November 8, 2010

The weather forecast shows that Fall-Winter weather is pushing into our area again this week, so we will be making adjustments to suit the Girls. This morning it was no surprise to find Ronnie and Debbie still inside the barn when caregivers arrived just before 8 am. Debbie is famous for preferring not to be out in the "wet stuff" unless it is a warm, sunny, summer day, when she can roll in the mud and splash in the pond. Warm and rainy — it's all good. Cold and rainy — not so good!

Despite the cooler weather, both Ronnie and Debbie happily followed caregivers outside for breakfast. The caregivers always offer the Girls this option, and if an elephant is not interested in going out, they receive their breakfast in the barn. Ronnie kept the tradition by being the first to leave the barn. Debbie held true to her ways and waited for Ronnie to be fed at the far end of the Night Yard, so the caregiver would make a trip back to the barn just for her. As soon as Debbie heard the voice in the alley by the barn, she poked her head through the flaps, and then sauntered happily after the 4-wheeler to get her own breakfast outside.
Minnie was waiting out in the 40 before anyone even arrived—her usual pattern. More than any of the other Ladies at Q-Barn, Minnie likes being outside even when we may think it would be too cold for her liking. Minnie has even gone in the pond when a few snowflakes were falling, making us all shiver and laugh simultaneously at her wonderful silliness. She is a hearty girl, and is usually the first out the door during the winter days, although many times Lottie would beat her to it.
We certainly miss the soft rumbles Lottie would send out on chillier days, waiting for Minnie to join her back inside the barn in the afternoon. She would stand in stall number six and rumble, listening carefully for approaching footsteps with her little ears straight out, while facing the flaps of the door. Those reunions with echoing "train trumpets," trunk pops, and rumbles will be noticeably absent from the barn at the end of the day. Perhaps Minnie will begin to join Debbie and Ronnie in vocalization when they all get back to the warmth of the barn….we will wait and see.
As for Minnie—right now she is doing very well, and her playful nature is still very present. She has not changed her habits much, and it appears she is welcoming the company of her caregivers when they spend a bit of time just being with her out in the habitat when they deliver her hay and diet. On the occasion that she prefers to be alone, Minnie's body language and demeanor are pretty clear, and she is given her privacy.
On a recent rainy morning, a caregiver located Minnie on the Ele-cam and drove out to deliver breakfast to her. By the time the caregiver arrived, Minnie had already traveled on and was thoroughly enjoying the deep, loose sand near "Lottie's spot," an area in "40 Right" where Lottie loved to eat her dinner. It has sandy soil (left over from some previous fence construction), making it perfect for rolling and dusting. Here, Minnie lay all the way down on one side, leaning "uphill" in the sand, then she alternated between scooting, scratching, and dusting with large amounts of wet sand tossed over her entire body. She sat up on her haunches, back legs and feet sticking out in front of her like a big puppy. With her front feet between her back ones, she leaned sideways and forward to push on a small tree in her reach. Eventually, she'd had enough of the sand and went to the tree line where the caregiver had placed her breakfast.
The following morning brought sunshine, as well as a silly Minnie. Shortly after she finished her breakfast hay, while soaking up the morning sun, she began playing with nearly everything within reach. When first spotted on the Ele-cam, she had a long skinny log with roots still attached. She wound her trunk around it, swung it back and forth, then picked it up and took off running, back through the gate toward the "40." She pushed and pulled, then did her famous "face plant" in the side of the sandy bank by the creek crossing.
Not long after that, Minnie found another large tangled root bundle for more entertainment. It's amazing how agile a 11,000 lb. animal can be! This time she ran to the fence line to share her excitement with Debbie and Ronnie, who watched from a short distance at the antics of their neighbor, their ears standing out in wonder. It is wonderful to see Minnie's goofy side come back so soon, and to see her enjoying herself and her environment so much.

Cooler night temperatures bring the original Founding Herd home.
Winkie, Shirley, Sissy, Tarra and Bella together again.

The night-time temperatures dropped this week in New Asia, so all of our Ladies returned to the barn to spend their evening toasty warm and inside. The first new "toy" was set up in Misty and Dulary's stalls, awaiting their arrival one evening. The donated toy was an oblong four foot tall buoy. It was hung from above and its nice and squishy surface was smeared with a bit of peanut butter, just in case the Ladies didn't find this giant "thing" interesting enough.
Dulary's initial reaction was one of protection—she was going to get it, before it got Misty. Quickly, she put herself between it and Misty, and gave it a big "whack" with her trunk. Of course, it swung back on the return. This was cause for a whole lot of excitement as Misty immediately realized it was a game. There was spinning, trumpeting and hitting, while the dust from their backs caused an orange cloud to slowly rise from the floor.
The smears of peanut butter were not eaten, but rather worn—mostly on Dulary's face from her initial "attack." Just as the dust would settle (literally) one of the Ladies would move slightly, the toy would roll, and the silliness would commence all over again. Misty would back into it with tail out, hit it with her backside, and then try to kick at it, as the caregivers watched and laughed from the safety of the "keeper area." It seems the buoy has not lost its fun appeal, for the Girls could be found playing with it in the following mornings after eating. On one such morning, it was found wrapped above the beam near the ceiling. Apparently, someone gave it a really big swing.
Flora and Tange have not strayed far from the barn lately. The only time that they have disappeared is at night when things quiet down a bit with fewer caregiver activities. Tange has been spending some time in the South Woods Valley, while Flora has preferred to stay on the ridge tops, grazing on the remaining herbaceous matter growing where there once was a pine forest. Lately, they have not been pushing down and eating as many trees. Now that Fall is here, the leaves and the sap are flowing back down from the trees, which might make them less appealing than they are in the spring and summer.
Wednesday's rain made a lot of yummy mud for the Girls' play. Flora dropped down on her side kicking her feet in the air and smearing mud all over herself with her trunk. Both Girls have been working on digging a new mud "crater" next to all the other large craters. The yard in front of the barn is starting to look like the surface of the moon, with holes big enough to hold a four-wheeler.

On November 9, 2008, a tall and very thin Ned arrived at the Sanctuary. While we all wished for full recovery, at least Ned was able to spend his last six months in a place of nurturing care where he could walk on fallen leaves, eat grass, smell the Tennessee woodlands and hear neighboring elephants trumpeting.

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