Sanctuary Memories: Meeting Bambi

As part of our ongoing Sanctuary Memories series, Scott talks about his first meeting with Bambi and how deeply she changed between the first time they saw one another and the second. That first meeting occurred in 2013, when Bambi was living at the Leme Zoo in Sao Paulo. Scott remembers, “She was adorable and cute and shiny and bright, even though she lived in a small space. Her personality was charming and endearing.” A couple of years later, Bambi was moved to the Ribeirao Preto Zoo and, at that point, everything changed for her. 

At the new zoo, she lost a lot of the spark we initially witnessed and she had become very reclusive. As Scott says, “We found her in a state of being closed off in her own little world. She didn’t want to go outside; she was not very expressive.” Though she would interact with some of her caregivers, she also liked to hide in a corner of her barn – sometimes for days at a time. When Bambi finally built up the courage to emerge from her small space, she’d sometimes stay outside for two to three days. We’d been told that Bambi did not get along with Maison, the other female Asian elephant who lived next to her, and we saw video of an altercation between the two of them. Her fear was palpable. She seemed to be a very emotionally strained, uncertain individual. 

When our team arrived for her move, Bambi was very curious, but incredibly watchful of everything we did. She appeared ready for something to go wrong at any moment. As Scott recalls, “When she started to build more confidence and come into the crate and explore, it was with a lot of trepidation, though she did seem to like getting some extra attention.” Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she would go back to the corner of her barn and hide in that space for hours before slowly emerging. At that point, the team felt like we were starting from zero again. She’d take baby steps toward the container, lots of smells, never going all the way in – no matter what we did. Once she finally went all the way in, she heard us working with the door a little bit and immediately ran back inside for about half a day. Just a little bit of change was overwhelming to her. Bambi needed coaxing, then space and time before moving further. Once you could see a small change in her, she would accept encouragement and might do more, as long as she didn’t feel rushed. 

“It was actually disheartening to see how much she changed from one zoo to the next. She was closed off to so much of the world. She still had that bright spark and bright eyes and sweet personality. She was curious and engaging,” says Scott. “But that curiosity was always combined with trepidation and concern.”

Of course, once Bambi came to sanctuary, her world was immediately different – and she was also different, almost from day one. She was ready to go and, though she still had a number of insecurities to manage, she was not remotely like the elephant we’d seen at the zoo. Bambi shifted out of that mental space quickly, which was amazing to see. She was opening herself up, vulnerabilities and all, to a new world, and she seemed brilliant, radiant, and amazing; she continues to explore her world and herself – finding new things to celebrate almost every day.

Photo of Bambi before and after sanctuary


  1. REPLY
    Tracy says

    WOW!! Look at the change in her!! ❤️

  2. REPLY
    Pam says

    The “before” photo and story are so heartbreaking; the “now” photo and story are incredibly uplifting. Endless gratitude to you, ESB, for all the work you do and the caring you provide to these magnificent elephants. Each rescue effort is a miracle in the making.

  3. REPLY
    Cintia Abney says

    Ohh Bambi, I was do afraid you wouldn’t be able to come! Believe sweetie the WHOLE world sent you positive thoughts and Reikis, and they from GSE were trying to show you it was ok … and suddenly you said: “Let’s do it”❤️❤️ And there you are today ❤️❤️🎾

  4. REPLY
    Nancy says


  5. REPLY
    Wim says

    With her amazing personality and fighting spirit she’s back on track. Wonderful sanctuary heals and cuddles.

  6. REPLY
    Elizabeth Hook says

    I am so grateful you got her out of there.

    You are angels!

  7. REPLY
    Nancy says

    Thank you for all you do Scott.

  8. REPLY
    Deb says

    You guys are my HEROES ! 🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🐘🙏🏻💝
    I am so thankful for ESB 😍

  9. REPLY
    Beji says

    OMG!! Elephants are not supposed to make you cry! She is so special and sweet!

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      We cry all the time 😉

  10. REPLY
    Carey says

    How resilient elephants are. Considering that the last move she was forced to make from Leme to Ribeirao Preto turned out to be disastrous, for all she knew the new move from RP to sanctuary could have been the same or worse, and on top of that she was anxious and depressed, so it was a wondrous thing that she decided to trust Scott. Those two photos do show it all in her expression quite apart from her skin. And she has quite literally gone from strength to strength in GSE’s patient caring wondrous environment. Such a sweet sparky personality who needs the company of others like she needs air. A beautiful story, ongoing…Thank you, thank you, thank you to all including of course those who managed to donate the vital cash to get her there.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thanks to all who help and send support in all ways! Bambi is a perfect example of how sanctuary heals.

  11. REPLY
    Suzanne Eaton says

    Bambi, sweetheart, I recall your rescue vividly. You were traumatized in those surroundings, but finally got the courage to venture out with all the love and patience you were shown. It was a fabulous day when your truck rolled away and brought you to your forever home at sanctuary. Look at you now, vibrant, healthy and gorgeous with loving companionship. Thank you Scott, Kat and team at GSE. ❤️🐘

  12. REPLY
    Joan says

    First learned of ESB at the time of Bambi’s arrival, have been a devoted follower ever since. Have enjoyed getting to know each of the other girls. You guys are miracle workers.

    • REPLY
      Sara says

      Thank you for following us! And, of course, Bambi is the one who has done the most work. We’ve just given her the time, space, and care so she could flourish.

  13. REPLY
    Rachel says

    What a testament to the power of sanctuary! Hugs and love to all the ladies and their beautiful transformations. High fives and a special kind of love to everyone who made this happen – founders, staff, volunteers and the family of supporters I’m thrilled to be a small part of…💝

  14. REPLY
    Julie says

    She looks like a different elephant….in a great way! Life is oozing out of her now! No words. Thank you so much ESB!

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    Terry says

    Bambi lived on hope of a new day. The sparkle in her eyes expressing her soul yearning for something greater and finding it at sanctuary. Bambi exudes joy and wonder in every step she takes now. Love is the glue…

  16. REPLY
    Eileen L. says

    I LOVED this post. How far she’s come. How much you’ve done. The contrasts. The love poured into her that is now blossoming. Thank you.

  17. REPLY
    Tammy says

    If only the whole world could see the trauma elephants suffer at the hands of humans but with time alot of patience and love Sanctuaries help these beautiful gentle giants with their wonderful transformation never completely forgetting but leaving enough behind to begin thriving all because of kind loving caring people who work so hard give up much themselves to make that dream a reality so thank you Scott Kat and so many others who share this love of elephants hoping one day they will all live safe and free! 💞

  18. REPLY
    Carol Anderson says

    I look forward, every day, to your comments. Keep up the great work.

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