November 22, 2010

Cooler weather has always brought out the playful side in Minnie, and we're happy to report this Fall is no exception. EleCam viewers may have seen some of this, as Minnie takes large logs and tosses them around her body, leans them against her side, and gnaws on them in apparent joy. Caregivers have a tough time keeping the EleCam on Minnie, as her play usually involves dashing to and fro. The camera may be directed on her as caregivers go finish one of their many duties, then come back to find that she's disappeared from view. She is found again on camera, and within a few minutes she will be gone once more. Minnie's “friskiness” is always a joy to watch, particularly now as we see that the loss of Lottie has not taken away her zest for play.

The 3-some's legendary reunions back in the barn have been shared before—but this past week's exciting "barn meeting" of Lizzie, Frieda and Billie just has to go "on the books." Their caregiver sat back in awe and watched the Girls in action. Imagine a family of people entering their home, then shouting at the top of their lungs, “We made it!! We're the champions!!!” That may give you a sense of these exuberant reunions—although they're even LOUDER than you can imagine.

This particular reunion was an exciting one because it was starting to rain, which makes coming inside seemingly urgent (though not really, since the Girls are fine in rain). When their caregiver opened the gate, Liz came in right way. Billie went back and forth, wanting to be sure Frieda was, in fact, coming inside, and kept looking back as if to say “Come on—come on, lets go.” Billie let Frieda pass by her, then followed her in. Once inside the barn, they all began the usual EXPLOSION of sounds. Each meeting has its own variations, and for whatever reason, this time Liz was the center of attention. While Liz sounded off, Billie and Frieda both touched her trunk and mouth. Liz turned several times to face different angles, as if to say, “Guys, check me out here!” Watching these wonderful friends act out their enthusiastic reunions never gets old.

In Asia, the Girls are beginning to get used to their winter routine of coming inside before the last caregiver goes home in the evening. The journey to the barn is on their own time, and at their own pace. Shirley and Tarra still enjoy some evening time outside. Shirley comes in, eats some hay, stays for a bit and warms up. However, if it's not too chilly outside, she returns to the woods for an evening nap. She lies down in a bed of fallen pine needles, giving her body some time off its feet, and the rest that she needs.

Tarra is curbing her old habit of staying out later in the cooler season, as she seems sensitive to the fact that the cold starts to wear on Bella. Last year, it seemed to take Bella a little longer than usual to warm up, and she would remain quiet until her body adjusted. Now, Tarra has given in to Bella's love of her new favorite object —her bed. An orthopedic bed was placed on the Wish List so Bella would have a comfortable and supportive place to sleep, especially with her past spinal injury. The bed was underwritten almost immediately, and was waiting for her at the front of Tarra's stall within days.

Bella has decided this bed is one of the best places on earth to be. She comes running in the barn, around the side of the stall, and plops down on it right away—waiting for a "hello" and pets. And this is where she stays. Whenever we come in to shut the lights off, when we come back for 10 pm feed, and when we come in to feed first thing in the mornings —Bella is on her bed. (She does get off it to run and get her breakfast in the morning.) The bed is kept just out of nose/trunk reach, at the front of the stall that Tarra favors. Since Tarra and Shirley share two stalls, there is no guarantee as to which stall each may prefer to occupy. By being out of reach to the Girls, Bella's bed stays in one piece, she is extra comfy, and Tarra is happy with the closeness of her friend. There are still moments when you will find Bella in the stall with Tarra, napping on a pile of hay that Tarra will leave if Bella has claimed it. Everyone has times when they want to be just a little closer.

On one of the cold and rainy days this week in Africa, Flora was staying close to the barn, while Tange was out exploring the habitat looking for something good to eat. Their caregiver decided to see if Flora might want to go browse in the valley and take her mind off the grey weather. With a partial bale of hay and a bunch of bananas, they set off on their adventure toward the valley. Flora was willing to give it a go and followed for all of five minutes, walking slowly, but then she stopped at the top of the hill. Her caregiver, having gone ahead, looked back to see a pine tree swaying back and forth, but Flora never emerged. Trudging back up the hill with the treats, the caregiver found that Flora had changed her mind and walked back towards the barn.

Flora was willing to follow again, but only to the exact same spot where she had stopped previously. Flora may have been a little reluctant to go down into the valley, but there was someone else who would go just about anywhere for some hay and bananas. Tange had come to join Flora in her adventure, and jumped to the lead with no hesitation at all. Once Tange made it down the hill, Flora was ready to join her. Starting her descent, Flora pushed on just about every tree within reach on her way down the hill. You could hear the trees pop and crack all across the African habitat and with each push, a flurry of leaves would fall to the ground. The valley now looks like a giant game of pick-up-sticks, with trees down everywhere, making little bridges across the creek bed. Tange and Flora seemed content to eat their hay there in the valley before they ventured back up the hill.

This week we remember Delhi, who arrived at the Sanctuary on November 23 of 2003. In addition to being the first elephant ever confiscated by the USDA, she was also our first elephant from the Hawthorn Corporation in Illinois. A year later, her Hawthorn sisters Lota and Misty arrived, followed by the Divas about 14 months later; Lottie, Minnie, Queenie, Liz, Deb, Ronnie, Frieda and Billie.

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