On the surface, Maia is our most intimidating elephant. She has an enormous presence about her, and she can be incredibly fast (when she’s awake). As we mentioned yesterday – Maia is also an ‘easy’ elephant. She is generally easy to read and doesn’t hide her intentions. Those things make her an excellent elephant for teaching, despite her big personality.
Footwork is incredibly nuanced and challenging – it is easy to do too much; or not enough. Both can have a significant negative impact on an elephant’s feet. It takes years to become truly skilled at footwork on elephants. Shirlei is beginning to learn footwork, and Maia is a great place for her to start. Scott and Kat spent some time the other day with Shirlei, looking at Maia’s cuticles, how her toenails wear, and at the pads of her feet. All of this gives clues about the elephant, their gait, and their behaviors. Maia knows Shirlei very well by now, and Maia was terrific about everything. She was happy to have her feet up and to have her humans crowded around as she enjoyed a stream of treats. Shirlei seemed most surprised by the amount of pressure it takes to file – it’s a lot harder than filing human nails. Maia was excellent- it was so sweet.
It went so well that, a few days later, we decided to use Maia to show a few things to Mateus as well. She was already in the chute and was having one of her slow, sleepy days. While Maia doesn’t know Mateus that well yet (he’s only been here for a few months), she seems to be comfortable with having him close. He has seen a lot of photos and videos of Lady’s front feet and has seen her back feet up close, so we wanted him to see healthy elephant feet close up as well.
Maia was compliant, but she seemed to have decided she was too sleepy – or too dramatic – to be much more than compliant. At one point, while Scott was working on the pads of her back left leg, she leaned over to rest her head on the bars of the chute and took all the weight off her right front foot. She was almost standing on her wrist. Maia seemed just to be playing up the fact that she needed a nap, and we were interrupting her nap time. Kat asked her, “Are you okay?” in a silly tone while holding food in her hand. Maia immediately perked back up – she certainly wasn’t too tired for treats.
Once treatment (and teaching) was complete, and she left the chute, she took a bath in the sprinkler. She did what Mara sometimes does, and wanted water both over her head and in her mouth at the same time. It’s not surprising that she was too sleepy for treatment, but not too tired to play in the water. She’s equally cute and lazy. Once the water play ended, she went directly to the shade of the itchy-scratchy tree to take a long, and well-deserved nap.