March 19, 2013

Elephant Enrichment

“Enrichment” is an ongoing process at The Sanctuary. It is important for the Girls’ health that they receive new forms of mental stimulation on a regular basis. We believe in providing an environment where this enrichment can happen naturally, a la having an open habitat for the Girls to explore and opportunities to interact with one another. We also offer various enrichment activities for the Girls: friends of The Sanctuary have no doubt seen Minnie with her culvert, Tarra with her popcorn ball, and Tange and Flora with the big brush. Caregiver Brianna writes this report concerning recent “enrichment” activities in the Q-Barn :

Recently, Sanctuary Staff collaborated to create metal enrichment boxes that hang in the barn. These are essentially metal cages with trunk-sized holes in them, and the Elephants have to stick their trunks in these holes in order to get treats or hay that we stuff inside. This allows them to use their excellent problem-solving skills and get some snacks while doing so! Being in the barn in the winter can be a little repetitive for the Girls, so we try to give them as much enrichment as possible.
Debbie and Ronnie were very interested in the boxes, putting their trunks in and trying to pull out the largest chunk of hay they could manage through each hole.
Minnie, being her usual mischievous self, immediately and thoroughly investigated the boxes... sniffing them, trying to pull them off the bars (no luck, they are welded on!), trying to push on it with her head... One morning, Caregivers walked into the barn to find the enrichment box still intact. However, Minnie had taken her powerful trunk and smashed in the box's cover. It took much finagling to get the cover out of the box itself because she had bent it nearly in half! We are going to have to make the next cover out of a stronger material - it is definitely a trial and error process in making elephant-sized enrichment!
As it stands now, the score is Minnie 1, Caregivers 0. :)

An enrichment toy that gives a tasty treat!

Other Updates from the Q-Barn

The Q-Girls continue to enjoy their recently-expanded habitat, thanks to the completion of some new fencing. Billie, Liz, and Frieda made their way into the habitat for the first time this week, and Caregiver Diana was on hand to witness it:

It was a bit chilly and rainy, so after Billie and Lizzie exited the barn, Frieda took a little coaxing. Once she realized that the gate was open, she was the leader of the pack! She walked up a hill and paused, and let out a low rumble, calling her sisters as if to say, “Come on! Look at all the new places to explore!” That rumble reached Lizzie’s ears right away and she ran into the habitat, faster than the caregivers have seen her move in a LONG time!!! She barreled passed Billie and Frieda, swinging her trunk and squishing all around in the mud! She paused to throw some on her back, but only for a minute before she was off again, crawling up a muddy embankment to get to the hay and browse waiting at the top. Frieda followed shortly after, pulling on tree branches and smelling everything in sight. Billie was still a little unsure of the new space, so she stayed a bit behind, but caregivers are confident that she will be up there in no time. It was incredibly exciting for both caregivers and elephants!!

We were fortunate to have a camera on standby so that we could share this wonderful occasion with you!

Liz, Billie, & Frieda

Watch the video!

 From Asia

Caregiver Laurie updates us on happenings in the Asia Barn and Habitat: 

Shirley is loving the warm weather. I found her over a mile from the barn this morning near an area called Select Cut Pines. She was sunbathing and seemed interested as she watched me approach with her breakfast. I could tell by the footprints that I followed in the habitat that Tarra had been out visiting with Shirley at some point early this morning or last night, but by the time we got to the barn, she was inside with Sis and Winks waiting to be fed.

Sissy learned to present her shoulder through the Protected Contact barrier last week as part of injection training we are doing with her to prepare her for receiving required vaccinations. She learned the behavior incredibly quickly, and then it seems she taught it to Winkie. The next day when Winkie came over to train, she presented her shoulder the right away even though we had previously never asked her to exhibit that behavior before.

Misty remains true to her happy happy self. She left the barn this morning and celebrated the sunny day with a spin and hearty trumpet which always puts Dulary in a happy, playful place. Dulary joined the celebration by doing her signature deep head bow and big rumble. Happy eles = happy Caregivers :)

From Africa
We celebrated Tange’s 40th birthday on Saturday, and Tange celebrated with a box of birthday goodies. Watch the video of her enjoying her birthday treat!