Maia and Lady still aren’t sharing space. Maia, in many ways, is our easiest elephant – what you see is what you get with her. Maia can be a bit intense at times, and while it is coming from a benevolent place, it can be a bit much for another elephant. Lady has firm boundaries, and we would like the four to share space permanently eventually. We take everything slowly to make sure things go as smoothly as possible.
All of that leaves Rana and Mara as our most popular elephants with other elephants – which is perfect because they are also our two most social elephants. Rana and Mara share space with a third elephant pretty much every night. There isn’t a set schedule. We base what happens on what we observe during each day and what makes the most sense based on current locations.
Sharing space with Rana and Mara gives Maia & Lady essential social opportunities. For Maia, socialization is – like everything else – straightforward. Sometimes, she’ll walk over to Rana and Mara to only spend a few minutes with them before leaving again; other times, it is significantly longer. Whatever occurs is her choice. Even if it is a few minutes, it is still important to her, as a herd animal. While Lady still isn’t getting close enough to touch/be touched by other elephants, she is socializing her way. She is very observant, and it’s good for her to watch the others – plus, she seems to enjoy it. For Lady, it’s also about the additional space. Sometimes, when sharing a yard with them, they don’t see each other. Even when they don’t, it’s still valuable for her to have as much space available to her as possible. It’s a different stimulation for her, and for animals this intelligent, the value of space and choice cannot be quantified.
While humans look forward to a day in which all the gates can be open, the current system seems to be working well for the elephants. Mara and Rana get a steady stream of visitors, and both Lady and Maia get their alone time and their social time.
Photo of Rana and Mara (Mara is closer to the pond).