Rumbly Lady


Lady has become much more rumbly in the past few weeks. Rumbles can mean a lot of different things, based on frequency and tone. Among wild elephants, rumbles communicate:

  • greetings,
  • warnings,
  • comfort,
  • happiness/excitement,
  • and more.

Human ears can’t hear all rumbles, so we don’t always know when our elephants are rumbling. Usually, when we talk about – and hear – rumbles from the elephants, it’s when they are happy. We even call them “rumblebugs” as a term of endearment when they are extra rumbly.

Like her wild counterparts, Lady has been using her rumbles to communicate a range of emotions to her team. She’s been giving us “Hi, how are you?”, content, and silly rumbles. She even sometimes uses them to communicate that she is feeling a little nervous. Most notably, she has been using rumbles to communicate with Kat during footwork.

Just recently, Lady has also started to become somewhat of a ‘pleaser’; that is, she’s beginning to do things simply to make her humans happy. During footwork, sometimes she gets tired when holding a particular position – which is typical for elephants with joint, foot issues, or arthritis. We are very aware of each individual’s physical limits and don’t remotely push them. Maia will keep her foot up for 5 minutes, even when you tell her she’s good to put her foot down, or walk away to get something. She has been that way since we started footwork with her, but that’s not typical. In general, back feet are easier to hold in position, while the duration for front feet is shorter.

With Lady, not only are both front feet different, but we need to adjust on different days. After each small step in her care, we bridge (whistle), Lady puts her foot down and gets food rewards. We give her a moment before asking to present it again, often switching feet for comfort. Sometimes, if she feels she needs to put her foot down for some reason, rather than just taking it down, she will give a little rumble. It seems as if she is letting Kat know she is feeling tired or just needs a second. When she does it, Kat always immediately lets her know it’s OK to take a break. Kat does this by bridging, which is the training term for signaling that her behavior is completed, and gives her some treats.

This expressive behavior shows us how comfortable Lady is becoming with us, acknowledging her own needs, and her ability to communicate positively. It’s incredible that, after so many years of mistreatment and then not being understood, Lady is willing to reach out to her to humans and share her needs, knowing we will listen.

Photo of Lady with a carrot in her mouth.

July 6, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says

    That is the cutest cutest picture of Lady with a carrot !! OMG : ) !

  2. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    It is amazing that she is trusting and communicates with you after all those years of not having a reason to trust humans.

  3. REPLY
    Paula says

    Un animal inteligente y sensible como es Lady, ella ha percibido claramente la calidad de seres humanos que Kat, Scott y equipo son.?
    Felicitaciones a ustedes por el privilegio y la dicha de haberlo logrado!
    Es el regalo más especial que pueden tener, y muy bien merecido como todos nosotros somos testigos de ello!?❤

  4. REPLY
    Susan says

    How fantastic that Lady is communicating with her humans! I am so proud of her. As you have mentioned, it is really incredible how far she has come since arriving at sanctuary. I was looking at posts of her feet the other day and it is so humbling to watch this beautiful Lady never give up on walking and not taking the easy paths either! The pain she has endured, it is heartbreaking, but her positive attitude and never give up personality are truly inspiring. TY all as always, sending love and hugs to all. ❤️?❤️?❤️

  5. REPLY
    Sallie Robbins-Druian says

    To think that little dot of orange is a carrot! I be you LOVE that crunch, Miss Lady! And Darling, you do look lovely in Gray and Orange . . .

  6. REPLY
    Jillyp says

    Aw she’s so lovable ❤️
    What an amazing Lady she is and how far she has come to trust and communicate to you. You are all amazing how you understand and listen to the girls and respond to their asks and needs ?????? Really interesting about all the different meanings in rumbles. I love the sound of their rumbles, it’s wonderful ?

  7. REPLY
    Wim says

    She’s in many ways a wonderful amazing Lady.
    Showing to everyone how important forgiveness and communication is. Mirror mirror on the wall Lady is the most sentient of us all.

  8. REPLY
    Heidi says

    That is such a sweet story. Thank you for sharing! It’s amazing how we open up when we feel like someone is listening.

  9. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    This is very interesting and a great insight into the individual characters. I find it humbling and poignant that an animal who has been so badly treated by humans is learning to trust through the love and understanding of her human carer. These beautiful beings at last treated with the respect and empathy they deserve.

  10. REPLY
    Carey says

    It always humbles me how forgiving animals are, even after after a life time of abuse, Lady has come on leaps and bounds – and rumbles. Very very well done Kat and all

  11. REPLY
    Ceara Gray-Shannon says

    I love those rumbles, and the ear flaps! I see she’s enjoying a carrot. ??

  12. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    This says so much for elephants. I cannot think of any human that was abused for 50 long excruciating years that would trust another human this quickly. Such a wonderful, remarkable gentle soul she is, I adore her.?♥️

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