With all the recent introduction videos, we are frequently asked if any of the elephants are dominant and how a third elephant is changing Mara and Rana’s dynamic. We wanted to take the time to talk about it in depth. Before beginning, it’s important to note that elephants are herd animals. Wild females live their entire lives in matriarchal herds with their extended family. There is no natural inclination for elephants to live in a group of two, nor would jealousy over other friendships have a place in a herd of elephants.
Mara is the most submissive of the three elephants, but none of them are behaving dominantly. Bambi is Mara’s first introduction here with her as the elephant who is comfortable and already at home, and she seems to be doing well. She hasn’t quite figured out how much her squeaks are exciting Bambi. Everything will be calm, and Mara will make her “ERRRR” noise. Bambi responds by becoming overly excited and trumpeting while Mara looks shocked that Bambi is excited again. It’s charming and endearing.
Rana has been very patient, accepting, and passive. She has been very food-oriented the past few weeks, making her quick to walk away to look for scraps of hay and fruit to eat. Since Bambi is underweight, there is lots of food around for Rana to find. Even when she is eating, Rana is paying close attention to Mara. When there is an increase in excitement or Mara’s body language changes even slightly, Rana will quickly run over to Mara to check-in. Once Rana reassures herself that Mara is fine, she will wander away again. Mara still struggles with insecurity and lack of confidence, so Rana’s behavior seems to help Mara’s comfort levels. It is also demonstrating to Bambi what it means to be a friend, and that it’s valuable to check in with and be there for others. Mara seems to follow Rana’s lead in general – so Rana’s patient acceptance seems to help demonstrate to Mara how to respond.
Bambi is not dominant either, but she is undoubtedly the most energetically over-the-top of the three elephants. She seems to be feeling significant levels of emotion and excitement that she just can’t contain or doesn’t seem to know what to do with. Due to the reality of captivity, she hasn’t felt such strong positive emotions for years, making it challenging to process the level of joy she feels about having a positive relationship with other elephants.
It’s both beautiful and sad that she is feeling so much joy and excitement for the first time in decades. It’s unfortunate it has been missing for so many decades that she doesn’t know what to do with her feelings, yet, at the same time, it’s so beautiful that she can feel them again. She wants to feel closer to the other girls and seems to want to be a part of something with them – it seems to fill her with love and joy.
At this point, the three of them are seeming to rotate with each other. We will look on the cameras and see Mara and Bambi together, with Rana off to the side. When we check later, Mara and Rana will be together, with Bambi off to the side. We also see Rana & Bambi together with Mara by herself, but we observe that less often. Rana and Bambi are starting to bond and are becoming more vocal together.
While Rana and Mara are very emotionally close and adore each other, they aren’t remotely exclusive. There is certainly room in their relationship for a third elephant, and we will see how things continue to progress. The three continued to share space last night during the overnight, and everyone seems pleased about it.
Photo: (front to back) Bambi, Rana, Mara