We Have Ourselves A Trader :)


Captive elephants are often starving for attention, they see caregivers interacting and laughing while they are waiting and often not part of the socializing. Being intelligent by nature, captive elephants find ways to get a little attention, and if they are lucky, a few extra goodies.

Recently we have learned that Mara is a trader, as in, she gives you something “special” in exchange for that apple over there in the bucket that she is passively eyeballing. We have seen this with others, actually, Flora (an elephant that Scott and Kat worked with in Tennessee) was a great trader, but Mara is the first of the South American beauties.

We saw this for the first time one recent morning when we were doing treatment with Rana. Generally, we toss Mara a few food items to keep her busy while we are doing Rana’s regular medical treatment, otherwise, she will want to be a part of whatever Rana is doing. If we throw a few handfuls of treats to Mara, she will happily snack nearby while we work with Rana.

After she finished her treats, she walked over and picked up her empty bucket from breakfast. Very gently and carefully, she carried it over and held it out for Kat, and gave her the most endearing look she could possibly express. Kat thanked her, recognized that she was asking for a swap, and impossible to resist, responded with a handful of treats. A few minutes later, Mara apparently wanting more snacks, walked around and picked out a very beat up and soggy branch. We have no idea what made this branch special, but Mara felt it was a beautiful branch. She brought it over gingerly and gave it to Kat, who responded perfectly with more treats. Just to be clear, yes, we know that they train us well.

It’s very charming and sweet, especially her irresistible smile and those gorgeous eyes, but we can’t give her treats or trade with her every time. If we reinforced it too frequently, she is likely to find things to give us all the time. As lovely as the rotten branch was, and as sweet and gentle as she was about it, we would prefer she did other things with her time. Rana probably agrees with us.

Photo of Mara.

June 16. 2020


  1. REPLY
    Debra Moore says

    HA, learning the ropes I see! I can see this playing out and it makes me SMILE so big.

  2. REPLY
    Nancy Shaw says


  3. REPLY
    Patricia says

    Talk about irresistible and smart! It’s a good thing you are the trainers and not me, K & S! Just ask my spoiled doggies! Love you all. ???

  4. REPLY
    Suan says

    What a fantastic story, thank you for sharing. I am continually amazed and even more in love with all the Ladies each time we get to see and learn about their awesome and unique personalities! Sending hugs and love to all! ❤️?❤️?❤️?❤️?❤️

  5. REPLY
    Alana says

    Smarty Pants! adorable too.

  6. REPLY
    Renee' Killian-Zeiger says

    Ok, that just made me laugh OUT LOUD! ????. Yep, I’m a doggie mom and I’m well trained. My late kitty cat had me WELL trained also…when I frothed milk for my cappuccino, she expect a tiny little ramekin full of the lovely stuff! I can’t even imagine how you refrain from laughing as well!! ??

  7. REPLY
    Debbie Sides says

    If that isn’t the cutest thing ever oh my goodness she just gets cuter!

  8. REPLY
    JoAnn Merriman Eaton says

    That face!!! I want to kiss it all over. So adorable.

  9. REPLY
    Tammy says

    Can’t blame a girl for trying, that’s just too funny! I always knew how intelligent Elephants are but now as we’ve seen are also very charming and a bit devious too. I just love seeing how the girls have really blossomed at the Sanctuary their true inner self is shining through what a sight to see bless their lil hearts! ??

  10. REPLY
    Sherry says

    Yep, the elephants are smar; you know when they train you!⚡️?

  11. REPLY
    Heidi says

    What a sweet story! Watch out, they may be too smart for you!

  12. REPLY
    Jillyp says

    Mara has such a gentle and kind face. Isn’t she amazing and clever ❤️❤️❤️
    It is no surprise that Rana adores her soooo much ? She’d have me wrapped around her little finger in no time ?

  13. REPLY
    Barb says

    That is beyond endearing! Miss Mara Mudmaiden (a.k.a. Mara the Trader) you are very special.

  14. REPLY
    Belén says

    Ohhh she is so kind and lovely… Thanks for taking care her so well. Hugs from Argentina

  15. REPLY
    Paula says

    Mara es extraordinaria!?
    Muy dulce y conmovedor la interacción con ustedes y una maravillosa señal de que ustedes se ganaron la confianza de ella!
    Aunque no me sorprende esto por la calidad de seres humanos que ustedes son❤

  16. REPLY
    Sallie Robbins-Druian says

    I LOVE Mara’s attitude, spreading her love & appreciation to humans as well as her elephant friends. Such a human emotion to please . . . This is why Miss Mara is so lovable! ❤️?❤️

  17. REPLY
    Rosie P says

    Oh, goodness. It would be so hard for me to refuse or ignore Mara if she wanted to trade…I guess you have to be strong about this. I am a cat mum and Jimmy has me trained to purrfection! He is the head of our home. I can understand how difficult this would be if you gave in to Mara but it is her interest and that of the others and all their carers that you realise you have to ignore the “trading game” in the long term. This would really tug on my heart strings!It’s hard enough refusing a cat!

  18. REPLY
    Wim Diepeveen says

    A trader with a big heart and a huge brain. Are humans smart enough to play the ELEPHANT GAME. Wonderful story thank you Kat.

  19. REPLY
    Gillian Gandy says

    She is a beautiful and amazing girl what a lovely thing to do trading her branch for treats .I agree she is so lovable Thank you Scott and Kat for everything you do for them.They appreciate things you do for them and they reciprocate

  20. REPLY
    Carmen Lucia Souza says

    LOL!!!! I love this!!!!!
    Yes, Mara, Kat learns very fast.

  21. REPLY
    Sheila says

    Oh my mara is so sweet! I knew this all along she craved ?human attention! Wow shes quite a trader/ wheeler dealer?the story sounds so funny but you are correct she cant keep manipulating kat for treats while scott does medical treatments to rana‼️ im guessing dear mara had a lack of treats in be circus and zoo and she just learned to barter with the humans she knew had the fruit bucket again this just shows us how truly inteligent gods largest unique ?creatures truly are‼️ oh if I was around them the girls woukd be so spoiled they would all be traders? but id be getting hugs and kisses.

  22. REPLY
    Lynne Russert says

    How darling & precious is that!!! Smart girl!!!?

  23. REPLY
    Carey says

    One of those times I wish I had been there to witness this, Mara trading your treats for her browse, was that what the branch was meant to be? She probably thought you’d be delighted. lovable and mart I wonder whether Mara and Rana have their little trades too, maybe its only with her carers. that beautiful look and that face ! Great she wants to communicate with you so soon, Keep well all at sanctuary and all supporters esp in Brazil and the US , and in all countries with COVID in the region.

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