August 9, 2010
Gone are the dreaded June bug-bombers, only to make way for the age of the dragon...fly! Lately when riding through Divaland to find and feed the Girls, these little guys have been everywhere. One great difference from the June bugs is that the dragonflies don't slam into you while you're driving. So, no more loud SMACKS as the June bugs bounce off your sunglasses, or red welts from one of them crashing into your forehead or exposed shoulders and arms.
One morning recently, a caregiver paused to take in quite a nice scene. Just before heading out from the barn area on the 4-wheeler, she watched Liz, Billie and Frieda grazing quietly in their yard. It was already hazy and humid, which actually made the image more striking. The three elephants, backlit by the sun, were peacefully passing the morning hours while all around them were the iridescent, fluttering wings of the dragonflies. There were dozens and dozens of dragonflies flittering around on their seemingly urgent paths for reasons unknown to the rest of us. The caregiver wished she had an opportunity to take a photo of that image, as clear as the one in her mind, to share with everyone else.
While the Girls are always the main topic and focus, they share their space with so many other creatures who have found refuge within the perimeter of the Sanctuary, undisturbed by automobile traffic or hunters, etc. The Girls are well and continue to thrive in their environment, but this caregiver wanted to take an opportunity to share with others the presence of the Diva's co-inhabitants. So, on behalf of Liz, Frieda, Billie, Debbie, Ronnie, Lottie and Minnie, MEET THE NEIGHBORS:
When navigating the trails in search of our Ladies, a caregiver often rounds a corner and is greeted by the soft faces, alert ears and large brown eyes of the resident white tail deer. Many of the regulars seem quite unafraid, and stand quietly on the side of a trail as you pass by and head out of sight. On several occasions lately, the caregiver has crossed paths with several bucks together, ranging from six to eight points on their velvet covered antlers. The does have favorite grazing spots throughout the property. It's nice to see returning groups using the same paths season after season.
Wild turkeys are still ever-present, and sometimes even offer a funny image of five or six of them perched atop the elephant fencing as if they were tiny sparrows on a telephone line. Once they hear the 4-wheeler coming, however, they usually start hopping to the ground one-by-one and sprinting off toward the cover of the woods. Occasionally, mostly in the early morning hours, one or two large tom turkeys can be seen puffed up in all their glory trying to impress the hens who appear more interested in what the pasture has to offer than the attentive boys.
One of this caregiver's favorites are the beautiful red tail hawks that patrol the tree lines and pastures of the elephant habitat. They can often be heard with their signature screeching calls high up in the tree tops as they keep watch for prey below. Sometimes the familiar call is heard just before one of them swoops down and glides across in front of the four-wheeler as you're driving, unavoidably drawing your eyes to follow them until they disappear into the far tree line.
It's nice to get to know so many other creatures as they live with and near the elephants we love and care for daily. We realize that they all choose to share this place with us. Maybe they do know that they will be left to their own business, undisturbed by the human element darting in and out of their daily routines. We certainly do enjoy "the neighbors" being a part of our day.
Some Barn Swallows have also chosen the Sanctuary as their home.
Because they like to feed on flying insects, their presence is a great benefit to the elephants.
In the New Asian habitat, Bella is the ultimate tattle-tale when it comes to finding Tarra. With 2200 acres to explore, sometimes the caregivers will drive around quite a bit before completing the delivery of meals to all of the Ladies. The places they choose to be can be off the beaten path, so when it is Tarra who is in a good hiding spot, you can almost always count on Bella to help in finding her. At late feed in the dark of the evening—with the 4-wheeler motor turned off—a little whistle will usually bring a bark in response from Bella. Follow the bark, and Tarra will be nearby.
During the day, Bella will usually come barreling out from the direction of her elephant, just to ensure the prompt delivery of her meal. The other day, Shirley was in Right Field and Tarra was just on the other side of the dividing trees for Left Field. Tarra was visible upon driving in, but Bella just had to make sure. So while feeding Shirley, Bella came charging in, throwing herself belly up about fifteen feet away from Shirley. To remind Bella who is boss, Shirley put on her dominant display of ears out, head up, and a trunk thump to the ground. Bella just remained in her upside-down position, waiting for belly rubs. When Shirley recognized that her display went unnoticed, she went back to eating her dinner. Moments later she was joined by Tarra... slowly following her Bella... to enjoy some food and company.
If we were to write any instructions about feeding the African Girls, they would have to be written in pencil with a large eraser. Much can change from one minute to the next!
One lovely morning, the caregiver loaded up the 4-wheeler with breakfast food buckets and hay, and set off down the road to entice Flora and Tange into the habitat. The Girls, sometimes slow to wake, did not immediately move to follow. After a couple of "lou hews," Tange came walking very fast. Flora, still asleep, was jolted awake by the other caregiver making noise at the barn. Realizing she had been left, Flora took off down the road to catch up. Meanwhile, Tange had almost finished with her breakfast and apparently decided she would like some more. So she left her remaining hay and followed the caregiver, who now had Flora's bucket, and was attempting to double back down the road to find her. Flora finally reached where the caregiver and Tange HAD been and began eating Tange's hay. By then, Tange and the caregiver had arrived back at the barn. Tange, now wondering where Flora was, started to run around to look for her. She ran past the barn, down the road and back, to the other side of the barn and into the woods. Then Tange ran down to a closed gate and back again. Meanwhile, Flora was back at the original spot eating her breakfast. Tange soon calmed down, and then took a very long nap.
This week, we remember the arrival of Tina from Vancouver on August 11, 2003. She was the eighth resident of the Sanctuary and blessed all with her sweetness.