Bambi may have some vision in her left eye still. When elephants are blind in one eye, they tend to be hypersensitive to certain things and shift their entire body to adjust their gaze when you approach. We don’t observe Bambi doing these behaviors, which is why we suspect she can at least see light or shadows during the day. At night, her vision is more compromised, which has her caregivers making some adjustments.
Initially, when Bambi was spending time in Yard 5 on her own, we wanted to make sure she continued to wander. To encourage exploration, we would put out hay piles with several fruits on top in new areas. That didn’t work as planned as she tended not to find some of the piles. Thankfully, Bambi started exploring independently. The humans began leaving her piles in consistent locations, and now Bambi knows where to look for them. We have around a dozen locations that we use for Bambi. We don’t put down that many piles at once, but Bambi seems to check those locations, so it works.
When we leave piles for other elephants, like Mara, they understand that they will always get more food. Mara will eat what she wants and leaves scraps behind. Bambi is quite different; she almost always finishes each pile.
During night feed, we tend to drop a few piles close to where she is in addition to her designated spots. During the day, when we are dropping food, we need to maintain a decent speed so that she stays at a safe distance from our four-wheeler (ATV). At night, once we drop a pile, we wait for her to be in line with the four-wheeler before driving off so she can find the food easily. One recent night, somehow, she managed to approach each pile with her left side, the side with limited vision. If the fruit on top is smelly – like a chunk of watermelon or a banana broken in half, she can smell it and find it. If the pile has whole fruit (e.g., a pear or apple), she couldn’t smell them as quickly and would walk past her pile of food. This happened a couple of times before she was about to walk past another pile and the smell of banana caught her nose. So Bambi, like the other girls, is training her caregivers. This time it’s to ensure that they place at least one deliciously stinky fruit on her hay piles.
November 22, 2020