Maia is continuing to temper her energy around the other elephants, but that seems to leave her with extra energy. She’s been making us laugh during treatment due to her high energy levels. She doesn’t have a little bit of additional energy – she has lots and lots of extra energy during treatment.
Maia is one of our most consistent elephants when it comes to treatment. She’s excellent about participating and listening, but it’s juxtaposed with her “big and fast” personality. It tends to confuse new caregivers. When they observe her treatment, they see her moving quickly and intensely. What they can’t always see from an observation distance is that she is also gentle and passive. As one of our newer caregivers, Mateus, is still observing, which means he frequently watches other members of the team doing treatment, sometimes by themselves.
When we do treatment in pairs, one person stays near the elephant’s trunk, giving out treats as needed, and the other person does the treatment. When one person is doing it alone, we have the elephant wrap their trunk around the bars in a trunk wrap during treatment, or we hold their trunk in our hands if we are by their face. This day, as Mateus watched, Maia didn’t want to leave her nose in the correct position, she wished to touch Scott instead. As Scott did Maia’s treatment, she touched her trunk to Scott’s upper legs instead of the bars. She wasn’t inquisitive or pushy; she just rested her trunk against him. It was sweet and gentle at the same time.
Initially, when we shifted training style from “free feed” to “terminal bridging” (feeding throughout versus a bigger reward when the behavior is done), Maia didn’t seem to enjoy having to put her trunk in someone’s hand. Now she appears to like the intimacy that comes with trunk/hand-holding.
Her personality is a dichotomy in that way- she has a significant and fast presence but somehow also sweet and gentle. It’s something that comes with time and trust, and you have to earn this with her.