December 25, 2006
On this balmy warm morning the rain was coming down softly, creating a hazy affect over the Sanctuary valley. Minnie, Lottie, and Queenie did not make their normal beeline to the 4-wheeler and breakfast; instead they lingered in the creek bottom, throwing mud. Minnie pushed her face into squishy mud, smearing it all over her face. Queenie squeaked while Lottie contributed her baritone rumble and Minnie her imitation of a jet airplane about to take off. Such rich sounds emanating from these amazing creatures seems implausible. Later, Minnie decided that breakfast could wait a while longer as she rediscovered the big pond. Long abandoned by the fabulous five for their preferred upper pond, Minnie threw her immense body of enthusiasm into the pond and played her solitary game of "dunk the unsinkable ball". Submerged tree branches were yanked from the mud in order to satisfy Minnie's insatiable need for continual and complete stimulation. She heaved branches over her back, smashed others down into the mud, all the while perusing that elusive, unsinkable ball.
December 23, 2006
With temperatures in the 70s, our girls are soaking up the sun, frolicking in the ponds, and sleeping under a canopy of stars. This unseasonably warm weather has found the divas exploring areas long forgotten; traversing the hillside trail that leads to the area known as Delhi's hill. Remember last winter when Delhi was camping out along the fence line to the new barn? Construction simply did not move fast enough for her. Well, Lottie, Minnie, and Queenie visited Delhi's hill the other day, a new adventure through terrain they had forgotten existed. Billie even surprised us by spending time in the main pasture with Liz and Frieda and then wandered over to one of her favorite places - the pond.
When Lottie came back for a drink and found Billie standing beside the pond, she did a double take and then quickly moved in closer for a better look. Billie squeaked her signature mouse imitation and Lottie went off in the other direction to investigate the creek bottom.
Lottie had been a little aloof from the other fabulous five for some time until recently when shifting behaviors, alliances, and loyalties found Lottie coming back into a position of influence, just where she needs to be. Lottie is calm and wise and the elephant that Minnie most respects. For several weeks Minnie has been pushing her weight around and Lottie was nowhere to be found. Prescribed remedies have had an influence, helping Minnie to make slow but steady progress, sort of two steps forwards one step back, but forward none the less. But finally it appears that Lottie has decided to do some mentoring with Minnie to help bring about harmony. It is working. Minnie has made a major breakthrough, a change of attitude of sorts. She is less harsh, less pushy with the other elephants and is showing a real soft side. For the past few days she has been observed playing with Debbie out in the pasture, gently interacting instead of being overtly pushy. Even Ronnie has been observed approaching Minnie throughout the day to engage in play and affection.
Over at New Asia, Misty continues to be the clown around the newly-expanded facility. Her high energy and precocious personality put Winkie off at first and Bunny was not sure what to make of the whirling top, darting back and forth, chirping and screaming trumpets as she raced around. But it soon became clear that Misty would be the loving thread that would help bring all the girls back together. Her enthusiasm for life is helping them to recover from their recent losses. Shirley even seems to enjoy Misty's company and Misty would not have it any other way!
December 15, 2006
Today CBC came out to the Sanctuary to do a story on Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder. It is encouraging to realize that the worldwide public is interested
in this disorder which has recently been diagnosed in both captive and wild
elephants. Misty is always excited regardless of the activity and today was
no exception. The CBC crew caught Misty in action giving TIRE a thrill; a triple
November 29, 2006
Heavy equipment, including a backhoe, dozer, and transport trailer was moved
into the habitat earlier this year when Jenny's health was failing. The dozer
was used to cut a road into the habitat, dubbed Jenny's Highway, in order
to bring the transport trailer to the area where Jenny was. The trailer was
not used to transport Jenny back the barn; instead, the decision was made that
hospice care was preferred in the habitat instead of a sterile barn setting.
Immediately following Jenny’s passing, the skies opened and the rain
continued for days, off and on, for nearly a month. The backhoe, dozer, and
trailer were held hostage by mud! Finally, the skies cleared and the ground
was dry enough to remove the heavy equipment from the habitat. With the mud
and heavy equipment no longer an issue, plans can now be made for a private
memorial service for Jenny. And the trailer can be made available to transport
new elephants to the Sanctuary.
November 17 ,
Today marks the 2nd anniversary of Lota and Misty’s arrival to the Sanctuary.
Although Lota was here only a short time, her impact continues to send shock
waves across America, bringing a greater human awareness to the plight of captive
passing resulted in Misty’s solitary confinement for over a year. I am
sure from Misty’s point of view that Lota did not abandon her to live
alone for all those many months; instead, Lota freed Misty from a life of neglect
by bringing her to the Sanctuary.
We have no doubt that Lota continued to watch over Misty throughout her entire
quarantine, making the situation more bearable. Out of the most bleak of situations
comes an opportunity for growth and rebirth. Lota planted the seeds for change
and her legacy will live on, especially in all of her Hawthorn sisters
who were rescued by the Sanctuary, as a direct result of Lota’s suffering.
Misty has been released from quarantine, reunited with her dear old friend
Delhi, and continues to develop new relationships with all of her new sisters;
Bunny, Shirley, Sissy, Winkie and Tarra.
Namaste, dear Lota and Misty.
October 26, 2006
The Divas: a photo is worth a thousand words!
October 23, 2006
Shirley and Bunny continue to be consoling companions since Jenny passed away.
They are constantly together, remaining in proximity to Jenny’s grave
site along with Tarra and Bella. Although Shirley did not eat well for two days
following Jenny’s passing, she is eating well now. Tarra returned to
the barn in the early evening, and later in the night Shirley and Bunny also
made their way back to the barn. They are both a little melancholy. They are
receiving extra attention from their caregivers and flower essence to help
them work through their grieving process.
After a long season of warm weather, we had our first chilly night. For months
the elephants have remained out in the habitat with no reason to come back
to the barn since the weather was so nice. Hohenwald’s subtropical
climate is one of the many reasons we chose this area for the Sanctuary.
Mild temperatures ensure that the elephants spend the majority of their
time outside. Tonight was the first night they spent inside since last
winter. A few hours after sunset, they had all returned to the barn; Shirley
and Bunny were the last two to come in for the night and Misty was waiting
to make their acquaintance. Misty seems to enjoy meeting new elephants
and gets along well with all of them—this meeting was no different. Although
Misty wanted to run right up to Shirley and bounce around her in her Misty
style, she restrained herself long enough for Shirley to check her out.
Bunny quickly followed and then Delhi joined in. It had been months since
Delhi, Bunny, and Shirley had seen each other so it was a mini reunion.
Everyone was happy to see each other. Misty was immediately accepted into
the family and the reunion was a happy one.
October 22 , 2006
The Fall colors are amazing as the divas continue to explore their new home.
They are really settled in and enjoying each other's company.
October 17 , 2006
After months of continual personal care and non-stop supplemental
feedings, our dear Jenny has passed away.
Over the past two years countless tests were conducted in an
attempt to determine what was causing Jenny to lose weight. At first it appeared
that perhaps she was experiencing difficulty shedding a set of teeth, causing
her mouth to be sore. Veterinary prescribed treatment was given and Jenny's
eating habits and food intake returned to normal but she continued to lose
weight. Hand feedings, every two hours, were implemented to ensure that Jenny
was eating the volume of food necessary to gain back the weight she had lost.
Jenny savored the bounty of food provided as well as the added attention that
came with this new regime; she was the center of attention as all of the other
elephants gathered around to see what tidbits they could beg during Jenny's
supplemental feedings. Needless to say, Tarra got more than a fair share of
extra groceries resulting in the weight gain that we had hoped for Jenny.
Even though Jenny's weight loss was very slow, the effect, after
two years, was dramatic. The illness that eventually claimed Jenny's life continues
to go undiagnosed. All known tests were conducted with inconclusive results.
Jenny's occasional discomfort was addressed to ensure she remained pain free.
Over the past three months Jenny grew weaker but she refused to curtail her
endless exploration of the expanded habitat. With Mama Shirley at her side,
Jenny led her family over every hill and through every pasture, savoring the
sights, sounds, and smell of the world she so loved; this was Jenny's sanctuary
and she immersed herself in it from the very day that she arrived until the
moment of her death.
Last week Jenny could no longer engage in her normal foraging
and migrating activity. She chose a beautiful forested wash area to lie down
and rest until her time came to leave this world. Shirley, the closest thing
to a mother that Jenny had known, stood protectively at Jenny's side, day and
night, helping her to rise when Jenny shifted her weight to lie on her other
side. Flanked by Bunny and Tarra, they all seemed to know a serious change
was occurring. On the day before her passing, Jenny engaged her sisters in
the most profound chorus of rumbling as Carol and Scott stood witness and caressed
Jenny, allowing the vibrations to penetrate their very souls. Everyone had
accepted that Jenny was leaving and it was obvious that this group song was
an important part of Jenny's dying process, a process that excluded no one
and drew her loved ones to a most intimate space with her. The joy-filled singing
lasted for three hours. With each exhalation came a most relaxed and familiar
rumble which drew Jenny's family deeper and deeper into the ritual, with Bunny
adding a crescendo trumpet and Tarra chirping her excitement. Still, Jenny
did not pass but spent yet another blissful night with her family near by,
On Tuesday morning Jenny's breathing became labored, but at
no time did she exhibit the struggle one might expect from a dying individual.
Jenny was relaxed in her process, and when she appeared to be a little uncomfortable
her caregivers offered homeopathic remedies which allowed her to relax deeper
into her process. Once her death was accepted as imminent, every effort was
made to assist dear Jenny to move naturally and peacefully towards the other
side, neither hurrying the process, nor impeding it. Jenny made her transition
beautifully. In a blessing to herself and her family, her final days, hours
and minutes were filled with joy and love, and her passing was in the arms
of all who loved her so dearly.
At 6:35PM CST, on October 17, with her family at her side, Jenny's
breathing slowed and became shallow. She released a deep guttural sound from
the base of her trunk, bringing Bunny and Tarra immediately to her side. Shirley
had moved away, painfully sensing that Jenny's death was very near; her sorrow
was heavy. To lose Jenny for a second time was more than Shirley could bear.
For the next few minutes Jenny uttered the baritone rich vibration with each
exhale; it was not anguish, nor pain; she was calm and relaxed and appeared
to be gently announcing her departure from this world into the next. With the
grace of a swan gliding effortlessly across the clear glass surface of a pristine
lake, Jenny slipped from this world without the slightest twinge or pain; she
was gone. Tarra and Bunny remained at Jenny's side throughout the night. Bunny
remains even now, the following day, standing vigil, ever attentive to her
dear sister, Jenny.
In honor of Jenny we will play to our hearts content, sing unabashed
to the open skies and live each day with a joy that Jenny taught us. We will
not focus on sorrow, only thankfulness for the gift of having known Jenny.
October 14 , 2006
Liz and Frieda continue to expand their horizons; not in the big way the
other divas have, but in their own time and in less dramatic increments.
Today Liz and Frieda set out on an excursion that took them further than
they had traveled before. We have no idea why today, why the back 60, and
although it would be nice to know exactly why, that is less important as
the fact that they feel confident and comfortable enough to explore. These
two are quite silly. They joyfully live in their own little world, satisfied
to explore a smaller area than their sisters. Their smiling faces say it
all; they are happy.
September 12 , 2006
Liz and Frieda have formed a very loving relationship. They are constant companions,
and when they find themselves separated they both bellow and race to each
other's side. Frieda has very intense eyes. It is easy to see how her intense
expression could be mistaken for aggressive. But since her arrival at the
Sanctuary, we have come to recognize her intense eyes merely as a physical
characteristic of Frieda; the look she was born with. No matter if she is
concerned about Liz being too far away from her, or she is experiencing the
sheer pleasure of interacting with her caregivers, Frieda’s eyes are
always wide open and expressive.
September 4 , 2006
The divas enjoyed the holiday …together!
August 30, 2006
Jenny naps in the tall vegetation while Bunny and Shirley grace
the backdrop of Mother Nature at her best.
August 28, 2006
Tarra has decided that she is quite comfortable around Misty. This is all
the encouragement that Misty needed to pursue Tarra’s friendship. Today
Misty was torn between the treats on the 4-wheeler and the excitement of a
August 27, 2006
Misty is one of the family now. She loves to be in the middle of all activity.
She picks up her hay and brings it to wherever the care givers are, without
leaving Delhi too far behind. She is curious and cooperative and always incredibly
attentive to Delhi. She is a joy!
August 23, 2006
This animated gif shows Liz settling in for an afternoon nap (captures
from the Ele-Cam)
August 22, 2006
Word must have gotten out, because this morning Sissy and Winkie showed up
for Spa Day; what a scene. Delhi tried to relax into her foot soaks and shower,
but Sissy, Winkie, and Misty were all over the place, playing, checking out
the 4-wheeler, and testing the water in Delhi’s foot soak buckets. Then
Winkie decided she would like a bit of pampering herself. Two more foot soaks
coming right up! Winkie stood in her buckets longer than Delhi, savoring
the treatment and feeling quite special.
As Spa Day was coming to a close, all foot soak buckets were emptied, a
fresh supply of hay was provided for all the guests, and Tarra and Bella made
their appearance. This is the first time Tarra had met Misty and it was delightful.
Tarra chattered, as she is known to do, the entire time, being silly and acting
shy. "Acting" is the correct description because Tarra simply is not shy about
anything. She squeaked and chirped at Misty who did her own display of "excited
but shy." This relationship will definitely prove to be most interesting, as
both of these elephants believe that the only way life should be is
fun and playful. For now they settled for a polite "hello"
from a respectable distance.
August 21, 2006
Every day is spa day for Delhi, and Misty now is included. When Delhi
stepped into her foot soaks, Misty showed an interest in having her own. At
one point she tried to put one of her feet into Delhi’s already
occupied foot soak bucket, so Misty was given her own. What a treat to
watch Misty and Delhi savor the pampering; foot soaks, non-stop access
to the cool refreshing hose, treats galore and friendship; priceless.
August 20, 2006
Winkie and Sissy could hardly pull themselves away from Misty all day. Their
normal routine of heading out into the habitat was derailed, and for good
reason: they like Misty and Misty likes them. Winkie has experienced such
growth since her arrival six years ago she hardly resembles her old self. Caregivers
were curious how Winkie would react to Misty, because in the past she felt
threatened by new elephants and would act aggressive towards them in response.
We knew Misty could handle herself in such a situation; she is a wise girl
with lots of experience with dysfunctional behavior by other elephants she
has met. We were pleasantly surprised to see Winkie handle the situation
with such grace and calm. Today was glorious with three of Delhi’s friends
getting to know one another. Delhi stood in the middle grinning from ear
August 18, 2006
Misty's trailer arrived at 9:00 a.m. Within an hour she had walked into the
trailer and was ready to be transported to the other side of the Sanctuary
property. After a short ten minute drive, Misty enthusiastically walked out
of the trailer and headed over to her old friend Delhi. The reunion was beautiful
to behold. Delhi stood perfectly still as Misty approached. Misty assumed
a submissive posture which put Delhi at ease. Delhi proceeded to check out
her old friend and Misty joined her in the affectionate touches. Their interactions
were sweet and gentle; old friends reunited.
Later today Sissy and Winkie discovered the new arrival. Gregarious
Misty did not hesitate to approach Sis and Winks, anxious to make their acquaintance.
Sissy was a bit shy but Winkie showed no fear, a first for Winkie and new
elephants. The two interacted affectionately for hours with Sissy finally joining
in. Delhi, who refused to be left out of the fun, slowly walked up the hill
to be with Misty, Sis and Winks. It was obvious that these four elephants would
become an item and indeed they are, sharing meals and the cool night air.
They spent the evening and next morning together.
Today Misty was released from the quarantine yard, her home for a year and
a half, to make the journey to the new Asian barn. Since this area is not accessible
by elecam, her journey was not broadcast. Our hope was that Misty would make
the move on foot; what a joy that would be. The route was predetermined and
Misty was very cooperative. The gate to her yard was opened and she came right
out and walked with her caregivers down the road, across the creek, and up
to the hill that would pose the only challenge on her journey. Try as she might,
Misty could not scale the hill. It is steep, but we had hoped her excitement
of being out would provide the energy she would need for the short climb. Misty
made two attempts and then it was clear she was not able to climb the hill.
So we turned around and headed back to her yard. Misty had a blast on the walk
back, she crashed through the trees, took a dip in the creek, discovered china
grass which is every elephant's favorite, and finally made her way back into
her yard. Now we go to plan B. Our elephant trailer will be moved to
Misty's yard tomorrow. As soon as she loads, we will drive her to the other
side of the property and introduce her to her new and permanent home. Delhi
will be there to greet her; what a reunion that will be!
August 16, 2006
The Wildlife at Feeding Time
The elephants co-exist with many species of indigenous
wildlife which enrich their lives. Today we saw a great blue heron fishing
at the upper pond while a family of wild turkey foraged only a few feet away.
All this time the elephants peacefully grazed in the pasture below the pond.
The slide show consists of over 60 individual frames captured by the Ele-Cam.
Since there are so many images, it will take extra time to load, so please be
patient, and then Enjoy!
August 15, 2006
This afternoon the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency responded to the Sanctuary's
request to allow Misty to join the original herd of Asian elephants in the
expanded habitat. TWRA consulted with experts and responded favorably to our
request. Misty will be allowed to move out of quarantine and into the 2200-acre
habitat with Delhi her old friend, and Jenny, Tarra, Shirley, Bunny, Sissy
and Winkie, her soon-to-be new friends.
August 13, 2006
This is pretty much the constant scene at the quarantine facility; divas enjoying
the pond with good friends!
June 29, 2006
Many EleCam viewers have asked about Minnie’s mounting behavior while
in the pond. This behavior is Minnie’s way of displaying dominance towards
other elephants. The elephants tolerate the behavior and Queenie even makes
a game out of it. When she first arrived, Minnie was physically aggressive
towards several of the elephants. These were elephants she had lived with for
years in a circus environment. That dysfunctional lifestyle allowed for unresolved
personal issues to build up between the herd members. Rehab at the Sanctuary
includes the recovery from these unresolved issues. The recovery process which
is facilitated by the space and freedom the Sanctuary offers is enhanced by
homeopathic therapy. As each layer of emotional baggage melts away, the elephants
are able to form sincere loving relationships with each other. One of the most
profound changes we have seen to date is Minnie’s shift from overt aggression
towards other herd members to the mounting behavior, a very passive form of
dominance. We are very pleased with Minnie progress.
June 22 , 2006
Liz and Frieda headed out into the back 60 early this morning. For the first
time since their arrival they spent the day in the shade of the dense vegetation
and trees along the creek bottom. It was heartwarming to see Liz and Frieda
enjoying the vegetation, ample shade, and affection of their sisters.
June 20 , 2006
Liz and Frieda continue to flourish. Today when they were weighed, we were
pleased to see that Liz has gained another 200 pounds for a total weight
gain of 700 pounds. Frieda has gained an additional 450 pounds for a total
weight gain of 1250 pounds. It is surprising that these girls can still appear
thin, and it is hard to remember what they looked like when they first arrived.
Dr. Mikota visited today and commented on how good Liz looks; that is what
fresh air, good food and plenty of exercise will do for a body.
June 18 , 2006
Liz and Frieda enjoyed a late afternoon walk-about. Their affection for
each other is obvious.
June 17 , 2006
Just another diva day in paradise.
Liz and Frieda had a surprise waiting for the when they left the barn this
morning. A 24-ton load of white sand had been dumped under one of their favorite
trees. Frieda immediately went to check it out, and for two hours she and Lizzie
had a blast playing in the sand.
June 15 , 2006
Sissy and Winkie are silhouetted in this breathtaking sunset, dusting to their
hearts' content, in pachyderm paradise.
June 14 , 2006
NEWS Flash…Tarra swam in the lake for the first time today.
Once in the water, she spared no energy or enthusiasm. She thrashed, dog
paddled, and at one point breached the water followed by four legs flung
up into the air. In full abandonment Tarra immersed herself in the lake;
the first again as she always is, making the Sanctuary home!
June 4 , 2006
Sis and Winks continue to amaze their caregivers with their adventurous nature.
They spend lots of time with the other elephants, but Jenny and Shirley move
slower than Sis and Winks would like, so, after a few hours of engaging with
their sisters, Sis and Winks set off on their own. Today they entered uncharted
territory in the northern section of the habitat. This is an area that we only
acquired recently, just as the fence line was coming through. This extra land
provides more pasture and a huge farm pond perched on the top of the hill.
When Sis and Winks found the treasure, Winkie dove right in. What a change
from the tentative creature that Scott had to coax into the waist-high pond
only six years ago. Winkie and Sissy are fearless adventurers, living each
day to the fullest.
Each day the divas settle in more and more; relaxation and socializing are
favorite activities with these girls. During the cool mornings, the girls bathe
and graze, and as the day grows warmer they retreat to the shaded creek bottom
and forest where they forage and nap. Around 4:00 p.m. they begin to stir again
and usually make a trek to the pond for a communal swim. The evenings find
them grazing to their hearts' and stomachs' content.
May 21, 2006
The Divas are enjoying the warm weather, lush grass, and the company of their
sisters. After a homeopathic remedy to soften their tendency towards dominating
one another, these five are showing great progress in their individual and
group rehabilitation. After functioning in a dysfunctional community for forty
years, it comes as no surprise that this herd is unclear how to act with each
other. They have a tendency to boss each other around; a behavior they learned
from being dominated by people. But with sound management and a good example
of group cooperation, they are learning how to act like healthy elephants.
May 17, 2006
Today Sissy and Winkie made their way, all the way, to the lake. To their
great surprise, Tarra and Bella were already there and had claimed the best
camp site for the night—the top of the knoll overlooking the lake. Oh, the
wonders that await these most deserving elephants; the habitat is vast and
theirs to explore to their hearts' content!
May 15, 2006
When Shirley, Bunny and Jenny finally realized the North gate which opens
out towards the lake was open, they wasted no time. Bunny had difficulty keeping
up with her handicapped sisters who scaled the hill like mountain goats. They
savored the lush vegetation as they moved, and explored every inch of the place
until they reached the top of the hill. Early afternoon is nap time for Jenny,
so she plopped herself down on the cushion of grass and napped while Shirley
stood over her in the most majestic posture. Bunny remained close by, munching
away on the variety of vegetation that she has come to enjoy so much. After
close to an hour, Jenny woke up, and with Shirley and Bunny at her side, continued
on their trek towards the BIG WATER.
May 12, 2006
Sissy picked up a friend on her way to the lake!
Tarra’s first night by the lake was spent not in isolation, but within
feet of the resident beaver dam. We know a family of beaver conduct their lives
just under the surface of the water and dam, and obviously, Tarra was curious
about the aquatic residents. After some tracking, the place where Tarra spent
the night was located; an elephant ground nest, with the vegetation smashed
and an imprint of the side of Tarra’s body and face. It was interesting
to see that she was within feet of the beavers' home. There were no elephant
footprints on or immediately close to the dam, and no damage to the dam, so
Tarra obviously respected their space. But her nest shows that she did
sleep as close as possible without actually getting into the water with them.
What a night they all must have had!
May 11, 2006
Today was Tarra's turn to exit through the gate leading out into the expanded habitat. She wasted no time once she noticed the gate had been opened. As a matter of fact, she ran the entire way from the gate to the lake. Yes, Tarra, the inspiration for the Sanctuary, is also the first elephant to grace the lake. She and Bella ran up the trail, through the trees and out into the pasture that feeds up to the lake. Bella and Java immediately waded into the water as Tarra stood on the embankment and watched, chirping and gently reaching out toward her dogs. Then she wandered around the lake and found a lush field of tender bamboo shoots; she grazed madly. This natural vegetation is a preferred food of elephants.
While Tarra explored and grazed, Bella did her own exploring, but never far from Tarra. The two are inseparable.
May 10, 2006
The day we have all been waiting for. After too many weeks of unforeseen delays, the heavy metal gate dividing the Asian elephants from the remainder of their expanded habitat was opened. The ten year effort to create a spacious and diverse habitat for the earth's largest land mammal was finally realized.
Wouldn't you know that now that the gates could finally be permanently opened, there was not an elephant in sight. High on anticipation, caregivers loaded up a bucket of treats and drove the 4-wheeler to the north gate. The sound of the 4-wheeler is a sure way to get the elephants' attention; it is always the bearer of food, affection, and fun.
Within seconds, Sissy and Winkie came out of the woods and watched as the heavy steel gate was swung open. The engine was left idling to ensure elephants would come over and investigate. That ended up being an unnecessary lure, because as soon as Sis and Winks saw the gate being opened, they broke into a run. Trunks raised, tails sticking straight out and ears flapping vigorously, Sissy and Winkie came dashing over to the open gate and paused long enough to chirp and squeak. Sissy dropped her head for a pet, while Winkie stuck out her cantelope-sized tongue for her preferred form of affection, a tongue massage. All the while, Sissy was doing her signature pop-pop-pop trunk noise and Winkie was snorkeling her caregiver with her signature body scan, trunk style. The caregiver was kept busy accommodating both elephants at the same time; all three were absorbed in the joyous reunion. It was all ears, trunks, and tails spinning and hovering over the 4-wheeler with the caregiver they had not seen in some time. This was a Sissy, Winkie, and Carol reunion and everyone was very excited.
No encouragement was necessary for Sis and Winks to pass through the gate and into the final expansion of their habitat. They were fully engaged and happy to be chasing after the revving 4-wheeler as Carol hooted and hollered her encouragement for this familiar play activity. First Sissy was in the lead and then Winkie, and then Sissy again. At one point Scott passed on another 4-wheeler on his way to do some dozer work near the lake. Sissy and Winkie were ecstatic at his arrival, showering him with affection.
In a moment, Scott was on his way and Sis, Winks, and Carol were once again "heading for the lake". The landscape changed from open pasture, to recently clear-cut land that was rapidly recovering with sage grass, prolific blackberry bushes, and a multitude of saplings of every variety. After several more steps, the landscape again changed to the lush forest land that is typical of the elephants' habitat, with vegetation so dense in some areas that it was impossible to see the elephants as they made their way down the old logging road that so conveniently leads them from their barn into this wonderland.
As the path began to drop down, leading into the lake valley, Sis and Winkie stopped. The roar of the dozer motor caught their attention, and, surprisingly, they did not race off to investigate as they usually do. This was as far as they were going today -- a wonderful adventure already. After time spent exploring, grazing, browsing, and generally just being an elephant, Sissy and Winkie headed back towards the other elephants. The setting sun indicated that it would soon be feeding time.
It was a wonderful first day, with Sis and Winks christening the trail that soon will be a heavily trafficked corridor for all of the Asian elephants at the Sanctuary.
April 27, 2006
Check it out! How many elephants do you see? Today all eight divas could once again be seen together, spread out in the pasture. Liz, Frieda and Billie are wandering further a-field, moving further and further away from the barn. What a joy to see.
April 26, 2006
A major breakthrough; while Billie frolicked in the pond, Liz and Frieda made a surprise departure from their safe zone. With Liz in the lead, they ventured farther than ever before, leaving the area they have claimed as home for almost three months. They headed out to the pasture area known as the forty-left, and joined their grazing sisters. Their focus was on grazing and exploring the creek bottom. After four hours they were still immersed in their exploration with no indication that they would be returning to the barn any time soon.
April 21, 2006
Billie has really begun to relax. She is very comfortable with Frieda and
Liz and even Ronnie and Lottie when they stop by for a visit. Today she had
a blast in the pond.
Spring has sprung and you have never seen so many rich hues of green. The girls are exploring more and grazing non-stop. Today Queenie, Lottie and Minnie went up the hill behind the barn and spent the entire day and well into the evening immersed in their newly-discovered wonderland. As the light spring rain fell, they savored tender grasses planted by the feeding and fertilizing activities of the elephants before them; Tarra, Bunny, Shirley and Jenny loved this area of the woods, creating a grassland in the woods in the wake of their travels.
April 4, 2006
Billie spends hours in the pond; she loves it. Today she knew she was being photographed and was obviously pleased with herself. Although Billie is one of the divas that was labeled as highly dangerous, she has shown no signs of aggression since her arrival. Everyone is so happy for her.
April 3, 2006
The Divas arrived two months ago. So much has transpired since their arrival that it feels like they have been here for years. One of our focuses is to put weight on Liz and Frieda. They were quite thin when they arrived, and helping them to gain weight is a priority. Over the past two months they have received extra feedings of grain and produce each day. Along with the constant supply of quality hay, it is no surprise that they have gained weight, but we were quit surprised at the amount of weight they have gained. No wonder they are so content; they have freedom, friends, and all the food they can eat! Liz has gained 500 lbs and Frieda has gained 800 lbs. We actually reweighed both elephants, thinking that someone had misread the scale but indeed they have both had a significant weight gain and are on the road to recovery.
March 30, 2006
Just another day in paradise for Winkie, Shirley, Jenny (rising from her nap), and Bunny.
March 26, 2006
Liz, Frieda and Billie have the large pond all to themselves today and loving
March 23, 2006
Another fun filled adventure in Diva Land—for the elephants at least. Around 5:30 p.m. the girls were aimlessly grazing through the pasture when Minnie spied a herd of white tail deer foraging their way out of the woods. This is the same family of deer that cross the elephants' path twice daily, same place, same time, and the elephants are quite familiar with their activity. Today Minnie decided that she would give chase, with her family in tow. The deer flitted out of Minnie's reach, backtracked, dodged her with Minnie in hot pursuit. The deer finally made a wide circle around her until they were able to continue on their evening trek across the pasture now owned by the Divas.
Billie like the special attention she gets. Here she is following
her caregivers out in the pasture for an afternoon treat.
March 22, 2006
An animated gif from the Ele-cam shows Minnie having a blast in the upper
The Divas are on an adventure, led by Minnie. (Another animated gif from the
March 20, 2006
Liz began therapy for an infection in her foot. When she arrived, Liz had an infection between two toes on her right front foot. Although the area is very tender, we do not know the full extent of the infection. The infected area has been soaked to loosen the build up of dead skin. The overgrown skin was trimmed and now Liz participates in daily foot soaks to kill the infection and remedy the problem. Liz is cooperative and smart -- she quickly learned to place her foot into the foot soak bucket for 10 minutes. Over the next few days the time will be increased up to 20 minutes. Over the past 11 years, we have seen remarkable success with apple cider vinegar foot soaks, so we are confident that Liz will benefit from this therapy. Soon, radiographs of Liz's toes will be taken to etablish a baseline for future reference, a practice that we do with any elephant with foot or toe problems.
March 19, 2006
Lottie bellowed and the rest of the herd scrambled to her call. This afternoon, unnoticed by the other members of the herd, Lottie purposefully wandered off to climb the hill behind the barn. She walked nearly a mile from her family before bellowing the signal for them to join her. Debbie, Ronnie, Queenie and Minnie broke into a full run in response to Lottie's call, whose bellowing echoed down the valley, reminiscent of Jenny's vocalization when she wants Shirley to join her.
After a bit of organized confusion, the herd was reunited and Lottie led them on an excursion through uncharted territory -- at least uncharted by them. Today's adventure took them down Barbie Lane, a favorite location of not only Barbara, but Bunny, Jenny, Shirley and Tarra.
After sampling sprouting vegetation and tender saplings, Lottie quietly turned and headed back down the lane in the direction from which she had come. Queenie hung out with Liz, Frieda and Billie at the bottom of the hill until the others returned. The arthritis in Queenie's shoulders prevents her from climbing steep hills, for the time being. She is receiving therapy for her condition and hopefully soon she will be able to scale the hills with the others.
March 17, 2006
Before our ex-circus Divas arrived, we were warned repeatedly about Billie and Frieda's aggression towards people and Debbie's aggression towards Frieda. Thank goodness the elephants feel safe enough to shed their old defenses and mingle peacefully with each other and with their new caregivers.
March 15, 2006
How does a Queenie lie down? Gently!
Sunshine and March rains equal rapidly growing, succulent pasture
March 13, 2006
the girls enjoyed nature at her wildest… a
torrential downpour found Jenny and Shirley soaking up the rain and the
mud. What fun!
Our X-Circus Divas have discovered the benefits of nature's spa; mud baths, hours spent relaxing amongst friends and the natural exfoliation as a result of a day spent soaking up a warm spring rain...heaven. We could write volumes about how these elephants have instantaneously adapted to their new life, but one picture -- or a series of them -- is worth a thousand words.
March 9, 2006
Minnie found the perfect toy for her playful appetite...a tractor tire! As
these screen captures show, Minnie had a blast squishing the tire, even sitting
on it to try and flatten it out.
The entire famly joins in to shelter Queenie as she sleeps.
March 6, 2006
The fabulous five are once again enjoying each other's company; gently sharing trunk touches, squeaks and napping side by side. Today Debbie was observed standing over Ronnie as she napped in the pasture with Queenie, Minnie and Lottie grazing nearby. There has been a marked change in their behavior since their arrival. Initially they moved about the property quickly, insatiably, checking out every rock, fallen branch and wooded seclusion. It was as if they could not get enough, fast enough, as if they thought it would not last. Their movement was comically double time to that of our other elephants who move unhurried through the habitat. The new girls showed a thirst for new adventure and basked in their freedom, at times engaging in such abandoned rough play that they actually caused superficial wounds when they plowed fallen trees underwater or dragged branches across their face and legs. This hyperactivity was a venting, a release, and a necessary step in their process of recovery.
Today they basked calmly in the sun, ambled peacefully across the pasture, napped quietly side by side, reminiscent of the elephants that inhabited this valley before them. Now they are beginning to look like and act like healthy elephants, comfortable with their new-found freedom, unhurried and confident that this is more than a lay-over, time off, or a vacation; this is their new life. They are definitely settling in.
March 5, 2006
Liz, Frieda and Billie have become quite an item. They spend all of their time together and even share a section of the barn at night. Although originally Billie mixed with the fabulous five, Liz and Frieda preferred to stay a little to themselves. Who could blame them; thin and physically compromised, they felt intimidated when the big girls were rough-housing. After a few days Billie left the bigger herd and joined Liz and Frieda. At first she was only with them in the pasture during the day but separated at night, but is was soon quite clear that Billie did not intimidate Liz and Frieda and that they enjoyed her company. So now, day and night, inside or out, these three are together. Some days Billie hikes up the hill behind the barn to browse in the pines and hardwoods and other days she can be found grazing side by side with Liz and Frieda. They share a contagious peacefulness.
March 3, 2006
Happy 11th anniversary to Tarra!
March 2, 2006
Minnie and her sisters discovered the upper pond and of course Minnie had
to check it out. The small, self-inflatable ball was no contest for Minnie;
she finally flattened it and used it as a hat!
Many ele-fans e-mailed asking about the shoving match they saw today on the
EleCam while the new girls were romping in the pond. We don't know what triggered
it, but Lottie and Minnie started pushing Debbie around. They had a shoving
match with no clear winner and broke it up when they saw that dinner was being
served. The four-wheeler, "meals on wheels", is a great distraction. Some dysfunctional
behavior will take time to change!
March 1, 2006
Late this afternoon, the fabulous 5 were in the pond having a grand-old-time. Their energy and excited level increased until it seemed to become more like frenzy. In a flash of a moment their interactions switched from playful to agitated. Minnie and Lottie started crowding their good friend Debbie in a way that appeared to be more than playful. Debbie made an effort to exist the pond and Minnie cut her off by maneuvering in front of her and using her head as a blockade. Lottie assisted Minnie in her effort to contain Debbie while Queenie and Ronnie moved out of the pond and out of the way. Not a sound was uttered; not a squeak, grunt, trumpet or moan, it was deafeningly silent, with the exception of splashing as massive legs struggled to get a foot hold in the muddy pond. Debbie continued to try and exit the pond and finally succeeded but Minnie and Lottie continued to try and prevent Debbie from leaving.
Once on dry ground a mighty pushing match ensued. Although it was very difficult to watch these seemingly good friends engaged in what appeared to be less than loving activity, we were fully aware that 40 years of pent up frustration might very likely be dealt with in this manner. Captive elephants, kept on chains and controlled by humans for years, harbor resentment that they many never exhibit until put into a situation where they feel safe to show their true emotions. Sadly, it is all too common for captive elephants to fight with each other. Although once settled in at the Sanctuary we do not see this phenomenon, we realize it is part of the healing process that some elephants have to go through.
Being kept in a dysfunctional situation for years can result in built up resentments towards not only their capturers but to their own herd members as well, due to a history of being denied the opportunity to interact naturally. After three weeks of experiencing what could be viewed as sensory overload of too much excitement, too much freedom, too much of all that is different and natural, the inevitable occurred, the unexpected flood of emotions that have been too long denied. It was difficult to watch the girls be so rough on each other but we are aware that these elephants have lived decades of an existence that will takes a great deal of time to work through. This is part of their recovery and another reason why space is so important. With space the elephants can work through their unresolved issues with the ability to avoid each other or engage, without fear of being cornered in a small yard or barn. Minnie, Lottie and Debbie are fine; a little sore, a little less active, but after 4 decades of being denied natural behavior and interactions with each other, this is all part of the process.
February 27, 2006
So comfortable, so relaxed, life is good. The new girls have settled in to
their new life quite effortlessly. Minnie, Lottie, Queenie, Ronnie and Debbie
are the active five you see on the EleCam continually. The camera operator
can hardly keep up with their constant movement. Inquisitive and playful, a
seriously bonded herd, these elephants are living each day to the fullest.
February 25, 2006
The founding herd—Tarra, Jenny, Shirley, Bunny, Sissy, Winkie and Delhi—are
doing great. They have made a smooth transition in their new home. Delhi
has a special sand path from the barn out to the pasture to protect her sensitive
feet; Jenny and Shirley find the open pasture napping equal to that of their
original sanctuary digs. They have not discovered the lake yet…but
just wait until they do.
February 17, 2006
Wonder what the new girls are up to? Well when they are not grazing, napping,
playing, browsing, stalking whitetail deer, climbing hills and exploring creek
beds, they are swimming!
February 14, 2006
Happy 32nd Birthday Tarra, the inspiration for the Sanctuary!
February 12, 2006
One of the most unusual sights in Hohenwald, besides elephants, is snow. Jenny
enjoys the beauty while it lasts, which is not long; hours at the most.
The EleCam captured a day in the life of an ex-circus elephant living at the
February 9, 2006
After an uneventful trip, Billie and Frieda arrived at the Sanctuary at 12:00 p.m. CST and off-loaded from the trailer effortlessly. They joined their sisters within minutes of their arrival. These are the last of the eight Hawthorn elephants contracted to move to the Sanctuary. The Sanctuary hopes that Gypsy, the lone female that remains at the Hawthorn facility will be allowed to join her family in the near future.
Today is a day of rejoicing; all eight Hawthorn elephants have arrived safely. After months of preparation and weeks of anxiety, this day has finally arrived. We had little do to with the exact date that all the girls would be here -- delays seemed to be the only constant. But at the end of the day, when everyone heaved a heavy sigh of relief someone said, "Do you realize this is Lota's anniversary, the one year anniversary of her death?" With all of our focus on the rescue of her sisters, the fact that it had been one year to the day that Lota had passed had escaped us. We find it ironic and deeply touching that this special day would be marked by Lota's departure from the deprived life she lived and the freedom she was responsible for securing for all of her sisters. Lota's life and suffering was the catalyst for the rescue of the herd of elephant that she shared a decade with; she gave them the greatest gift possible, freedom.
February 8, 2006
Billie and Frieda loaded into the trailer, voluntarily, in less than 30 minutes. Unfortunately, a paperwork oversight delayed their departure by a few hours.
February 6, 2006
At 6:00 p.m., after a stand-off by the Hawthorn Corporation, Debbie and Ronnie were finally allowed to be the next two elephants to depart for Tennessee. Although the loading was delayed by several hours, Debbie and Ronnie are still scheduled to arrive at the Sanctuary tomorrow at 12:00 noon, CST.
Meanwhile -- on this gloriously sunny day, the new arrivals set out on an adventure up
the hill behind their barn towards the southern section of their 200-acre habitat.
Climbing is no challenge to these girls. The vegetation and unexplored area
was the attraction.
A Tribute to Winkie from a Friend
February 4, 2006
The new girls have wasted no time exploring their surroundings and utilizing
the many benefits of sanctuary life. Contrary to the claims of an ill-informed
few, elephants do not spend their time standing at the fence waiting for
hand outs; they are too busy exploring their world, but only if it is large
and diverse enough to hold the attention of such an intelligent animal. The
key to a healthy life and natural behavior for captive elephants is SPACE.
It seems so simplistic and it is. These huge gregarious creatures thrive
on space and family and wither from the lack of it.
If we are able to give
our elephants only one thing, then the choice would be space, because
with it the benefits abound. Space enables elephants to make intuitive decisions
regarding their activities. It allows for distancing from other elephants
when they may feel insecure, stimulates their adventurous/curious nature
and satisfies their need to immerse themselves in nature. With this one
single option, SPACE, elephants can recovery from captivity-induced disease
and rediscover themselves, even remake themselves as has been the case with
so many of our rescued residents. The recently rescued Hawthorn elephants,
our X-Circus Divas, are proof positive that SPACE has a profound impact on
a captive elephant’s recovery and wellbeing.
February 3, 2006
Minnie, Lottie, and Queenie have an adventure.
February 2, 2006
Liz and Queenie arrived today without incident. Both their loading and unloading was trouble free. Liz was fearless as she explored the barn and later the habitat. Queenie was overjoyed when she saw that her dear friends Lottie and Minnie were there to greet her.
Minnie and Lottie are comfortable with their new routine; breakfast, a bath
and then a full day of freedom to decide what they want to do and when. First
thing this morning they headed out into Jenny’s wash to scratch on trees
and throw dirt onto their backs. They then headed out to the pasture looking
for new adventures—little did they know that two of their sisters were in-route
and schedule to arrive this day at noon. A reunion was sure to be the event
of the day.
When Queenie and Liz arrived, everything was ready for them. Queenie had loaded
facing Liz so she would need to back out of the trailer, which proved to be
no problem at all. Slowly, she placed each foot carefully on the ramp, making
sure she was on a solid surface. Several tentative steps later and she was
standing in her new barn watching Liz as she gracefully and without hesitation
exited the trailer moments later. Liz was a surprise: thin, gaunt but alert
and calm. She headed over to the food that had been placed out on the floor
and proceeded to demonstrate a healthy appetite. In the meantime Queenie discovered
the hanging tire, a favorite toy of all the elephants. This toy is suspended
by a padded chain from a trolley that slides back and forth along a metal track
overhead. Queenie grabbed the tire and flung it sideways sending it screaming
along the beam and crashing with a bang at the end of the track. The noise
is deafening but the elephants enjoy it immensely.
Show (Caravan to Freedom Girls)
February 1, 2006
At 4:00 p.m. Queenie and Liz, the second set of Hawthorn elephants destined for the Sanctuary, were loaded into the Sanctuary's trailer for their trip to Tennessee. The loading was uneventful; both elephants loaded cooperatively. They are scheduled to arrive tomorrow around 12:00 noon, CST.
Lottie and Minnie have settled right in. They are eating well,
drinking from the automatic waterer and exploring their new home with abandonment.
Minnie spent hours playing with her new barn toys. All through the night
and into the early hours of the morning the banging and clanging of many hanging
toys could be heard echoing through the barn and down the pasture valley.
After their baths, Minnie and Lottie were ready to head out and explore. They
spent only a few minutes in Jenny’s wash scratching on trees and then
headed out to the pasture. Lottie appears to be the leader, which is surprising
since Minnie is the larger of the two. Lottie leads and Minnie follows.
A caregiver went into the habitat to introduce the new girls to the 4-wheeler—they
loved it. This is when a shift was noticed; Minnie took the lead, running
along side the 4-wheeler, spinning around in circles and trumpeting loudly.
Lottie followed, chirping and rumbling wildly. When they got to the creek crossing,
both Lottie and Minnie crossed without hesitation and went up the pasture
on the South side of the property. They stopped to survey the landscape and
engage in gentle trunk touches and caresses, talking to each other in low rumbles
and squeaks. After a few minutes, Lottie again in the lead, they set out
for the woods. Minnie threw herself into the adventure—pushing on trees, cracking
branches and digging up the soft forest floor. She plopped herself down on
the padded ground and wallowed around in sheer joy. Lottie joined her, oblivious
to anything but their freedom.
For the remainder of the day they explored,
sampled the wild vegetation, and sent trumpets echoing up the valley. When
the sun began to set they, without prompting, returned to the barn for
a well-deserved banquet of hay, grain and produce, apparently ready to settle
in for the night.
to Freedom Girls)
The pine forests provide not only shelter but a warmer environment than
the hardwood forest. It is documented that the temperature in a pine forest
is 10 degrees warmer than an open area or other forests. So the girls,
in their great wisdom, can be found in the pines a lot these days.
January 31, 2006
Lottie and Minnie arrived at the Sanctuary at 12:00 noon. Their trip was
uneventful; they remained calm throughout the trip. Lottie had loaded into
the trailer first, so she would be second to unload. Minnie, on the other hand,
had backed into the trailer, which gave her a full view of everything unfolding
as preparations were being made for her unloading. She watched curiously. When
the final bar was removed, Minnie effortlessly stepped down from the trailer
into the barn. She immediately found the hanging toy and swung it around, then
turned to face Lottie who was still in the trailer. Scott removed the bars
in front of Lottie and she calmly stepped out of the trailer. The two elephants
exchanged affectionate touches and soft whispers with their heads held close
together. Without a bit of apprehension, both Lottie and Minnie entered the
restraint chute and stood on the scale. Lottie went in first, weighing 8,550,
and then "tanker Minnie", weighing a whopping 11,130 pounds. Minnie is our
new heavyweight Sanctuary resident, even bigger than Shirley and Misty.
Lottie proceeded to the exit door, stuck her head through the rubber flaps,
momentarily stopping, and then walked right outside. It was amazing to see
her and Minnie exit the barn and enter the habitat in such a graceful, confident
manner, exploring every inch of their new surroundings as they went.
The remainder of their day was filled with exploration and the uninvited intrusion
of playful dogs as they ran past, engaged in their own adventure, completely
oblivious of the newcomers.
Slide Show (Caravan to Freedom Girls)
The relocation of our founding herd was effortless and all of the girls are settling in nicely to their new, expanded habitat. Shirley, at 60+ years, still knows how to entertain herself and find fun in the natural gifts that Sanctuary life provides.
Slide Show (Founding Herd)
January 30, 2006
At 4:00 p.m. two of the Hawthorn elephants, Minnie and Lottie, were loaded into the Sanctuary's trailer for their trip to Tennessee. The loading was uneventful as would be expected from seasoned circus performers. They are scheduled to arrive tomorrow around 12:00 noon, CST.
January 26, 2006
Yesterday Sissy moved to the new barn; she brought along her best friends Winkie and "tire". She has come a long way from the shy, frightened elephant that arrived six years ago.
January 25, 2006
First thing this morning Delhi was given access to the ele-taxi, and before photos could be snapped she was in and ready to go. Interestingly, she backed into the trailer. We have noticed that Delhi will back down steep embankments, perhaps in an attempt to not put too much pressure on her front feet which suffer from osteomyelitis, but we did not expect her to back "up" into the trailer. Of course, it did put her in a perfect position to walk directly out the back of the trailer when we arrived at the new barn. All the other elephants came over to see who the new arrival was. Tarra, the unofficial greater, came over to the gate immediately when she heard the trailer approach and rushed in to see Delhi before she was completely out of the trailer.
Once Delhi was all settled in, it was Sissy and Winkie’s turn—but they did not ride, they walked. This was their second excursion to the new barn. They were calm and made the trip in record time. Jenny, Shirley, Bunny, Delhi and Tarra were standing on the top of the hill when Sis and Winks arrived. They welcomed the remaining members of their herd and then all settled in for some serious napping.
January 24, 2006
The migration of our resident elephants began today. We knew Tarra would be anxious to get to the new barn, but Bunny surprised us by moving in that direction as soon as she left the barn in the morning. Without hesitation, she made her way down the mile long valley with Tarra in the lead and after a short pause to sample the vegetation, climbed the hill leading to the new barn. Tarra was so excited, chirping and talking to Bunny the entire way.
Later that evening when Jenny and Shirley returned to the barn, the trailer was waiting for them. Both loaded into the ele-taxi and were driven to the new barn. Once they unloaded from the trailer they were greeted by Bunny and Tarra with bellows, chirps and excited trunk touches. It was like a mini reunion.
Sissy, Winkie and Delhi remained at the old barn for the night. Their move will begin tomorrow.
January 4, 2006
The breakthroughs are never ending. Today was a huge day for Winkie. It took several years before Winkie would sleep in the barn and even longer before she would lie down outside at night. BUT today was the first time that Winkie was observed lying down outside, in broad daylight. This may seem like a small thing, but truly a breakthrough for Winkie, a sign that she continues to grow more and more comfortable in her environment, comfortable enough to assume the most vulnerable position possible.
Animated gif showing Winkie lying down (this may take a few seconds to load)