March 14, 2011

In Africa, Tange and Flora have been staying close to the barn as the temperatures fluctuate from warm and sunny to cold and rainy. Thankfully, the spring temperature variations make them want to spend much less time inside the barn and more time out roaming their terrain. Although the spring rains can be a bit cold at times, they have started to green things up a bit and provide Tange and Flora with more variety in their diet. The Spring Peepers are singing, too…another welcome sign the new season is just around the corner.

One recent day we had rain pretty much all day—which for Liz, Billie, and Frieda, begins as a reason not to leave the barn in the morning. Then they seem to accept it, followed by an inclination to embrace it. Something about rain is stimulating for them. Billie and Frieda went to their pond where they found some excellent mud to cover themselves, then for the rest of the afternoon, all three Ladies spent lots of time roaming around and grazing.

 
Billie and Liz


When they have had enough rain and decide to come back inside, there's a distinct difference from non-rainy days when they enter the barn. The girls immediately rub and scratch themselves on the walls of the barn and each other, and they're also slightly more spunky.

As their caregiver was getting ready to feed them, Liz bit down on a tire that hangs from a rope tied to the ceiling beam. She held onto it and walked backward, stretching it as much as she could before releasing it. Whenever we see the other Girls playing with enrichment toys, it's a great feeling, but when Liz plays, it's a special event that carries tremendous sigh of relief, since it’s a good sign that she's feeling good. Liz has also been a little more engaging with her caregivers lately and more likely to come up to the front of her stall and "ask" for treats. Before she accepts it though, she has to inspect each one to make sure it's something she actually wants before her caregiver may proceed with spoiling her.

We recently started giving Frieda some new meds twice a day to help alleviate some of the osteomyelitis pain in her front feet. It comes in powder form, which we mix in with a mashed up banana, crushed alfalfa horse treats, molasses, and some oats. Elephants forever keep us looking for elaborate ways to disguise the taste of medicine and vitamins. Fortunately this recipe works and Frieda's enjoying it. While we haven’t seen any major changes in her mobility, one morning when she met up with Billie outside, Frieda suddenly got very excited—way more then usual—and she actually trumpeted… Loudly! We can’t remember the last time Frieda trumpeted. Billie looked as stunned as her caregivers. Frieda also added her usual "whale song" and rumbling, and then “ran” over to Liz (running for Frieda is more like a brisk walk). 

Last summer we began to notice Shirley was bearing more weight on her (improperly healed) broken back leg in an effort to take some weight off her good leg. She didn’t do this very often, and whenever she did, it wasn’t for any significant amount of time. Shirley continued to wander throughout the summer and fall, covering the same amount of ground as always, and her gait or speed never wavered.

Based on what we observed, we believe Shirley’s aging body is beginning to feel some discomfort from bearing the majority of her hind weight on her one “good” leg over the last 40 years. We began discussing putting Shirley on an anti-inflammatory, and a few weeks ago we started a trial treatment. After an initial injection, we noticed some small improvements—her eyes looked a touch brighter and she spent the first full night outside without stopping in the barn. With no apparent negative reactions, we proceeded with putting Shirley on an oral anti-inflammatory. Since then, she has perked up a bit and has definitely gotten back a little of her old “spitfire” ways! While we haven’t seen any significant change in her walking gait or the amount of ground she is covering, it is much more evident in her behavior. (See the March 6 diary entry and video) In addition to being more vocal, she also appears to be regaining some of her self-confidence and security around the other elephants and in situations she seemed a little unsure of previously after Bunny’s passing. It is wonderful to see this change in her!