We know that the question primarily on some of your minds at the moment is: How is Guillermina handling the passing of her mother? The best answer we can give is to say she’s doing better than we thought she might. Because Guille spent almost all of her 24 years only a few feet away from her mother and their bond was both strong and unique, there was no way to predict how she would process the loss. Additionally, Guille is young. The mid-twenties for an elephant is similar to late teenage years in humans, so (like some humans) elephants in that age group often don’t have a great grasp on impulse control when it comes to their emotions. For Guillermina, that means that she can shift from soft and affectionate to more defiant in just a few moments, something we’ve seen from her for the past few years, dating back to her behavior in Mendoza. .
All animals, humans included, process grief differently and, since we are still in the process of getting to know Guille, it was hard to predict how she’d approach getting through this difficult time. Truthfully, she’s handling it with more grace than we might have predicted, though she (justifiably) struggles at times. We haven’t seen her show anxiety as much as sadness, which is encouraging. Though watching her deal with sorrow can be difficult, the mental and emotional strain that comes with loss has the potential to overwhelm any elephant, not just one who is young. She’s not leaning into that element of stress at the moment. There is definitely a chance that, given how intensely Guille can express herself at times, her responses could change as days go by. But, so far, her reactions have been encouraging, and it’s heartening to see the other elephants rally around her in her time of need.
The night of Pocha’s death, everyone stayed up with Guille; the second night we think most of them were awake together for most of the night. So by the next morning, all of the girls appeared to need a nap. All now seem okay and Guillermina is spending about 90-95% of her time in their company; every once in a while she will go for a walk on her own, seemingly needing to burn off energy that she’s not sure what to do with. She hasn’t been spending much time during the day in the smaller yards near where Pocha is buried, but she does come closer at night. Both Rana and Maia have walked to the smaller yards with Guille in the evenings. She was slightly pushy with Rana one evening, but Rana stayed with her until Maia arrived before leaving. We’ve never seen Guillermina act out physically toward Maia; though Maia is the one elephant who appears completely dominant over Guille in Guille’s mental pecking order, Guille seems to have the strongest pull towards her. Because of the wide range of personalities of the other elephants, there’s always someone who can help meet Guillermina where she is at emotionally, simply due to their individual natures.
There have been a couple of hours when Guillermina was seemingly angry with the world but, so far, she’s primarily taken out her frustrations on a bucket that she took from Bambi – which she stomped, kicked, tossed, but eventually gave back. All things considered, that’s a measured response when you take into account the grief she could be feeling. Later that morning, Guille went into the area of Yard 4 where the others were spending time and seemed much more settled emotionally. They will touch her and be sweet when it seems that she needs that. It wouldn’t be surprising if Guillermina has more moments of frustration or anger; that’s only natural. The most promising thing we can report about Guillermina today is that things don’t seem remotely as heavy for her as they could. We continue to be encouraged by her state of mind. Of course, we are extremely attentive to her needs and are spending additional time with her but, up until now, she has been taking advantage of her sanctuary support herd and processing her loss at her own careful pace.
For those who may have missed it, we hope to have a preliminary necropsy report this week which will allow us to share details of what was found regarding Pocha’s passing. Until that point, there is nothing more we can share other than what has already been posted. For those who will find healing in additional answers, we will all try to be patient together.