Zula & Tange's Diary
It has been exactly six short weeks since Tange and Zula were introduced to the trailer that will transport them to their new home. Thanks to the thoughtful support of their keepers, Kathi Murray, Barbara Anderson and John Joseph Brown, Tange and Zula have overcome their fear of entering and being held inside the trailer.
By incorporating the trailer introduction into their daily routine, the elephants have been given the time and support to become comfortable with a situation that otherwise could cause unnecessary stress. Each day meant new challenges for the elephants and their keepers who managed to create and maintain a healthy situation using only positive reinforcement.
Tange now matches Zula in her comfort level inside the trailer. Although Zula has been ready to move for weeks, she has been patient with Tange who had a few more fears to overcome.
February 4, 2004
Dr. Lori Tapp has been working with Tange's keepers to help her work through her fear of entering the transport trailer.Together their efforts are paying off. Dr. Tapp prescribed gelsemium sempervrens to help Tange deal with her fear. This particular homeopathic remedy addresses an individual's fear or distrust of a new situation especially when there is an expectation of performance involved, kind of like when a human experiences stage fright. Of course, we would not call this stage fright; Tange is an elephant and does not see this situation the same way we do, but her body is reacting in the same way to the situation. The remedy appears to be the right choice at this time as Tange has settled down and is entering the trailer readily. To her keepers' surprise, Tange has chosen to enter the trailer from the side door and stand in her compartment backwards. As far as everyone is concerned Tange can stand anyway she likes as long as she is comfortable.
Since Tange is making such great progress we have scheduled the move date. Tange and Zula will load into their trailer late in the day Feb 17 and will arrive at the Sanctuary the next morning Feb 18. We hope to have the AfriCam set up and ready to broadcast this monumental event!
January 30, 2004
Zula continues to be a steller student, more comfortable each day in the trailer. The past couple of days the elephant keepers have focused on getting Tange comfortable enough to come further inside the trailer and sort of left Zula to do her own thing...and she has. Zula was observed "loading herself" several times, calmly walking in the side door of the trailer, moving into place in her personal compartment and then standing quietly eating hay. After a short time she would exit the trailer and then turn around and reload herself again with no keeper prompting at all.
January 23, 2004
It was Tange's turn today and she did great. With Zula off in another area of the yard distracted by an attentive keeper with lots of treats, Tange was given time to further explore the trailer. Although she chose not to go all the way to the front of trailer, she did enter the trailer getting all four feet inside.
January 22, 2004
A Banner Day!!! Zula went all the way inside the trailer. This is wonderful news. Zula decided that she wanted to go inside the trailer to investigate. Knowing the elephants as Kathi does, she decided to hang out inside the trailer. The idea was that the elephants would be interested in coming all the way inside the trailer to see what Kathi was doing...it worked. Zula is now very comfortable walking all the way inside the trailer and stopping to munch on hay. She was so proud of herself that she would not share the glory with Tange. These two elephants have lived together their entire lives, they know each other very well. Tange was satisfied to watch as Zula was the center of attention; her time will come...soon.
During a second session in the afternoon Zula proved to be a stellar and cooperative student. Kathi decided to give Zula an opportunity to familiarize herself with the pipe that will divide her from Tange during the trip. Zula was completely relaxed as she entered the trailer and walked all the way to the front where John was positioned with treats. The side door of the trailer was open so that Zula could exit at any time if she wanted. Everyone was pleased to see that Zula remained in the trailer completely calm, enjoying the attention she was receiving for her accomplishments. Even After Kathy slid the pipe into place behind Zula she did not react negatively. In fact, she did not react at all. After taking a step back and feeling the pipe against her back legs she hesitated for a moment and then took a step forward and continued to eat. Zula, Tange and their keepers deserve praise for their accomplishments.
January 19 - 21, 2004
Tange and Zula have grown familiar with the trailer to the point of boredom. They are not interested in investigating the trailer any further than their current status of four feet barely inside the rig. Now the keepers are challenged to find a way to interest the elephants without using negative reinforcement or deprivation. This is a very exciting time in the conditioning process. The elephants are clearly communicating that they need to have a reason to investigate further. Kathi and her team will now draw on their in-depth knowledge of both elephants and use their relationships to go to the next level.
January 12-15, 2004
Kathi calls in every day to give a fresh update on the progress made by Tange and Zula. It is always good news and interesting to hear how these wild-caught elephants are dealing with their keepers' expectations of them walking inside a metal box not much wider then they are. From the reports it appears everyone, keepers and elephants, is having fun and learning a lot from the experience.
John called to give the report on Wednesday. The pride he feels for Tange and Zula was evident in his voice as he reported the great job they had done. John has years of experience in the animal care field and is well known for his capture and restraint expertise with a wide variety of wild animals. He reported that Zula had once again walked up the ramp and placed her front feet inside the trailer as Tange calmly stood by and watched. Several times he stated how wonderful it is to allow the elephants the time to get comfortable with the trailer and not force them inside. In the ultimate compliment to Kathi and Barbara, John praised the insight of his fellow keepers, recognizing Kathi for her skills, claiming he was "learning so much".
January 10 & 11, 2004
After a few days of rain and cold temperatures, Tange and Zula were able to spend some quality time with their trailer. They are making progress.
Kathi has scheduled three conditioning sessions per day. The length of the session is completely dependent on the elephant and its attention. Some sessions run longer than others.
The keepers decided that the metal ramp leading up to the trailer was too much of a distraction, so it was removed and replaced it with a mound of dirt, a material the girls are very familiar with.
Tange walked right up the dirt ramp and placed a front foot inside the trailer. This may sound like a small success, but actually things are progressing as expected. It is reasonable for the elephants to take it slow and easy each step of the way. Zula also put one front foot inside the trailer, but her entrance was through the side door.
The dirt ramp was extended inside the trailer a few feet. This worked well the first day and the second day the elephants decided they wanted to know what was underneath the dirt. Just playing it safe. Smart girls!
January 8, 2004
The local Albany, GA media came out to watch as Tange and Zula's trailer conditioning continued. Zula likes a crowd and tends to want all of their attention for herself. Acting theatrical usually accomplishes that goal. While Zula danced around the yard, the trailer, Tange and her keepers, Tange once again explored the ramp and trailer. Both elephants made progress and the media had the opportunity to see what it takes to condition a wild animal to something unfamiliar.
January 4, 2004Today was the first day Tange and Zula were able to see inside the trailer and for their keepers to see how interested they would be in walking inside. As the crew prepared to introduce Tange and Zula to the trailer, Kathi motioned to all of us to look around the side of the trailer. There were Tange and Zula, oblivious to our presence, thrashing around in their custom-made mud hole. They spent close to 20 minutes completely immersed in their play. Kathi and Barbara remarked at how unusual it was to see the elephant engage in such carefree play while a group of people were inside their yard. It was even rarer to see both elephants lie down in the mud hole together at the same time. After covering themselves with a thick layer of rich Georgia clay, Tange and Zula emerged from the mud hole and stood facing the trailer. It was obvious that they were ready for their introduction to the trailer. Kathi warned that the trailer was going to end up a muddy mess!
Both elephants had a blast checking out the inside of the trailer with their trunks. Tange walked right up to the ramp and proceeded to climb up getting three feet on the ramp. She almost put her fourth foot on the ramp but not quite. A large crowd of zoo patrons gathered on the observation deck and watched as Tange and Zula began the process of familiarizing themselves with the trailer. At one point Tange had part of her head inside the trailer and Zula decided she wanted in on all the fun. At that point both elephants were standing side by side at the back of the trailer. They took turns testing the ramp and reaching inside the trailer. Another very positive day.
January 3, 2004
Angie maneuvered the elephant trailer down a narrow drive to the elephant yard. With precision she jockeyed the big rig around and parked it inside the elephant yard. The day before, fresh dirt had been used to fill mammoth holes in the yard created by the elephants playing in the mud. The dirt did not pack as well as expected and the truck got stuck. No problem; maintenance was radioed. Minutes later they arrived with a tractor and pulled the truck free.
At 11:00 a.m. EST Tange and Zula waited as the trailer was parked while Kathi reassured them.
At 4:00 p.m.Tange and Zula had their first opportunity to get close to the transport trailer. Kathi Murray has cared for Tange and Zula for 15 years. She knows them very well and suggested that a calm introduction, with no expectations of the girls having to climb inside the trailer right away, was best. Barbara Anderson and John Joseph Brown, the elephants' other keepers agreed with the plan.
Tange and Zula were allowed into the area where the trailer was parked. They were escorted by their keepers with words of encouragement and treats. Both elephants gently investigated the trailer, walking all the way around it. They were calm and interested and continued to respond to the input from their keepers. At one point Zula reached under the trailer to investigate. In a normal tone of voice Kathi asked Zula not to mess with anything under the trailer. Zula removed her trunk and proceeded to investigate other areas of the trailer. Both elephants were interested in the trailer and did not show any signs of fear or concern. In fact, they seemed pleased to have access to something more their size!
Ending on a very positive note, Barbara, John, Kathi, Tange and Zula concluded the introduction with treats and praise and headed off to the barn.
January 2, 2004
Angie Lambert arrived at the Sanctuary to pick up the elephant trailer for delivery to Chehaw Wild Animal Park in Georgia. Angie's first experience with an elephant transport was this past August when she offered to help move Tina from Canada. Since that time Angie moved Delhi and is now preparing to move Tange and Zula.