Maia has eyes that are uniquely expressive and show her excitement or curiosity in a dramatic and charming fashion. She often wants to know what is going on around her, but doesn’t always turn her head or her body, as other elephants might. Instead, she uses her eyes, moving them in a sideways fashion. It’s something she has always done and she is perhaps the only elephant we’ve ever worked with that does this in such a manner. Scott likens the eye movement to that of a chameleon.
She can move her eyes so adeptly that she can look pretty far backward. As a general rule, you don’t want to see the whites of an elephant’s eye, because they are usually only seen in times of extreme stress; Maia is simply keeping an inquisitive eye on us or anyone else that is around. Her eyes get really large, but they have never appeared to show any form of anxiety. It is just a behavior that is unique to her.
Because sanctuary life is calm and easy, there is little so-called excitement from outside sources. Rather, the elephants create their own excitement – which is how it should be. But Maia is sometimes entertained when workmen or caregivers are about, so she is happily watchful.
As you can see in this very short video, she glances backward as she is getting a drink from the hose – just checking to see the world around has to show her.