This week, Pocha and Guillermina finally felt comfortable enough to share open space with Bambi, Mara, Maia, and Rana. The two had been showing interest in the “Powerpuff Girls,” getting excited whenever they heard rumbles or trumpeting from the three. So, we opened the gates between Yards 3 and 4. Pocha and Guillermina stepped tentatively into Yard 4, where all four other elephants were standing. They quickly got a little intimidated and ran back into Yard 3, which is near the barn – their safe space. But the others saw a chance to move forward in the encounter and entered the smaller yards at a respectful distance.
Though the two new elephants aren’t always exactly sure of what they need, it’s clear that both want to build relationships in their own ways. With each interaction, the two still need time to regroup – but every encounter changes the dynamic between Pocha and Guillermina and the herd at large. For instance, when Pocha heard the girls vocalizing, she ran toward them; her excitement allowed her to place herself in a new and potentially intimidating place: right in between Mara and Bambi. That is both charming and somewhat unexpected, but it’s an example of Pocha’s desire to have new relationships in her life.
After that initial moment inside the fence together, each elephant fell into her own role in welcoming Pocha and Guille to sanctuary. Maia continued to show interest in the newcomers – staying relatively close and keeping an eye on all of the action. Rana was playing her usual role, carefully overseeing the interactions and monitoring dynamics. Mara was perhaps surprised to find that her squeaks drew Pocha to her so quickly, but also realized that this new individual wanted only to be near her.
The most surprising element of these still-growing relationships is Bambi’s leadership in building trust among the elephants. She may have learned from her past experiences in meeting new individuals that a calm presence makes a difference in how others respond to you. She’s clearly excited at the idea of making new friends, and has been deliberately approaching Guillermina and Pocha slowly and respectfully, sometimes curious as to why they are so reluctant to interact.
Encounters and comfort levels may change from day to day. But the willingness of the foursome to embrace Guille and Pocha is a sign that everyone is open to new things. Pocha and Guillermina are showing their own individual desires for friends, which may ebb and flow depending on their comfort. The most exciting thing is that their first meeting was gentle, peaceful, and promising on many levels.