Bunny's Arrival ~ September 29, 1999

First Impressions

Bunny arrived safe and without incident Sept 29, 1999 at 1:30pm. Her trip was uneventful, she traveled like a veteran. At one point during the trip we were sure she must be sleeping because the trailer did not pitch or sway at all.

Once in her new home, Bunny took a couple of hours to settle in and then was introduced to Tarra. In a matter of minutes Bunny was touching and exploring Tarra while Tarra sampled the hay Bunny had thrown onto her back during the trip. Before nightfall the two were enjoying each other's company and food. The night went well with Tarra and Bunny sharing a large two-stall space. Bunny stood within inches of Tarra while she laid down to sleep. In the wee hours of the morning Bunny, too excited to sleep, invited Barbara to touch and interact with her. It was gentle and endearing. The next morning Jenny and Shirley had their chance to meet Bunny and, boy, were they excited. They had waited all night. Jenny apparently thought this could be yet another long lost friend and pushed past the others to get close to Bunny. At first Bunny was not sure she liked the directness by which Jenny was approaching but within minutes the herd was a mass of tails and legs, intermingled and exploring each other to their heart's delight.

In the morning Bunny lagged back when the others went outside and spent close to thirty minutes sizing up the panoramic view from her barn door. It was obvious when she finally gathered the courage to step through the door and into the sunlight. It was glorious. Once she started out the door, she did not hesitate, not even for a flake of tempting alfalfa hay that lay in her path. For the next few hours the air was filled with chirps, rumbles, trumpets, pops, squeaks, and every number of elephant vocalizations. Shirley and Bunny could be heard conversing in the same language. Their chirps and rumbles were identical and followed a pattern that we recognize as communication.

Bunny is content beyond comparison and we are joyful that she has joined our family.

Saturday, October 2
PHOTO: Barbara, Bunny and the Ball

Our new girl is amazing. She fits like a glove, loved by all. She is cooperative and content and trumpets a lot. All day Thursday and Friday trumpets pierced the air of the tranquil Sanctuary valley. Bunny had discovered that with a simple blast of music through her trunk she could roust Jenny and Shirley in seconds. Shirley and Jenny never tired of coming at Bunny's beck and call, even though the last days' events had left them completely exhausted. Bunny seems to bask in the attention.

Thursday morning (September 30, 1999) when Bunny experienced the great outdoors of the Sanctuary for the first time, she had been relieved of her "pet" ball, a practice instituted by her keepers at the Mesker Park Zoo. This practice of leaving her treasured ball in the barn was something that Bunny seemed resigned to.

Upon returning to the barn that evening she seemed relieved and comforted to see her old friend the ball, rolling it gently as she moved from stall to stall.

Barbara, Bunny, and BallFriday morning Bunny, testing her new found freedom, decided that she wanted to take her ball outdoors with her. Sanctuary staff feel strongly that decisions should be made by the elephants, so out the door they went, Bunny and ball. She spent the day trumpeting, playing and grazing -- all the while keeping a watchful eye on the simple brown ball that seemed to bring her such security.

Bunny returned to the barn that evening with her back covered with dirt and vegetation, and she was minus the ball. Sanctuary staff were shocked. Bunny had left her binky, pacifier, blanky...whatever you call the security item that youngsters cling to, outside while she came into the barn with her elephant sisters. A hush and feeling of joy filled the air as the sanctuary staff realized the degree of comfort Bunny was experiencing.

"The ball" was brought inside and given to Bunny in the event that she might have a need for it through the night. The next morning, the third morning in her new home, Bunny lumbered out of the barn -- at least she tried, but Tarra blocked her path. Gently but determined Bunny pushed Tarra from behind and stepped out into the pasture, again leaving her ball behind. Bunny's speedy and amazing progress continues to amaze everyone . In three short days Bunny has made four very special friends that adore her, been given an opportunity to live like an elephant and has grown out of the need of her security blanket. What a joy.

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Sunday, October 3

A quick update. Yesterday Bunny perfected her rock throwing which was quite effective in keeping the dogs from invading her comfort zone. Today, with her confidence soaring, Bunny allowed the dogs to walk around and past her with very little notice. She continues to make incredible progress. All of the elephants are much more vocal now. In fact, Bunny is making some new sounds we had not heard her make before -- Shirley sounds. It is too cute, she and Shirley talk back and forth to each other. Then Jenny joins in, not be be outdone by Tarra who chatters on and on and on......

Sunday night was quite warm so the HERD stayed out late. Around 9PM Bunny got her introduction to life in the country—coyotes. Between the coyotes' song and the elephants' chorus, the night was alive with the most magnificent array of sounds ever heard. Of course the ever-protective Scott and Carol dashed out into the midst of the girls, only to find they did not need comfort. This was Nature's behavioral enrichment. Bunny and Tarra even started in the direction of what Tarra would call the "new dogs". It was great! Bunny is fearless with her sisters by her side. She is the ring-leader, the cheerleader, and the protector all rolled up in one. Even more amazing is that after less than one week in the company of elephants, Bunny has totally abandoned her ball. It means nothing to her anymore. Amazing isn't it?

FLASH....Oct. 4 at 1:46PM CT

Bunny laid down to sleep for the first time since her arrival to the Sanctuary. For the first time in 4 decades she is feeling the comfort of a soft bed of grass. For the first time since infancy she is napping in the company and security of her own kind. She is sleeping in the pasture along side Jenny and Shirley who are also fast asleep. What a sight!

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Wed. Oct 6, Bunny's one week anniversary at her new home.
PHOTO: Shirley, Jenny and Bunny in field

Shirley, Jenny, and BunnyBunny has settled in nicely. Today she leisurely grazed the pastures from sunup to sundown. Only a few times during the day did she break to enlist the others in some elephant rough housing. She loves to trumpet which gets the others excited enough to play. And today was a first for Bunny. For the first time since her arrival one week ago, she entered the magical world of trees; Bunny went into the woods.

Although she spent only a few minutes in this foreign sun-shrouded world, she managed to sample some of the vegetation within trunk's reach. True to her personality, she backed out of the woods and stood silent for awhile, appearing trance-like. Perhaps absorbed in the new sights and smells, processing what her senses had detected or maybe just digesting the unfamiliar browse she had just sampled.

The majority of the day Bunny spends in the company of Jenny and Shirley. They are both incredibly protective of Bunny on which she seems to thrive. But when they nap Bunny becomes bored and soon searches out the next closest elephant, one that is active, not sleeping.

Today that elephant was Tarra, peacefully grazing some 500 feet away. Down the hill Bunny moved, silent as a fox, and approached Tarra until they were side by side. Tarra hardly hesitated in her pursuit of the most tender grasses and Bunny with precision turned her backside to Tarra in a submissive posture. Tarra did the polite thing and touched Bunny's legs, sides and back and immediately returned to her favorite thing, eating. Bunny was determined to get Tarra's attention so she turned again and stood side by side with Tarra.

Well, Bunny is a presence that is hard to ignore so Tarra reached up and gently touched Bunny's cheek. Bunny immediately responded by placing her trunk on Tarra's mouth. With the affection complete they both got back to the serious activity of grazing. Happy one week anniversary, Bunny!

Oct 7, 1:15pm CT
PHOTO: Bunny (in front), Jenny and Shirley at the Pond

Bunny made giant strides in exploring her habitat today. She sampled waist high grasses in the back 60 acre section of the Sanctuary. Jenny appeared to be leading the herd in the direction of a new adventure. After only seven days in this new environment, only 168 hours among new friends and with more than 3/4 of her new world left to be discovered Bunny found THE pond.

Bunny, Jenny, and Shirley at the PondThis discovery is not just any pond but the coveted "upper pond". An oval shaped, spring fed body of water at the edge of the trees, shaded by giant oaks and teaming with every variety of frog known to this area.. It is perched at a high point of the property with a view of the entire valley. In moments of discovering this magnificent swimming hole Bunny found out why this is Jenny's favorite place.

Without hesitation, Bunny detoured around Jenny and Shirley who had created a bottle neck at their favorite entry to the pond. Bunny made her way around them both and walked right up to the edge of the pond. She moved gracefully, not urgently, but curious. You could see a twinkle in her eye. I wish we could have heard the thoughts darting around in her head. Within seconds Bunny had covered herself with the soothing mud and then slowing, gently, slipped into the refreshing water.

Jenny appeared competitive, wanting to enter the water first, but she was too late, Bunny was already in. 45 minutes came and went and the three girls splashed, played, intertwined trunks, trumpeted and pushed each other around in circles. Three bobbers, floating in the whirlpool of their own creation. Tarra joined this happy threesome and spent a short time trying to fit in but, it appeared that four was going to be a crowd. All three girls left the water and submerged several times. They could not get enough. Even after Scott and Carol exhausted their supply of video camera film and battery, returning to the mundane tasks they had abandoned, joyful trumpets could be heard. A chorus of trumpets echoing across the valley and perhaps all the way into the small town below. Here it is 4:36 pmCT and the girls have not left the swimming hole. They will sleep well tonight.

What a day...... led right into what a night. At 6PM Jenny, Shirley, and Bunny were nowhere in sight, which meant a "meals on wheels" service call for Carol and Scott. With piles of produce, grain and a bale of timothy hay strapped to the front of the 4-wheeler, groceries were on the way. The girls were found comfortably grazing in the 60-acre area of the Sanctuary, a short distance from the infamous pond. They were not startled by the 4-wheeler approach. Of course this unsolicited delivery service was not new to Jenny and Shirley. All summer long they have dined out. But this was Bunny's first night out and Scott and Carol wanted Bunny to know that although she was out of sight she was not out of mind.

All three appeared to appreciate their dinner and showed no interest in returning to the barn anytime soon. This is the joy of the Sanctuary; elephants making their own decisions and demonstrating they know more than we give them credit for. Somehow, no clue as to how, the girls knew it would be quite warm this night, warm enough to stay out much later then the past few days.

At 11pm, there was still no sign of the threesome so another meals on wheels was prepared. The girls were found halfway home ambling as they grazed with no urgency whatsoever. The night was silent and warm and the stars numerous. The moon was bright enough to spot them several hundred feet away.

They were in no hurry and again accepted the groceries provided. Bunny glanced in Shirley's direction and gently encircled her hugh trunk around two piles of produce. Slowly and intentionally, Bunny dragged all of the produce around to her side, the opposite side that Shirley was standing. Shirley pretended not to notice and Bunny inhaled the double serving in moments.

Oct. 8, at 2AM, in silence, three images darkened the entrance to the barn. The girls were home.

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October 10

We have been waiting for this day. While the other girls were napping, Bunny decided to investigate the pine forest. Although she had stuck her head into the trees that border the pasture a few times before, this was the first time she actually entered this foreign world; foreign since her infancy. With slow deliberate steps, quiet as an elephant, Bunny disappeared into the trees. Every few minutes you could hear the cracking of a branch and the rustle of leaves but basically Bunny sampled this new world in silence. That is until she was comfortable, then things changed.

Without mercy Bunny struck with her mighty head and toppled a tiny hickory, then another. Tree felling has a way of boosting the self confidence of even the most novice elephant; an initiation of sorts. What matters is not the size of the tree but the success of the attempt to push it over. Bunny was pumped and trumpeted in honor of her success. The trumpets brought her napping friends to their feet and her rescue. Shirley and Jenny are still quite protective of Bunny. They have not napped to their hearts content since her arrival.

With her forest adventure complete Bunny burst out of the woods and up to her friends. They shared trumpets and touches. Once their excitement was spent they returned to their next favorite past time, grazing.

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October 11

For newcomers to the Sanctuary, adventures usually holds lessons. Bunny's experience in the woods the day before had taught her more than the realization that she, an 8000 pound pachyderm, could topple a tree. It also taught her that when wandering through the forest you must protect your eyes.

Yesterday Bunny scraped her eye while in the woods. It was only a tiny, very minor spot but enough to cause her eye to weep. Carol and Scott noticed her eye watering immediately and administered eye drops to soothe her eye and encourage the healing process. Within a few days Bunny's eye will be back to normal and she will be all the wiser for her experience. In two short weeks Bunny has experienced and learned many things. Two of the most important lessons she actually learned in one day; protect your eyes while in the woods and you can depend on Carol and Scott to be attentive to your every need.

Update... December 10, 1999. Bunny has received a clean bill of health on her right eye. Eye injuries are difficult and slow to heal. We are pleased to announce that Bunny's eye is now healed.

October 12 - 1:00 p.m.

A series of trumpets pierced the air. Although trumpeting is a common occurrence at the Sanctuary this out burst seemed to be an announcement. It was! Bunny had found the mud hole. Actually, Jenny had finally led Bunny to the mud hole. Jenny has been very protective with Bunny. She has scheduled each day's excursions carefully not to overtax anyone, especially herself. With little left undiscovered, Bunny shrieked in delight as she slid into the cool ooze.

This mud hole was custom designed and excavated by Jenny, a master engineer. The size and location is perfect -- at the source of a spring, in the middle of the pasture. One side of the mud hole is dug deep into the hill side while the down hill side is shallow, creating a slow drain. Before Bunny could get comfortable and covered with thick spa-quality mud, Shirley and Jenny slipped in occupying the entire space. Immediately Jenny started expanding the hole. Shirley helped out, flinging mud in every direction. Bunny stepped back and observed.

Once Jenny and Shirley had finished wallowing, digging and flinging mud Bunny decided to test it out herself. Gingerly she stepped, placing each foot, one at a time with great care. She seemed prepared for the unexpected. No matter what she thought would happen she continued to move toward the center of the hole as the thick mud flowed in around her legs. Dainty at first, she flipped a bit of mud with the end of her trunk. First onto her stomach, then her sides and then without reserve she gathered as much of the sticky stuff into her trunk as she could handle and flung it onto her back. For a few minutes she was lost in a world of flying mud. Finally she emerged completely covered with a mud pack that a connoisseur of beauty pacs would pay dearly for.

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Wed, October 20 2:53pm CT

....three weeks to the day of Bunny's arrival she has broken out. Tired of following Jenny and Shirley's handicap pace Bunny decided to take the lead. At 2:53 pm CT Bunny stepped out in front of the other girls. Deliberate and steady she walked North-west, glancing back toward the direction of Shirley and Jenny only once. Bunny has watched each morning as Barbara and Tarra wander off into the back of the habitat, disappearing into the back 60 acres of the property.

Bunny did not go far but the great thing is she is curious enough to go at all. It is only a matter of time before she follows Tarra and Barbara's lead and utilizes all of the habitat, all 112 acres.

Monday, November 1

For the first time since Bunny's arrival the skies opened and soaked the thirsty pastures. Bunny seemed stunned. All of the elephants were taking full advantage of nature's toy: water + dirt = fun! Finally, with a powerful trumpet, Bunny announced her participation in the late afternoon activity. She started by flinging mud all over her face, then her head, then her stomach, her back and then all over everyone standing close. The storm and festivities lasted for more than an hour. Jenny, Shirley, Barbara, and Tarra brought their party into the barn but Bunny stayed outside. She stayed out for almost another hour, chirping and trumpeting while continuing to cover her body with mud. After she had her fill she came into the barn with everyone else and settled in for the night.

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Thursday, November 4

Bunny left the barn this morning with a purpose. She hesitated only long enough to interact with Barbara for a few minutes and then she set out at a brisk pace toward the "Back 60". As we watched she kept walking, passing the most distant spot she had ventured since her arrival. She did not stop there but kept walking and kept walking until she had walked a mile back on the property and vanished completely out of sight. After a few minutes Scott went back to see how far she had ventured. It was surprising she would wander so far alone. Scott found Bunny in the very back of the property exploring her new surroundings. As soon as she saw Scott she came towards him, barking and chirping the whole time. She was quite content and showed no signs of fear or concern about being out alone. Scott left Bunny to her exploration. After a little while we saw her wander back into the "Front 40" with the other elephants where she spent the remainder of her day amongst friends. She has become incredibly comfortable with her new home.

December 10

Bunny has received a clean bill of health on her right eye. If you recall, she caused a minor injury to her eye on her first visit into the wooded area of the Sanctuary. Eye injuries are difficult and slow to heal. We are pleased to announce that Bunny's eye is now healed.

Friday, December 31

At 12:42 pm on New Year's Eve the girls decided to take an excursion to the upper pond. The temperature was a comfortable 67 degrees, perfect for an afternoon swim. Bunny, Shirley and Jenny could be observed slinging trunkfuls of water high up into the air.Then with a splash they disappeared into the pond. What a glorious sight!

Wednesday, April 5, 2000

Bunny now enjoys sprinting down the pasture in hot pursuit of the tractor. Since her arrival six months ago, Bunny's endurance and muscle tone have improved significantly. Her infected feet are completely healed and are no longer sore. She and Tarra are a hilarious sight; two rather robust 9000 pound elephants lumbering down the pasture (clocked at 16 miles per hour) for a distance of 1/2 mile. Tarra continues to win the "race". With this daily workout it is only a matter of time before Bunny equals Tarra in condition. We will post when Bunny finishes first.

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