!!!!!

  6. REPLY
    Susan says

    More fantastic news about our very brave, endearing, LadyBug. Every time you share another story like this and I think back to when she first arrived, her changes and growth are so impressive; she is impressive. Thank you for sharing. Absolutely love, love, all your updates! ❤️?❤️?❤️

  7. REPLY
    Julie says

    I love to hear every moment of Lady’s progress. Keep it up! No milestone is too small. I love it! And the videos are awesome. By the way, I got my Ramba Effect t-shirt. It’s beautiful. I’m wearing it now.

  8. REPLY
    Sallie Robbins-Druian says

    LOVE your comments on each of your GORGEOUS GIRLS! But especiallyvwonderful to hear more about Lady and her history. How can you not be transfixed by her! Thank you.

  9. REPLY
    Elke Riesterer says

    ? Lovely steps to lead sweet Lady into embracing touch bit by bit. She will get there.

  10. REPLY
    Muriel Servaege says

    Really love reading your comment and knowing more about Lady!

  11. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    Progress!! Love hearing these details. They are milestones in her mind, I’m sure. I appreciate the insight you have on her reactions. I have been wondering how her feet are healing. Thank you.

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