February 14, 2011

Minnie, Debbie and Ronnie have had plenty of excitement this week with contractors beginning essential modifications to the Phase 2 barn. Sometimes we have to do work on our barns to make them safer and more comfortable for the Girls and caregivers. The contractors have been very respectful of the elephants, keeping the disturbance to a minimum, and the Girls have been flat-out curious. The most "exciting" day was when the contractors began making a new doorway through an outer wall of the barn. The girls became very animated, making all their vocalizations and spinning around. In a rare display of silliness, Debbie stretched out her back feet and rubbed her belly on the floor. As the noise continued, the girls gradually settled down. The next day, the construction noise continued, but the weather was nice enough to let the Girls outside. Apparently, one day of racket was enough...since Debbie and Ronnie have never left the barn so fast!

Tange and Flora have been going outside every day and stretching their legs, playing in the mud, or basking in the sun. Once they find all of the hay put out for them, they go searching for the little treats nature has left hiding amongst the blackberry brambles and tall grasses. Plenty of interesting plants and trees remain for them to eat during winter; it just may take a little more effort to find them. Flora can often be seen grazing around the barn, whereas Tange usually ventures a little farther out.

One day this week, Flora was on her way down a very steep, muddy slope in pursuit of a large tree she had chosen to push down. Once she reached this tree, she started sliding a little downhill and would pause to reposition herself so she was more stable. She did this a few times until she was able to push the tree down successfully. Unfortunately after all that effort, the top of the tree pointed downhill when it landed, so she could not reach any of its branches. Instead, she found some tasty little things growing right around her feet where she was precariously standing on the slippery hill. When she had her fill, she used her trunk to push herself back up to level ground.

This past week at the Sanctuary we had another snowstorm. This time the snow waited until later in the afternoon to arrive, so the Girls in New Asia were able to enjoy most of the day outside before the storm hit.

This winter we have seen some changes in the Girls' preferences for going out in the cold. Winkie—who always seemed to be the first one to feel the chill and prefer the warm barn— has ventured out much more readily this winter and for longer periods of time. Sissy has been the one leading them back to the barn, having to stop along the way for Winkie to catch up. On one of the cooler days as it began to rain, Winkie was totally content with playing in the mud and rubbing on trees, while Sissy patiently watched her friend having a blast.

When Dulary was ill earlier this winter, she had less tolerance for the cold. She went from being an elephant who was rarely cold to one who chilled quite easily. We adjusted her routine to accommodate this, giving Dulary and Misty access to a stall at the end of the barn that has rubber flaps in the doorway to help to block the wind—allowing them an easy return to a nice, cozy barn with radiant heaters for warmth. There were many afternoons they took advantage of the entrance and would go inside for a warm-up, then return outside when the sun re-appeared. Now that Dulary has recovered, her tolerance for the cold seems to have returned almost to normal, although we still keep a close watch on her.

Tarra, as always, is the first one who wants to run around in the new snow and play with her dog, while Shirley has become much more reserved when the ground is blanketed with snow. We suspect this may be related to her gradual loss of hearing, something we began to notice last year. If caregivers in the barn did not speak to Shirley quite loudly, she would have a startled reaction when they approached. The acoustic effect of the snow seems to foster Shirley's insecurities. If the snow has a layer of ice on top and makes a crunching noise when the Ladies step on it, Shirley becomes slightly more apprehensive. She maintains her "ears out" alert stance for most of the time that she is outside. When Tarra gets overly playful on the crunching snow, Shirley retreats back to the safety of the barn. Ice dropping off the roof of the barn can cause Shirley to turn quickly, while she takes a few moments to assess the situation and decide if things are safe. As always, she has the choice whether to go outside or stay indoors. This winter, Shirley has definitely stayed in during snow days more so than in the past.

 

Shirley

The other day while everything was still snowy-white outside, Tarra got Shirley in the mood to be silly. After some encouragement from the elephant that helps keep her young, Shirley had her head down, back leg lifted high, vocalizing and enjoying herself. Shirley was so enthusiastic in her play that she broke a tree in half, still exhibiting her mighty strength. As we spend extra time looking after and pampering our “grandma,” it is joyful moments like these that point to a youthful spirit that is doing just fine.