Kat is sharing a story of Ramba, Rana, and Maia, and their first interactions in this month’s Sanctuary Memory. Ramba could have written a book about her life but, at Elephant Sanctuary Brazil, her introduction to Rana was less than noteworthy.
When Ramba first arrived at sanctuary, our team introduced her to the others as we usually do: gently and gradually. We tried to acquaint Ramba and Rana, and there was a bit of nervousness (from Rana) and confusion (from Ramba). Sometimes when elephants have been alone for years, as Ramba had, their energy seems to connect to the elephants around them, and they respond in turn. In this instance, it seems that Rana’s short period of apprehension slowed the beginnings of what would become a strong friendship.
“Because Rana had been so pushy with her affection towards Maia and Guida initially and was rejected, she was so reserved when it came to introducing herself to Ramba,” Kat says. Rana was clearly very excited and wanted to be near Ramba. She remembers, “The two would stand with their bellies maybe 6 inches apart, side-by-side, and neither would touch the other. They would smell each other, their trunks would come close, but they never touched.” This went on for a few days, before Maia entered the picture.
When Maia arrived in Yard 1, she immediately sensed Ramba across the fence in Yard 2. Rana was sharing the yard with Ramba, but was not next to her at the time. Ramba had a drink from the water trough and was investigating behind the chute, which is close to the divider gate between Yards 1 and 2.
Maia walked up, saw this new elephant and smelled in her direction. Then she climbed up on the fence, put her trunk over the top, and touched Ramba. Says Kat, “Ramba was clearly shocked that an elephant just walked over and touched her, because she’s been around Rana for a couple of days now and Rana hasn’t ever made contact.” In those days, Maia had a more feisty energy, so it wasn’t surprising that she was actively curious about a new elephant. “She touched Ramba’s head, gave it a little bit of a smell,” said Kat. “Ramba did a little head wiggle and Maia touched down Ramba’s sides and that was enough for Maia.” But it was very clear on Ramba’s face and her response that this was not what she was expecting.
Of course, shortly thereafter, Rana and Ramba decided it was ok to touch each other. After that, everything was light and calm. Because Maia was more forward with touching, Ramba let her do it after that. “There were times at the fence that Maia just came over and affectionately smushed her face right into Ramba’s,” Kat said. It was important that Ramba, Rana, and Maia all determine how they would relate to each other in their own way – so we watched and learned from the complex interactions we were witnessing.
P.S.: This video captures a moment a few seconds after the initial experience, since we didn’t know it would be happening.We hurried over to film as much as we could. I’m sure you’ll notice that Ramba does some excited urination when Maia reaches out to touch her. This is common, and elephants who have known each other for years do it, too. It’s definitely amusing.