With four elephants, and Lady not being ready to share space with Maia, there is a lot of balancing that happens daily. We sometimes call it “musical chairs” or a “round-robin.” Spaces and elephants are shifted to make sure that everyone gets time in all of the yards, and with other elephants. It is part of why we designed the habitat as we did. Alternating social opportunities for Maia and Lady keeps Mara and Rana delightfully busy with friends.
With Lady’s physical and emotional issues, we cater a lot of our decisions to what she needs in the moment. We also revolve choices around Mara since she is new, and still adjusting.
Maia has been here for years. She is in good health and doesn’t require the care that a new or debilitated elephant does. She is fully trained in medically necessary behaviors, so she doesn’t need regular training sessions (and their accompanying treats). While Maia’s needs are certainly considered and evaluated in any decision, those considerations are different. Maia is an easy elephant, but we have to make sure that we don’t overlook her individual needs because she is so low maintenance. It’s important to us that she doesn’t feel left out and that she knows her happiness matters as much as everyone else’s. In this regard, we try to make sure she gets the same extra treats that everyone else gets, even if her reason for getting treats is how easy she is. Her social and wandering needs are also kept a priority since we know how significant both of those are to her.
We frequently go out of our way to do special things for Maia, and to make sure she feels as loved and as adored as she is. When she’s around the barn, this sometimes means bringing her into the medical chute just to give her extra attention and some treats. We know it’s not really necessary, but she seems to enjoy it. It also reinforces her positive association with the chute, which is a great thing if a medical issue arises in the future. Other times, we will go out in the habitat and give her a little bit of bonus fruit, palms, or special snack for no reason other than she is Maia, and she is lovely.