Our three little ladies, Mara, Rana, and Bambi, had a bit of a falling out. A couple of days after the fire, everyone, humans and elephants, seemed to get a little wonky. There was a lot of emotion involved with the fire, and sometimes, when not dealt with in the moment, they rear their heads a bit later. The girls had been great during and after the fire; there were no signs of any issues between them. A couple of days after, we did 10:00 p.m. feed, it was the first big rain, and all of the girls were standing together under the bushes, keeping somewhat dry. They all seemed snug and well.
The next morning, Bambi was at the top of Yard 3, and Rana and Mara were in Yard 2. Since they had been sharing space, they had never been that far apart, so we figured something might be up. Everyone was fine physically, but Bambi seemed a little withdrawn. We didn’t want to force anything, so we closed the gate between them to see how everyone acted and what they did. Eventually, Bambi came down and went into one stall with Mara and Rana closed in the other. Things were definitely off when they came into the barn. There were no vocalizations. Mara had learned that she could make Bambi trumpet by making her squeaky noise, so it was rare to have much silence between them for too long. Rana stayed back and the other two started interacting through the gate. They would touch and be OK, Mara would make her cute noise, but then she would try to bite Bambi’s trunk. Mara was definitely sending mixed signals. Nothing we had seen in the past. They went outside a little later, still in separate yards, and both Mara and Bambi got a little pushy with each other over the top bar.
We’re not sure what happened. It’s impossible to know. As people have seen with Lady, there are sometimes these individual boundaries that get pushed. In 25 years, we have actually never experienced elephants getting along so well and then taking this kind of a step backward. It is possible that it is linked to Mara not feeling well and Bambi simply having too much energy at times. We mentioned in recent posts that Mara wasn’t eating as well, and we thought it was due to the heat since her attitude and appetite increased as soon as the sun began to sink. Now we think it may be an actual health issue. There are numerous things we are looking into but don’t have any concrete answers yet (so please don’t ask a million questions that we can’t answer.)
When we were in Tennessee, we saw something similar between two elephants that were loving friends. Misty and Dulary adored each other, but Dulary had fairly regular GI issues (related to urinary issues), and when she felt sick, she was not the nicest of friends. Misty didn’t have to do anything ‘wrong’ in any way, she just had to gently approach at the wrong time, and Dulary would hit her. Misty was big and ridiculously sweet, so she accepted being a bit of a punching bag for her friend. When she felt better, things would go back to ‘normal,’ and Misty would act as if nothing had ever happened. Mara and Bambi haven’t had enough time to become that close of friends yet, though.
For a couple of days, Bambi preferred to be out in the woods in Yard 5, checking in every once in a while. Recently she has become more interested in being friends again. The three have had some sweet interactions along the fence line during the day and also that we watched at night on the camera. Yesterday morning, since everyone seemed mellow, we decided to give Bambi, Mara, and Rana access to 1 & 2, to see how they were. Bambi was excited to join the other two again, but a little too excited and not so great with boundaries. She was standing next to them for only a short time before Mara nudged her with her head. Bambi immediately left, and Mara took a few steps to follow. Bambi circled around and almost looked like she wanted to try again, but Mara’s posture was clear that she wasn’t open to it. All the while, Rana was trying to diffuse things, staying with Mara, trumpeting playfully.
Just for clarification, since we know it’s hard to imagine what goes on between elephants, these nudges aren’t super aggressive. They’re not nice, but they are only a tiny fraction of the energy they could put into a confrontation. We have definitely seen Dulary hit Misty much harder than this. It’s a quick lift of the head, leading with the base of the trunk. It’s not like when an elephant pulls back to build up momentum to hit someone or something, or when there is follow through with the rest of their trunk or charging. Because we know Bambi will run if truly scared, that she is faster than all of our elephants, and there are plenty of ways out (facilities are designed specifically for that), there isn’t too much concern with putting them in together. Especially since we know Mara does like her.
Since Rana has been calm with everything and is her usual grounding force, we have let Bambi and Rana spend time together to help alleviate some of the high-energy Bambi has in her excitement to be with the other two. Hopefully, this can help diffuse some of what is going on, but there’s no way to know how it will play out. When we come down at 10:00 p.m. for night feed, all three are at the fence, touching and rumbling loudly. It is all very sweet and affectionate, which is part of our suspicion that Mara’s response is due to her own physical discomfort. We also let Maia into the mix, spending time with Mara, and sometimes Mara and Rana, so she doesn’t feel left out. Lady continues to spend her time in Yard 4 right now, showing no interest in the girls trying to sort through their emotions.
As with all healing, this is a process, and we’ll continue to try to nurture what is going on between the girls until they get back to a good place with each other. We will share any changes to Mara’s health or the girls’ relationships as they occur.
Photo of Mara (foreground) and Rana (background)
October 23, 2020