May 31, 2010

Summer has arrived! A couple of near 90 degree days and here come the bugs! Even in the morning when looking for the girls to give them their breakfast, the deer flies seem to enjoy having caregivers for their morning meal. Swatting becomes second nature as we navigate the pastures and trails on the 4 wheelers.

The heat doesn't seem to bother the Ladies, they just go for dips in the pond, cover themselves with lovely cakes of red or brown mud, then dust, dust, and dust until everything is covered just so. Some girls are a bit more sensitive to the insects, so we still carry our two varieties of natural bug spray mixture to give them the relief they need. After getting squirted in all the hard-to-reach-with-your-trunk places, it's grazing or browsing as usual.

Frieda covers herself with nature's best bug repellant and sunscreen—mud!


The trees are so very green right now and the woods are thick. For several mornings, finding Ronnie has been like a hide-and-seek game. Ronnie chooses the shady woods in order to dodge the insects. She fiddles peacefully back in the tree line, just waiting for her meals-on-wheels to arrive.

There are still some days when Liz isn't feeling 100%. One morning recently, it looked like one of those days because she was not interested in her normal diet. However, it happened that she was actually craving something else. She started by putting her front legs up a steep slope so that she could reach some plants that were just a little higher up the slope. She climbed higher and then continued further until she passed through the gate to the next section of the habitat. The gate is always open, but only Billie spends time in that area, This was the first time for Liz to be in the area. She continued into the new territory until the caregiver could see less and less of her. Soon there was no elephant in sight and just the rustling trees remaining. Apparently Liz was feeling okay after all.

Minnie and Lottie have been wonderfully patient and understanding lately, as we have asked them to remain in a particular section of the habitat while a bit of bulldozing work was done to fix creek crossings, fill in ruts in the roads, etc. Once back out in the 60/Field Three, the Girls seek out their favorite spots to spend most of the day. Lottie has taken a liking to a particular spot…she stands in the edge of the pond about ankle deep. There is a nice little mud bank right in front of her, from which she gathers dirt clods to toss when she gets the notion. She can also be seen by Ele-Cam viewers just standing, dozing and resting her trunk on the bank for her naps throughout the day.

Minnie, on the other hand, finds things to keep her busy. One day not long ago, she discovered how much fun she could have investigating a large round plastic culvert that was relocated during the recent flooding. The culvert is approximately twenty feet long and five feet or so in diameter. She stood in front of it and looked over her shoulder as if waiting for it to do something. When it just "sat there," she helped it out by giving a big kick backward and it rolled away. This was just fantastic, so she turned to follow, sending it off again by pushing with her face. Then she decided to inspect the inside a bit. She put a couple of sticks in there, smelled it, and moved it around a little until it rested with one end facing down a small slope. She went around to the higher end and very slowly and cautiously stuck her face—and then her entire head in the hole. She moved the culvert around some more, then actually lifted it a bit off the ground and turned to one side, taking a few steps here and there, poking her head in and out of it the whole time. One more good "boot" rolled it away, and she was done. She went back to find Lottie who was still up at the Upper Pond.

The shocking headline for the next Trunklines could be: Billie Offered Vegetable and Does NOT Eat It. One evening a caregiver was trying different vegetables for Liz, and tossed a little piece of zucchini to the side so that Billie would go after it and give the caregiver and Liz some room to work. Billie walked over to the zucchini, slowly picked it up, and then flicked it away! The caregiver had to do a double-take while she was trying to process what she had just observed. This is breaking news because Billie eats everything. To the best of our knowledge, while all of the other elephants have found items of produce that they don't particularly care for, zucchini is Billie's first. Billie then picked up a leafy branch, held it above her head, and looked at it for a few moments as the light filtered through the leaves (like inspecting a money bill for counterfeit). It passed Billie's inspection, so she curled her trunk back down and ate the "non-zucchini" plant.