The Sanctuary's 14 resident elephants have been making the most of the sunny December days here in Middle Tennessee. All of the "Girls" are spending much more of their time in the areas near the heated barns, and they've been spending the cooler evenings inside. During this time of year when the elephants aren't ranging as far into their habitats, Caregivers create special environmental enrichment items for the elephants, devices that will provide healthy mental and physical stimulation. One recent sunny weekend, all Sanctuary elephants received some appropriately themed "holiday" enrichment. Sanctuary Caregivers observed with cameras ready.
Hadari, Tange, Sukari, Rosie, and Flora left the barn one sunny morning to find that Caregivers had placed presents for them throughout the habitat - personalized, handcrafted gift boxes full of hay, grapes, popcorn, and jelly beans. The bows were made from strips of re-purposed feed bags.
Flora quickly cleaned out her gift box, and then decided to take a nap (note the discarded bow by her foot).
Tange, having already eaten all of her treats, took advantage of the situation and absconded with Flora's present. She was observed tusking it around the habitat the rest of the morning.
In addition to a gift box, Hadari received a small tree decorated with paper, molasses, and popcorn.
Hadari spent hours tinkering with her presents, using her trunk to retrieve the contents from her gift box and picking the popcorn from the tree.
Sukari stomped her box and then consumed the scattered contents.
Rosie carried her box around for a while, "slowly enjoying the jelly beans," according to Caregiver Kristy. Rosie also really enjoyed the cedar trees provided for her, carrying one around with her all morning. You can see all of the African elephants enjoying holiday tree gifts here: VIDEO.
All of the African elephants have taken advantage of the warmer days to explore more widely in the habitat. Hadari has been traveling deeper into the valley, continually spending more time out of sight of the barn. By contributing to our Crowdrise Giving Tower Holiday Challenge, you can help build EleFences that will expand the habitat for Tange, Flora, Rosie, Hadari, and Sukari.
Barn cat Poe in front of the fireplace.
On the other side of Sanctuary, Caregivers created a fireplace out of cardboard complete with stockings for Debbie, Minnie, Ronnie, and Billie. "The plan was to use the ATV to take the fireplace far out into the meadow away from the elephants so that Caregivers would have time to spread other enrichment items before the elephants made their way over," explains Caregiver Brandi.
L-R: Minnie, Debbie, Ronnie.
"Of course, the Girls were onto our plan and quickly followed the ATV to where the fireplace was positioned. Ronnie arrived first and one trunk swipe took care of the fireplace." Debbie and Minnie collected some of the hay that was hiding in the fireplace and walked away, but Ronnie continued her investigation and seemed particularly intrigued with the stockings, slowly eating them one by one.
Caregivers also created a snowman out of boxes filled with hay and other treats. Minnie was the first to greet the snowman, Debbie and Ronnie soon followed.
L-R: Minnie, Ronnie.
L-R: Billie, Ronnie.
After the passings of Frieda and Liz earlier this year, Staff have been creating "playdates" for Billie and Ronnie in hopes that the two would socialize more closely and develop a stronger relationship. Billie and Ronnie have been spending more time and space together in recent weeks, and things seem to be going well. Care staff have noted that Billie has been showing some signs of discomfort recently, and Sanctuary veterinarians are monitoring her closely to ensure her best comfort and care.
Presents were delivered to the habitat.
Sissy, Winkie, Tarra, Shirley, and Misty also received some enrichment gifts recently. Sissy and Winkie's enrichment was placed in South Yard, an area where the duo is often seen soaking in the winter sun.
In addition to the gift boxes stuffed with hay and other treats, Caregivers also placed a cardboard elf and snowman in the habitat. Caregiver Nicole says that "Sissy came into the yard first and cautiously walked up to the snowman. She inspected the snowman and the box for a moment before knocking the snowman off and then stomping on the box (we call that the 'Sissy Smash') to get at the jelly beans, pretzels, hay, white chocolate chips, and pine branches inside."
Goodies inside Sissy's box.
Winkie focused her attention on the elf, devouring its legs first.
Misty, Shirley, and Tarra received enrichment treats also. Shirley actually received two presents…being Sanctuary's oldest elephant has perks.
Caregiver Nicole shares that, "Like the lady she is, she only opened one at a time. She took the larger gift and tore it apart to make sure every last morsel was gone before moving on to the second box."
Initially, Tarra didn't show much interest. That changed when she realized there were treats inside her gift box.
Happy Holidays from your Friends at The Elephant Sanctuary!