February 22, 2010

Watching the snowflakes dance lazily outside, as the caregivers drive by on four wheelers, tucked down as far as they can get into their bulky jackets, it’s no wonder the girls sometimes choose to stay inside. Up until February we had a wonderful winter, with some nights warm enough to allow the girls to sleep outside, but this month has been a different story. Hohenwald has had more snow than we can remember, and the temperatures have seemed to be trying to cling to the 30s. For most of the days, the girls go out around 10 a.m. when it has warmed up a touch, and spend the rest of the afternoon outside, coming home for dinner when the chill starts to come back.
 
But there are days they choose to stay inside. That is one of the major philosophies of the Sanctuary, which is a total blessing--choice. Elephants have the ability to decide who to spend their time with, where they want to spend their days, and what they would like to be doing (napping, swimming, snacking). This ability is one of the factors that allows them to find their true selves, not the elephants they were made to be in the past. As a result, they form unbreakable bonds with some of their sisters, and learn to trust in the fact that their caregivers are just that--those who care for them and try to help diminish their dependence on humans and instead lead them inward and to their sisters. So, although it would be nice if the ladies were outside enjoying the sun that is currently nowhere to be found, there is a deep comfort knowing that they are inside because they want to be. They have a big warm barn where they can spend the day with their sisters and have their trees, hay, and an occasional snack or toy brought right to them. And, hopefully, the sun is right around the corner.  
 
Lots of rain and snow make lots of mud. While it can sometimes make a caregiver’s job a bit more difficult (like when our boots have what seems like an extra two pounds of mud on them…each!), the ladies love the mud. It inspires silliness in all, especially Minnie. More often than not, she can be found with one half of her body caked in dark brown mud, where she has been rolling joyfully in the creek. At other times, a tell-tale streak of mud is plastered down her trunk, an indication that she has been pushing her face into the ground…an activity that seems to bring her endless entertainment.
 
Minnie’s exploits almost always bring Lottie running. This leads to a boisterous reunion, as if they haven’t seen each other in days. From their spot in the habitat, Debbie and Ronnie squeak and spin, the silliness infecting all for a time. It is always a treat to see the girls so playful, to watch such size move with such speed and wild abandon.

 

Tange also loves the mud!

The cold weather is not leaving Tennessee yet. Tange and Flora enjoy the occasional couple of hours outside, but prefer the warmth of the barn. In the summer, the girls are out and about and doing their own thing, but now when they are in the barn, we are lucky to observe them a lot more than in the summer. We see how they empty out the waterer a couple of times with their trunks and how they patiently wait till it fills back up again with warm water - very clever. We see how Tange tries to steal Flora’s hay. Of course, she has plenty of hay of her own and it’s carefully placed outside Flora’s reach. Tange casually walks over to where Flora is eating her hay and slowly extends her trunk out and gathers some hay. If Flora doesn’t react she will get a bit closer to get some more. If Flora does bang the gate, as if to say “that’s enough now,” Tange just waits and then tries it again; bless her.


We see how they eat their branches. This week the caregivers gave them plenty of different kinds of trees: maple, tulip poplar, sycamore, elm and others. But the most interesting tree is more like a stick and is called “the Devil’s Walking Stick.” This is a “stick” that has big sharp thorns all around it. The girls must have a special way of eating it as they don’t seemed to be bothered by the big thorns. They pick up the “stick,” break it and put it in their mouths. Tange eats only the bark; she uses her teeth and maneuvers the stick around with her tongue, whereas Flora eats the whole thing.
 
Six years ago on February 19 Tange arrived at the Sanctuary. On that same day in 2004 we welcomed Zula.