As we mentioned earlier, when we gave Lady access to the male Asian habitat, we also decided to open up Yard 5 for the other girls, in case they wanted to explore a new space. At first only Guille and Maia took advantage of it, but Rana has also spent a bit of time in that area and she eventually made her way inside to walk around for a while. In the morning, we found Rana along the fence where the roads between the male and female Asian habitats connect, so we decided to see if she and Lady might be open to spending time together. This was the second time recently that Rana had ended up in a place near Lady. As part of encouraging communication in the elephants we care for, we try to notice any shifts in behavior and, for Rana, this was one of them. Elephants don’t often do things for no reason, and this effort on Rana’s part of breaking away from the others to find Lady wasn’t particularly expected. It seemed possible that she might have some concern or something to say to Lady – but that’s truly between them.
The two have been in the same yards before and Rana is always incredibly respectful of Lady’s need to have a “bubble” of space (generally about 10 yards) between herself and another elephant. In the past, when Rana was near, if Lady felt like she wanted more distance between herself and another, she generally would just walk away at a slow pace and turn around. These two appear to have an understanding that makes putting them together when the time is right a comfortable choice.
For her first half hour in the male habitat, Rana didn’t walk close to Lady. She just grazed and didn’t pay much attention to anything else. Lady didn’t seem to immediately realize that Rana was there, but you could tell that at some point she heard Rana. She didn’t immediately walk away. Eventually she did see Rana and walked maybe 20 yards in the other direction, stopped, turned around, and then remained there for some time. Rana got slightly closer and found a shaded area, always remaining very considerate; Lady made sure to keep the distance between them that she needed.
We didn’t do this with any expectations that they’d get too near each other, but it was an easy way of introducing something different into Lady’s sphere for a little while. And, as we’ve discussed before, Lady doesn’t have to want to touch another elephant to benefit from their companionship. We know she vocally communicates with the others, and this was a chance for her to see if she wanted to be closer to another elephant. One day she may decide she does but, for now, things are still status quo and she prefers the safety of her “bubble,” and Rana is all good with that.
Around dinner, we opened up the gate so that Rana could join the others to eat. We also wanted to make sure that Lady felt comfortable enough to lie down to sleep that night – and we weren’t 100% sure if she’d do that with Rana sharing the habitat with her. Since lying down is a nice break for Lady’s feet, it made the decision to shift Rana back to the female habitat easy. All of the elephants had a nice, calm dinner and Rana rejoined her other friends.
Photo of Rana in the male Asian habitat with Lady in the background