April 18, 2011

Signs of spring are everywhere—birds building nests, tree buds exploding with new life, spring rain storms, mud wallows renewed, and joyous elephants traveling far and wide…and so the search begins.

One morning last week surveying the entire landscape, it took over 2 hours to find Tarra. Somehow this magical being suddenly placed herself directly in the middle of the trail, one that had already been traveled twice that morning… so where did she come from?? Throughout the day, we closely monitored Tarra through the camera network, checking to see which way she was heading, but when we were pulled away from the camera for only 15 minutes, it was just enough time for Tarra to disappear without a trace. It appears that she wandered into the vast network of hidden valleys of Marcella's—easy terrain for an elephant, but not so much for a 4-wheeler. We were back a few hours later to do final rounds at 10 pm, knowing that once again Tarra could be anywhere, but on this night, we found her close to Shirley, quiet and calm, embracing the gloriously warm nights with her dear friends Shirley, and, of course, Bella by her side. Tarra's excursions and adventurous spirit are starting to rub off on Shirley a little, too. Shirley does not go as far and wide, but she has found her own methods to hide from caregivers in the thickest of blackberry brambles or concealing her mass just behind the young pine trees. To answer a question so often asked, “How can you lose an elephant?” Quite simply: 2,200 acres, freedom, and the magic of our natural world.

Last Sunday was an unsually hot day, and Debbie and Ronnie were definitely feeling the heat. While Minnie was exploring the back fields, Deb and Ron headed into the Pond Yard. After a few cautionary steps, they immediately went to the large pond. As Ronnie sprawled on her side in the water, waving her legs in the air, Debbie whirled her trunk around, splashing enthusiastically. This normally quiet pair let out a few ecstatic squeaks as they played. Even the presence of their caregiver Sam did not interrupt their swim. Debbie then left the pond….only to spin around and go charging back in!

Tange 
Tange

Most days in the African habitat have been pretty mellow, but it seemed like Tange and Flora were ready for the mood to change by mid-week. As the 4-wheeler drove alongside Flora to meet Tange for breakfast at the other end of the yard, Flora broke into a run, her temporal glands soaking the sides of her face. Once she reached Tange, she ran over to greet her while Tange let out a deep, expressive rumble. After a few seconds of exchanging gentle touches, they were ready for breakfast, which they scarfed down before heading back to the barn.

Later, Tange was relaxing on one side of the fence while Flora placed herself on the other side. It is not uncommon for them to separate themselves like this for periods of time. All of a sudden, you could feel the low vibrations spreading through the barn along with some very deep rumbles. It is unclear what triggered this reaction from Tange and Flora, but they were both still standing on either side of the fence, clearly excited. After a few hours, the Girls were out grazing in the yard when Tange heard the lawnmower start up. Eyes wide and ears out, she suddenly took off running around the yard and then disappeared down into the valley. Flora just stood there watching her, not quite as excited, then slowly followed Tange at a safe distance.