November 1, 2010
With warm days and full sun, the girls don't need to spend their nights in the New Asia Barn yet, but they are moving in closer to their cozy shelter. In the past, Shirley, Bunny, and even Jenny would have been far away in the habitat. Bunny was always the cold-weather holdout, and her sisters would oblige her by keeping her company through the nights. The first night when predicted cold temperatures might suggest they come inside, it would result in a very slow walk back to the barn at Bunny speed — which meant starting the Girls back around noon that day in order to get them to the barn for the evening. On occasion, as they rounded the bend and headed into the barn, Bunny would decide to walk right past the door and start heading towards the lake. Apparently after hours of walking, she decided she was warm enough to just keep going. It wouldn't take much from her caregivers and her sisters to bring her into the toasty warm barn. A couple of rumbles from the other Girls, some trumpets and a few bananas always did the trick.
Shirley now starts back to the barn when the temperatures begin their initial descent. With Tarra setting the example, Shirley comes up the hill from the lake, which means a temperature increase of about 10 degrees. Tarra and Shirley spent a couple of days this week in those woods on the hill, finding warm spots where the sun breaks through the trees, napping in piles of leaves, staying close and sharing meals. As the temperatures continue to slowly decline, both of the Girls venture within site of the barn.
At late feed, Shirley and Tarra were still outside, while Sis and Winks decided that being in a cozy barn—with the option of leaving—was the place for them. Sissy and Winkie have not seen Shirley since the last of winter's cool temperatures. The Girls prefer different areas of the habitat during the warmer months, and may go quite awhile between visits.
When morning came and Sissy and Winkie left the barn for the sunshine of a new day, they headed down Lake Road where Tarra and Shirley had spent the night. Walking lazily down the road, Sissy, with her head and trunk slightly swinging—and Winkie, with her head gently raising and lowering with the rhythm of her footsteps—both suddenly stopped and everyone stood very still for a moment. They had spotted their sister, Shirley.
Sissy raised her trunk, as much as her paralysis allows, and sniffed in Shirley's direction. Shirley has a high standing in the herd, which demands respect, though she has always been very soft with Sissy. Sissy made her excited blowing noises, but took another couple of minutes before gently approaching Shirley, whose stance and facial expressions had visibly softened.
Winkie made a wide circle around both Sissy and Shirley, and headed slightly further down the road closer to Tarra. Sissy spent time with Shirley; touching, smelling, leaning into her, and rubbing her head on Shirley’s. All the while, Winkie would take a few steps closer, stopping to see if there was any reaction, then taking a few more. Winkie stepped forward in a much more submissive way, to ensure that Shirley would be comfortable with her company and would want to say 'hello.' Tarra, seeing that all was well, barked her arrival, backing into the tight group.
The girls spent about 45 minutes in this small circle, all getting reacquainted, then one by one, each walked off to start grazing. The foursome spent the day in each others company relaxed and content—sometimes on their own, in pairs sharing a pile of hay, or napping off to the side.
At the end of their day, as the sun went down and the temperatures began to fall, Sis and Winks seemed reluctant to return to the barn. They lingered by their sisters, appearing to extend an invitation to return with them. Eventually Sis and Winks entered the barn after leaving their invisible 30 ft. social circle, and turned back repeatedly along the way to see if their invitation had been accepted. They celebrated their barn arrival and their day with vocalizations and gate banging, while Shirley and Tarra headed further down the road to spend their night under stars and enjoy the warmth offered by the woods.
The fall weather in Africa has been perfect. Although the nights have been getting cooler, the Girls don’t mind. Tange is always eager to come inside. As soon as she hears the sound of the overhead door being opened, she is right there. She hurries in, checks out her stalls, then waits to greet Flora. Flora also enjoys coming inside, but she is generally not in such a hurry. She knows that everything will be in its place as usual. Although both elephants enjoy coming inside the barn, they do spend a fair amount of time going back out to explore and browse.