January 3, 2011

With Dulary being on the mend, there was enough free time this week to give the elephants a little extra holiday celebration with trees and "presents."

The African and New Asian barns shared creative treat duty. Africa cut the pine trees—appropriately to African elephant size. This meant they were extra large for our Asian elephants, who mostly picked at the smaller branches and left the main trunk of the tree intact, whereas the Africans only left scraps behind.

New Asia wrapped all of the "presents" inside banana leaves. Bill, one of our volunteers, was gracious enough to visit the market in Nashville to get banana leaves, delivering them for Dulary on Christmas eve, since this is one of her favorite treats. He brought plenty to share with the other elephants, too! With slight variations, the treat-wrapping process was as follows: the banana leaves were laid out, coated with a small layer of peanut butter, and then goodies were added on top of that. The "spread" ranged from Cheerios, Fruit Loops, dates, molasses, other fruits, and star mints (which is now Dulary's absolute favorite, covering up the after taste of most medicines). Once the banana leaves were filled, they were folded over "present style," double-layered so as not to tear, and tied together with either honeysuckle vines or the spines from the banana leaves. Once wrapped, there was no way of knowing what was inside, so every elephant got her own individual surprise.

The trees were placed in the stalls, and underneath were some flakes of hay, some cranberries, horse treats, and a couple of banana leaf-wrapped presents. We saved some to deliver by hand, just in case anyone monopolized the situation.

Misty enjoyed her Christmas treats
Misty enjoyed her banana leaf holiday treat.


As usual, the elephants went about eating them in their own varied ways. Misty's was gone in the blink of an eye. Dulary had to inspect hers first just to make sure there wasn't any medicine hidden inside. Winkie smelled hers for a minute, touched it a bit, then popped it right in her mouth. Sissy thought it was absolutely amazing; after she ate hers, wide-eyed, she managed to get her trunk on top of the bars begging for another. As luck would have it, Tarra got one of the presents containing two mints, so twenty minutes later she was still crunching and savoring the wonderful treat. Shirley popped hers right in her mouth, as she looked around for another, assuming there were more to follow. Tange placed hers right into her mouth. Initially, she looked slightly confused about what she was eating, but when she realized they were actually delicious, she began hunting for others in her stall. Flora's reaction was very much the same, as she began searching around her stall for more, too.

Cutting down trees while it snows, singing Holiday songs, and wrapping personalized “presents” are just a little token from caregivers, taking some extra time to do something a little special for the elephants. It makes for more of a holiday atmosphere, when days can be so busy with one blending right into another. Not only is it fun to give these special goodies, the process of making them is fun as well, even though they are gone within minutes.

Some unseasonably warm weather has been a welcomed change for everyone in the Quarantine Habitat. Debbie, Ronnie and Minnie have access outside overnight, and they are almost always outside somewhere by the time caregivers arrive in the morning for breakfast. Debbie and Ronnie wait patiently up on top of Pine Hill above the night yard extension, as they enjoy their morning meal in the warm (yes, warm!) fragrant breezes coming through the pines. Minnie usually eats in the tree line of 40 Right, always keeping an eye out for Debbie and Ronnie when they mosey down the hill back to the pastures a bit later in the day. Billie has even been outside in the mornings, greeting caregivers and the day with her little air-horn trumpets. If the extended weather forecast is right, the week ahead should offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor napping in the sunshine.