Protected Contact Management

Scott and Lady

Recently, we have been asked numerous times if we ever ‘pet’ the elephants here at ESB, and it’s a great educational question. The short answer is yes, but only when they initiate and desire the contact. While the question stems from a curiosity about affectionate touch, it also has a basis in understanding what protected contact management is.

As most of us know, touch can be healing. But for those who have worked with rescued animals, or people that have endured a traumatic past, touch isn’t always welcomed. There are even some of us who have never had anything bad happen to us, but still don’t want people walking up and hugging us.

One of the most significant gifts a protected barrier supports is choice. Maia loves her squishy sleepy belly rubs, and when she wants them, she comes over to the fence and asks. Autonomy is a pillar of true sanctuary, and that choice extends to human interactions. It’s not about whether we want to love on one of the girls (because yes, that desire can be strong), it’s whether that is something they want at that moment.

There is much more to it than that, which makes this old blog, a good read for those who may not know the PC/FC concept well, who are new to the organization itself, or who would simply like to fill a couple of moments reading about elephants.  ❤️

August 22, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Alana says

    Thanks for attaching the blog link, it was a good read. I will continue to give them all long distance hugs.

    • REPLY
      Charlotte Hansen says

      Wow! I so love this photo! Thank you for all this beautiful information in both blogs. I just can’t get enough!

  2. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says

    He’s telling her “How CUTE” she is …..isn’t he !!!! hahaha

  3. REPLY
    Julie says

    Have you all really slept in the barn when you knew an elephant needed you close? Every once in a while I learn something that stuns me about the beautiful level of care you all are giving these elephants. I know they deserve it, but the fact that you are actually going there is simply amazing! It’s the reason I check in faithfully for my daily dose!

    • REPLY
      Kat Blais says

      We slept at the barn for the first week Maia and Guida were there, because of the unpleasant relationship they had with each other at the circus before rescue. We didn’t sleep in their stalls, we slept at a safe distance, but yes, we slept there on hay bales and the ground.

  4. REPLY
    Wim says

    Thank you deeply for sharing both blogs with so much inner feelings. Two worlds meeting and connecting in many ways. Hard to imagine how difficult for everyone involved to make the right moves and actions. Being a high sensitive empath making easy contact with animals it can be heartbreaking to keep distance when needed. ??????

  5. REPLY
    Barb says

    Excellent photo and description of contact with the girls. There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t wonder how often you can make physical contact with the girls if they are willing and in safe conditions. Thanks for sharing.

  6. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    Such a loving photo. ?♥️

  7. REPLY
    Sallie says

    I loved reading about this “sharing affection”! This brought back my special moments with my elephant friends in Umani Springs, Kenya. These sweeties love being close IF they like you, and if so, they will hold “hand in trunk” and walk with you, like you are the pet. Well, they actually walk YOU! Great memories. I did learn from from my first sponsored orphan, Zongoloni, who became quite a lady herself, as she grew up into a very tall and very fussy Leader of the Pack. Holding hands by trunk as initiated by the former baby, was easy but you are not in charge! Plus talking to this tall girl and focusing on one eye at her side as I lightly stroked her ear, was not warmly appreciated, and I received a gentle leg tap with her foot! Oops! Mea Culpa, Mea Maxima Culpa . . . She certainly knows who I am, and I am happy to feed her little treats, when I visit. Guess I was forgiven for being so personal . . . Quite the Diva . . . but not quite as sweet and gentle as your precious lady! C’est la vie!

  8. REPLY
    bo says

    Very good lesson!
    Petting or hugging, some love it and even need it, and for some, animal or human, it can be quite ‘hell’, a hug.
    I think most people assume with animals who we as human beings have ‘tamed’, they automatically must love petting and hugging.
    It is very normal to assume that of course.

    I think it is very interesting and a great lesson for us all to know that you can’t always assume that everyone, animal or human, automatically love a hug or a pet.
    Thanks for all these interesting messages and sharing all the knowledge.

    Ps: from the expression on both faces, I think they both seem to love the ‘pet’ ‘pet’ moment
    Love is in the air! 🙂

  9. REPLY
    Paula says

    Infinitas gracias por toda la valiosa información que comparten en ambos blogs ❤
    Me he quedado sin palabras… toda su experiencia, conocimiento y amor hacia los elefantes…
    Ustedes siguen educandome, día tras día, con cada publicación, sobre el verdadero significado de curar a un elefante rescatado del cautiverio…
    Priorizando el respeto y la libertad de elección de los elefantes…
    Tanta sabiduría ?
    Siento una profunda admiración por ustedes… Les envió todo mi amor ?
    Y gracias nuevamente por cuidar a las chicas!

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