Sukari & Tange Choose to Interact with Donna

We are thankful for the chance to share a positive update of progress and transformation at The Sanctuary. One of the most significant highlights of 2023 has undeniably been the arrival of Donna from Oakland Zoo!

Donna's initial slow and deliberate approach to acclimating — opting to independently explore her new habitat, toting the tire she carried with her all the way from California, and interacting with Flora through protective barriers for a safe and comfortable interaction — stands as a powerful testament to the nurturing and patient environment we foster here at The Sanctuary. Whether ensuring comfortable and safe initial interactions or providing the opportunity for elephants to keep personal “comfort” items like Donna's tire, The Sanctuary is dedicated to creating a home where every elephant can be as cautious or deliberate as needed when arriving to Hohenwald.

Donna’s introduction to Flora, a fellow dominant African elephant, was a resounding success, marked by positive interactions and promising signs of companionship. In case you missed it, you can read more about this significant moment on our website here.

In more recent events, on a sunny fall morning, The Sanctuary was thrilled to witness the long-anticipated tactile interactions between Tange, Sukari, and Donna. The three elephants spent time alternately approaching their shared fence line. Each elephant would turn and exchange sniffs, pausing to listen and, presumably, communicate through rumbling and vibrations. Sukari was the first to reach out and touch Donna's back and tail, displaying eagerness to connect. Next, it was Tange's turn to introduce herself. Donna, with patience and courage, stood with the two, bringing joy to Care Staff as she took a significant step toward becoming a part of the herd. This heartwarming interaction continued for nearly two hours, with all three elephants repeatedly stepping away and re-engaging throughout the morning.

As Donna continues to settle into her new environment, another positive development has emerged as she was recently observed drinking from the fresh waterers strategically placed throughout the habitat. Despite having natural water sources and staff offering hydrating drinks from the hose, Donna's ability to find supplemental water on her own is a reassuring sign of her growing comfort within her surroundings.

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