In addition to Rana, we recently did some touch-up footwork on Maia as well. Maia receives the least frequent footwork out of all of our elephants. Not only is she our speediest elephant, but she explores more than anyone else here and uses her feet for frequent digging up of roots. Similar to wild elephants, those behaviors, along with frequent dips in ponds and mud wallows, do the majority of her footwork for us.
When we first asked Maia to present her feet for footwork, she responded by being super lazy. She leaned her head against the bars of the fence. Like with Rana, she still wanted her treats, but she didn’t want to pick up her feet to earn them. Also like Rana, we were attempting to do footwork after breakfast, which tends to be food coma time. But it’s also a great time, schedule-wise, to try and get some elephant things done.
Maia gave us her trunk instead of her feet and closed her eyes. We gave her a couple of treats to see if she was at all interested or if it was truly nap time. With her treats we gave her a few handfuls of dried cranberries, and she immediately perked up.
It was as if she realized that cranberries were worth waking up for. She may not have been excited to participate in footwork for fruit, but once she realized she was earning cranberries, she was a complete rockstar. This is part of the reason why we use more exciting treats for our “bigger” asks – to be effective, the reward needs to be proportionate to the behavior. The girls seem to understand the increased level of appreciation.
Once we finished working on her feet, she sauntered over to the mud wallow for a good coating and some much-earned relaxation.
June 25, 2020