Bambi and Mara have had many positive interactions through the fence, so we felt it was time to try shared space with them again. For our regular followers, you may remember the three—Rana, Bambi, and Mara—were near instant friends until Mara started feeling unwell.
Recently, Rana and Bambi had been relaxing for a couple of hours by the mud wallow in Yard 1 when we opened the gate to allow Mara access from adjacent Yard 2. At first, it appeared that, true to her friendly nature, Bambi would walk into Yard 2 and approach Mara immediately, but then she hesitated, deciding against it. After a few minutes, Mara entered Yard 1. Moving at high speed, which can be alarming to other elephants, Bambi then approached Mara, who extended her ears out. At the last second, Bambi seemed to realize she needed to slow down for Mara and turned around, an adjustment that shows her growth and learning. She later approached Mara at a perpendicular angle with her rear first, a display of submissiveness. Mara did well with Bambi for about two minutes but then pushed her.
Mara’s reaction was likely confusing to Bambi, who wants to be closer to her new herd mate. Bambi’s inclination to be friends bested her judgment to walk away in this situation, and she stayed. Mara pushed her again, bumping her into the fence this time. Finally, Bambi walked away, but Mara soon followed with intention. We closed the gate behind Bambi, separating her from Rana and Mara to give her space and security. We also opened Yard 5 if she chose to wander even further.
Rana, visibly displeased with Mara’s behavior, followed Mara into Yard 2 and attempted to diffuse the situation by vocalizing. Bambi was not injured and did not seem scared. We didn’t see the same reaction from Bambi we saw at the zoo, where she repeatedly retreated within herself and hid in a corner. Part of that is because, in our vast space, Bambi knows she is no longer trapped and has plenty of room to separate from others. Nonetheless, Mara’s behavior was not kind.
Bambi lingered in Yard 1 for a few moments and then walked into 5. A few hours later, we heard trumpeting and checked the cameras to see Mara, Rana, and Bambi passively socializing along the fence.
We aren’t sure what shifts within Mara, why she spends hours positively interacting with Bambi when there is a fence between them, but behaves differently when they share space. We believe it can partially be attributed to Mara’s health. From a medical perspective, Mara is stable. She is eating regularly and consistently. Her weight remains normal. But there are still days she doesn’t seem to feel good. As we humans know, when you’re under the weather, your tolerance for pretty much anything is lower. While Mara remains charming and engaging with her humans, these days she doesn’t have the same patience for elephants. It causes some difficulty for Bambi, who is trying to navigate a whole new life that is not straightforward. Bambi is doing most things right with Mara, yet she is still rebuked. Like in our own lives, when someone we love isn’t at 100 percent, we need to be patient and compassionate, which Bambi seems to understand.
Sanctuary is a journey, and relationships aren’t always easy. Elephants, however, tend to grasp the bigger picture. While we look for ways to support each individual elephant and nurture their interactions, we know that they are also processing events and emotions without any assistance from us. Just as Rana grew and learned when pushed away by Maia and Guida, Bambi will grow and learn from this experience.
Video of Mara on the far side of the fence, who calls to Bambi. Bambi is the first elephant who approaches, and Rana joins a few seconds later. It was filmed along a fence this morning, while Bambi and Rana had social time together.
November 20, 2020