September 20, 2010

Debbie has been quite active this week. Several days ago, she was seen playing with a large plastic culvert out in the pasture. In typical Debbie fashion, as soon as she realized a caregiver had video camera in hand, she stopped as though she hadn't been up to anything. "No silliness here," she seemed to say.

Similarly, two winters ago, Deb was inside the barn and actually playing with “Minnie's toys” hanging in the stall. It was unlike the somewhat reserved Debbie to be playing. As soon as a video camera appeared, Deb stopped her playing and could not be encouraged to continue. Finally, the caregiver left the barn, thinking Debbie was done; then, "thunk, thunk, clatter," and Deb was playing again. When the barn door was barely opened to get just the camera in, once again, Deb stopped her playing.
 
However, it seems "play at the pond" is just too enticing to stop when being filmed. Debbie and Ronnie have had access to the Pond Yard lately and have spent a lot of time in and around the pond. Ronnie will gingerly wade out into the water; while Debbie throws herself about in reckless abandon! For a good bit of the day lately, Debbie has been found either around or in the pond splashing, kicking and shoving logs, pushing and dunking a large ball, and moving about any pesky vegetation that isn't where she'd like it to be. After checking out the caregiver filming her, the usually camera-shy Debbie headed back into the pond for more shenanigans apparently without further thought to the camera on the sidelines.

Debbie and Ronnie

 
Construction and fence crews were continuing to complete even more sections of the Minnie-proof fencing, and the Girls shifted easily into different parts of the habitat for this to be accomplished. The first day of the shift, Debbie and Ronnie moved into the "40," which they hadn't had access to in some time. There was much excitement, with trumpets, trunk pops, squeaks, squeals, and lots of ear-flapping. Of course Minnie came from across Field 3 to join in the action, and this addition brought on the rumbling, roaring noises that vibrate across the pasture. Lottie eventually joined in as well, contributing her own adorable airy snorts with her little ears standing out straight, while she and Debbie traded trunk popping techniques. All the while, dust was flying as a caregiver waited a distance away so that Debbie and Ronnie could be given their breakfast once they were through with their celebrating.
 
It has been a busy end-of-summer stretch around Q Barn with volunteers here from Ohio State University over their Labor Day weekend. They did a wonderful job of getting the new fencing around the Pond Yard painted. The darker shade of green blends so well that the fence is almost invisible when looking out over the habitat. Great job, and we can't wait until our Ohio friends return!
 
The Ladies are always patient as the caregivers and visiting crews work hard making improvements to their sanctuary home. The process is quite streamlined now that both staff and fence crew are so accustomed to the routine. The exciting moments, however, tend to be when the large, noisy orange and white cement trucks roll in. When Billie gets excited about work being done, these trucks are often the trigger.
 
There are many of Mother Nature's family who share the elephant habitat. One day last week caregivers and ele-cam viewers alike were treated to a first….for several minutes the camera followed a doe and her spotted fawn, both of whom were wading around in the Upper Pond. With no elephants around, these two indulged in a bit of play time. Mom stayed around the rim watching carefully as the fawn scampered and bucked, flicked its little ears and licked its lips. Wide-eyed, the fawn repeated the bucking-turning-jumping routine several times... until alas, Mom decided it was time to head for the trees. Both made their way up and over the bank, disappearing quietly into the tall grass and on into the woods.
 
When Spring arrives there is always that touch of “spring fever,” with all creatures welcoming the warmer temperatures when the energy level goes up along with the level of overall play and silliness. With the arrival of Fall, comes a more placid feeling. The cooling temperatures and relaxing breezes blowing through the trees create a constant mellowing white noise which seems to soothe and calm everything, including the elephants. The Girls in the Asian habitat have been relatively quiet this week; although they still rumble and make all of their noises, the vocals are somewhat softly done. Caregivers are welcomed warmly with big smiles, ear flaps and elephants eliciting affectionate touches.
 
Although it doesn't lend for exciting stories, it is a large part of what this sanctuary is about: elephants just being elephants. Days are filled with girls grazing lazily, occasionally swatting flies with their tails, checking to make sure their friend is nearby and taking breaks from eating for napping. Lying down amidst the fields of grasses and yellow and purple wild flowers, creates a very distinct print that on these grounds, could be nothing other than an elephant shape. Though somewhat balled up, they lie on their side soaking up the heat of the sun. Their walks are leisurely, to get a few trunkfuls of water while stopping along the way for a snack here and there. If you are Winkie, it may be the fluttering butterfly or strolling turkey that dictates your direction. Fall evenings provide more of the same, repeated under the stars surrounded by the sounds of frogs, crickets and not much else.