The Many Marvels of Maia


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.

July 26, 2020


  1. REPLY
    Tammy Nelson says

    How amazing to be able to be that close to such enormous animals that could do incredible harm in an instant yet so gentle and caring as these beautiful girls are to you all must be so rewarding to watch them flourish and it’s all because of everyone at the Sanctuary! Thank you for allowing us to experience this journey with you we learn so much from you all it brings us closer to each one of these special ladies we really appreciate it! Love and hugs, Tammy

  2. REPLY
    Paula says

    Hermosa Maia!
    Cuanta nobleza hay en ella ❤

  3. REPLY
    Sheila says

    I guess maia ?was very busy all night so she was very tired and perhaps bored not getting enough human talk or attention as she desired‼️ hard to know as maia is an acttve gal? perhaps she knew treats were over for her too! Nevertheless! Maia had very good behavior and deserved her hise shower?

  4. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    I love every one of these posts and feel I have learned a lot about elephant behaviour and the different, complex characters of each of these giant beauties. Their individual needs are defined and treated accordingly and you have such a great understanding and awareness of the very essence of everything elephant! I hope we shall see many more arrive and thrive in this wonderland, to live out their lives in peace and love, to be who they were born to be at last. Long may you reign.xxxxx

  5. REPLY
    Wim says

    What must a girl do in this place to get enough NAP time. Maia your a giant actress with many roles just playing your humans. Guess you get bored without enough action. ???

  6. REPLY
    Lori Hoover says

    LOL Maia the Drama Mama. I can just see her thinking, and dramatically displaying the idea that ‘you guys just can’t even do this without me, can you?’ Ok, ok, I’ll help you educate the new caregivers, but My Oh My, what ever would you do without without me?’

  7. REPLY
    carey says

    I’ve always thought Maia would be a lovely character to know. And its great that you do have her as a healthy example of good feet. I thought it would be hard going to file toenails after seeing the great big rasp you have to do them with! Not exactly an emery board!

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