We have been interviewing for new caregivers at the sanctuary recently, and one of the candidates asked an interesting question that gave us a chance to reflect. She wanted to know if the elephants here at the sanctuary have a high level of trust toward Scott and Kat because the two traveled to pick them up at their old life, and bring them to Elephant Sanctuary Brazil.
That’s an interesting theory, but the reality is that it’s more than that. While Kat may have sometimes visited elephants before transport, (with the exception of Ramba) she does not travel with the rescue caravan. Instead, she stays at the sanctuary to oversee care of the elephants already here. Though Scott does travel with the elephants to their new home at the sanctuary, there seems to be a larger element at play.
For instance, Scott led the team that moved Lady to ESB, but Lady built up a trusting relationship with Kat first. It took longer for Lady to open up with Scott and, for whatever reason, allow herself to be vulnerable. She did not arrive with a loyalty towards him above others; if anything, she insisted he prove himself to a higher degree than anyone else. Trust does not occur with elephants only because of the hours spent with them bringing them to their new home. Part of your purpose is to facilitate a new life for them and to honor all that comes with that new life, outside of your own role. Significant trust is something that takes time, is continuously built on day after day, and can be lost at any moment.
Trust can come from things like a daily routine, or the understanding that care we offer is helping them to feel better, but the bedrock of building relationships with the elephants in our care is hearing what they communicate that they need from us – not who met whom first. Truly, respect comes when you honor the space and the life that belongs to them. It’s not about us and our egos or hangups (although it can be difficult for people to not get lost in how wonderful elephants make you feel when you are around them); it’s about what they need for us to be. Sometimes it’s most important for them to be standing on their own and finding their way in a manner that’s completely separate from their relationships with humans. Our job, as those helping to foster their healing, is to recognize and appreciate the significance of each step in their journey, regardless of what it means for us personally.
Photo of Rana, who has wonderful relationships with her caregivers