February 21, 2011

With this absolutely gorgeous week, offering us the first days of full sun and 60 degree temperatures, routines shifted! The doors of the barns have been left open all night, giving the girls the option to spend the night under the stars if they choose. Of course, if the Girls get chilly, the barns are available to them with overhead heaters.

It was so nice to enter the barn in the mornings to find all the elephants outside. Debbie and Ronnie have started venturing up to the South Habitat once again. When a caregiver arrives with their breakfast, they're usually munching on juicy hickory branches or scratching themselves on the towering pine trees. In the mornings, Minnie can be found wandering all over, eager for caregivers to reach the gate that opens up another sixty acres to her. After breakfast she's off exploring—disappearing into the woods of Barbie's Wash for hours at a time—before emerging in the afternoon thoroughly pleased with herself.

Liz, Billie, and Frieda have been going out of the barn earlier and staying out later. One morning, Billie was quite lively and decided to be a social butterfly. She first supervised Liz’s treatment from just outside the barn. Once Liz was all set and came outside, Billie followed her out into the yard. In fact, Billie walked backwards all the way down to where Liz had found some hay. Then she seemed to encourage Liz to come back up to join Frieda. Billie continued to engage both her sisters, walking back and forth between them as if she felt the need to constantly check on them. Frieda spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping with Billie and Liz standing right next to her.  

The Girls in the Asian habitat excitedly hurried out of the barn with the arrival of the sun and warmer weather. As soon as they warmed up nicely, they rested and enjoyed much longer naps than their usual brief winter kind.

Basking in the radiant heat, one by one, they all lay down. After a few hours Sissy and Shirley got up, only to nibble on a bite of hay, move a few feet, and then lie back down again. Dulary and Misty initially took turns sleeping, but by the afternoon, both could be seen on the hillside lying down together, head to tail.

Tarra and Shirley are both good at finding clever hiding spots away from the other elephants that might interrupt their sleep. The other Ladies have a tendency to stay fairly close to the paths, but not Shirley and Tarra. Shirley's favorite spot is behind a grouping of trees, in a depression slightly larger than an elephant, with a mound of dirt on one side. Except from one angle, she is completely hidden from view. The dirt is dark and soft, absorbing the warmth of the sun, and provides a cozy place for her to fall deeply asleep, feeling safe and secure.

 
Shirley and Tarra

Tarra prefers a place about 20 yards from Shirley's spot, just slightly down the hill. Although she also has another place where she and Bella like to sneak away. Tarra goes all the way down a different hill to nap in the valley below. With the leaves off the trees and on the ground, the sun permeates down into the valley making sunny leaf nests, perfect for sleeping. A small creek for a casual drink adds to the setting. Tarra is the only one of our Girls we have ever seen venture into this particular valley, although Winkie has approached it from the opposite direction during her wanderings while Sissy is sleeping. After these initial two days of recharging, the Girls began to wander a little further, exploring the edible things beginning to grow in the habitat, as well as enjoying more play time.

During this warm-up, Tange and Flora have been spending entire days away from the barn. Like most of our other Girls, the African elephants have been so pleased with the weather that they have been spending the night outside the barn, a welcome change in the middle of February. They spent one day in the sun grazing on the Pine Sapling Plateau and another day was spent browsing on hardwood trees in the valley. Their caregivers have actually had to start driving around to look for them again. It's amazing that two elephants could so easily "disappear" in this 50-acre tract, but these Girls have shown us time and again they are very good at doing just that!