February 7, 2011

Winter days come and go… and come again at the Sanctuary.

Winter came back with a vengeance this week after a few gloriously warm days (well, when we use the word "glorious" to describe 50 degree temperatures, you know it has been cold).

Before the latest arctic blast descended upon us, the Divas were enjoying a warm, wet day romping around in the mud before returning to the barn in the evening. After coming inside, they enjoyed a good mud-rub along the bars and walls, creating interesting large brown shapes—similar to clouds that make us see something familiar in them.


 
Above: Minnie’s muddy body created this interesting work of art on the wall above the automatic waterer.
Below: Misty soaks up some of the warm winter sunshine.


On days when the Girls are inside, finding entertainment is never difficult. This week a caregiver was cleaning the stall next to Minnie, keeping a watchful eye on her wandering trunk. As the caregiver hosed down the stall, Minnie stuck her trunk out for a drink and her caregiver obliged. Then Minnie bent her head down low, as she does when she's in the mood to be playful. This seemed the perfect opportunity to bathe Minnie and she readily agreed!
 
As her caregiver sprayed, Minnie pushed against the bars to get as much of her body covered in water as possible. After that, Minnie stretched out on her belly so the spray could reach the very top of her back. All the while, Minnie was holding her trunk out, catching the cascades of water to spray on herself in areas the caregiver missed. Then Minnie rolled to her side, exposing her belly to the spray. She wiggled around, scratching her side against the floor. She then waved her feet in the air, requesting that each one get the water's spray, too, before she eventually got to her feet. If you can't go out and play in the mud, you just have to make your own shower-play in the barn!

With this week's wonderful respite from what has generally proven to be a cold and white winter, the Ladies in Asia have been able to enjoy their dinner outside—and also choosing to remain out all night. For Shirley, this meant sleeping in the woods for three nights in a row. It is evident that Shirley enjoys her nights in the woods by her beaming smile and wide eyes that greet you in the morning. We know her body appreciates "taking a load off" by lying down in the soft habitat, especially since she prefers this to the floors in the barn.

After enjoying her day outside, Shirley lazily finds her way back to the barn in the evenings, where she stays inside for a couple of hours, eating hay and warming herself. She remains inside for 10 p.m. feed, but she probably leaves not long after eating, because in the morning, we find two piles of dung in stalls numbers 1 and 2, and only Tarra. This of course means that Tarra is also spending the night out, and true to her habits, always returns just before mealtime. With the knowledge that Bella sometimes prefers to sleep in her bed in the barn, we know Tarra is never far away.

During these warmer hours, soaking thunderstorms made for wonderful mud-play. Winkie spent time rubbing every part of her body on any tree that could take it. She walked right over the little pines, getting a good belly scratch, then rubbed her sides on the larger trees. She squished her head, trunk, and rump into the mud, with ears out and a silly grin on her face. While watching Winkie’s antics, Tarra, Shirley and Sissy threw mud on themselves, too. The Girls seemed more than happy to stay out and enjoy nature's shower before the temps plummeted thirty degrees, sending the Girls back to the barns.

Misty and Dulary also coated themselves from head to toe in mud, bringing it all into their stalls, decorating the walls with their art. Dulary reached with her trunk as high as she could, wiping side to side, making sure her caregivers would stay busy the next morning trying to remove it all!

In Africa, Tange and Flora have been fairly quiet, mostly keeping to themselves on the cold, blustery days. Winter tends to bring out a quiet contemplative nature in many different species, as we all retreat inward and conserve energy. This winter the African Girls have been more active inside the barn than out, dismantling their trees for browse and enrichment in their stalls. When temperatures permit, their caregivers have encouraged them to stretch their legs and walk around the habitat, although most times they return to the barn fairly quickly. But this past week, they, too, relished in the beautiful break in weather.

Hard to believe we are only halfway through this winter, with more cold temperatures and snow to come. It is amazing how the elephants manage the cold weather; thankfully it only lasts for a few months in the year.

More 5-year anniversaries to celebrate this week! On February 7, Debbie and Ronnie arrived at The Elephant Sanctuary, followed two days later by Billie and Frieda on February 9, 2006.



February 9 also marks the passing of Lota in 2005. As one of the first elephants to inspire people around the country to rally for her rescue back in the early 90s, we have never forgotten how indebted we are to Lota. Not only for her contribution in raising awareness about the poor conditions some elephants suffer in captivity, but also because her case was the catalyst that eventually freed Misty and the rest of the Divas to live out the rest of their lives here at the Sanctuary.