Around dinner time last week, Mara, Bambi, and Rana showed up at the barn for their evening meal. Mara was let into the chute, as she generally requests, and the other two were given hay along the fence.
Around the same time, Maia ended up coming into the same yard, near the mud wallow. She was giving herself a mud bath and seemed fairly relaxed. Though Maia stayed on the end of the mud wallow that was farther from the other elephants, her body language did not appear tense. She was not wide-eyed or overly watchful of the ladies nearby, seeming to be enjoying herself in a laid back manner. Maia did not run away, as she had in the past, but actually inched a bit closer to them for a moment.
She did eventually leave the mud wallow and walk to a neighboring fence, where she rested her head for a bit. She stayed there until Shirlei fed her, not too far away from where she’d settled. We didn’t want to take Maia away from her spot close to the others, as long as she seemed comfortable. This allows her to choose to be social if she wants. We don’t force interactions between elephants, but we definitely do encourage them. So Maia ate her dinner very near the three others.
It was nice to see Maia taking another step toward expanding her comfort zone. While she is not currently interested in eating at the barn, she seems calmer and more relaxed than she has been in quite some time.
In the accompanying video from our observation camera, Maia is calmly enjoying some time in the mud, while Bambi and Rana eat along the fence. At the end of the video, you can see Mara eating her dinner in the chute.