August 6, 2012

Ronnie and Debbie
Ronnie & Debbie wading leisurely in their pond


There is nothing better than watching our Girls just being elephants, experiencing the joys of each new season together as they explore their Sanctuary.

In Q-Barn, Caregiver Lindsay gives us a glimpse of what a summer afternoon in Sanctuary is truly like for our Girls: "The other day I was getting ready to clean the barn and I heard splashing in the pond behind me.  I ran over and saw Debbie splashing and playing.  She had her butt up in the air and she had her head to one side dunking it underneath the water. Then she would switch and get the other side of her face.  Every once in a while you would see her kick out a leg and make a big splash. I couldn't help but giggle and think of a little kid playing in a mud puddle. I began to wonder where Ron was because if you see either Deb or Ron the other one is never far away. Then I looked up and saw Ronnie sprinting down the fence line to come join Deb. It was the cutest thing and I can just imagine Debbie calling her and saying "You have to come join me, this is the best ever!" It was great to see them taking advantage of a cool bath on a hot day and a great moment I will always remember."

In Africa - The Girls have been very mobile this past week, moving all over their habitat. Their huge mud wallows are still a favorite pastime, and both coat themselves with a natural sunblock of thick, red Tennessee mud daily, which also helps to keep them cool and prevent bug bites.

Caregivers are the ones having to find more creative ways to stay cool (as covering themselves in thick red mud makes it a bit difficult to work) so freeze-pops are now the preferred staple of daily life at the Africa Barn. Cooling off between tasks is not only a relief, but necessary, to avoid the ill effects of being out in the sun and heat. According to Caregiver Angela "Freeze pops and a big fan, or sometimes an air-conditioner, are very much appreciated during these summer months."

Flora continues to do well with blood draws, being consistent, calm and cooperative during her sessions.  She is setting a wonderful example and Tange is now showing more consistency during the sessions as well.  Making slight additions and modification to training walls seems an endless pursuit these days as Kyle was just down in Africa along the Pipeline measuring for new PC walls to be installed.

Despite the sometimes oppressive heat we experience in the Summer months here, you can always count on the Facilities staff to continue making improvements out in the habitat that directly affect the Girls. Jay, Kyle, Daniel, and Wade all played a hand in a project in the heart of the Asian Habitat that is now opening a new era in The Sanctuary's Elephant Husbandry. It took nearly 80 man hours, according to Joe, Director of Facilities Development, for the team to build and install our first Protected Contact training wall on a corral out in the center of the Asian Habitat.

Now, the Caregivers can ride ATVs directly into the protective structure, and then ask the Girls to come over for any necessary work to ensure their health and well-being. As always, the elephants are free to walk away at any time. While we do have multiple PC walls throughout the perimeter fences in the habitats – this new interior PC Corral allows for PC training sessions and health assessment to be conducted right out in center of Asia. While the elephants are free to roam throughout the acres and acres of their habitat, the Caregivers are confined to an enclosure!  It's like a complete reversal of the traditional zoo setting!


Winkie stops by the Corral and enjoys her manicure —
just a short part of her day as she explores her habitat.


In the images below, Winkie has been kind enough to offer her front left foot for a little manicure work by Caregiver Katie, while Caregiver Laurie offers Winkie some chopped fruits and vegetables. The barrier allows all of us, the humans and the elephants, to interact in a stress-free environment, and Winkie seems to enjoy the comfort of knowing that she has her own space. In the images, Winkie's pre-soak hosing has been completed and now it's time for a ten minute soak in a shallow tub. Caregiver Katie slipped a black rubber tub through the pipes and Winky, always helpful, repositioned it to her own liking using her trunk and her foot. As Caregiver Katie prepares to fill the tub, Winkie enjoys a nice fruit salad.

Katie and Winkie
Caregiver Katie gets ready to fill the tub for Winkie
Laurie treats Winkie to a fruit salad
Katie passes Winkie the tub while Laurie treats Winkie to a fruit salad
When the soaking is done, Winkie shows us just how brilliant she is - when asked she graciously picked up the tub and gently offered it back to her Caregivers.  Caregivers are so proud of Winkie's progress and are always encouraging her with cheers and positive reinforcement following each interaction. The image of Winkie at the PC wall, with her partially closed eye, is reflective of a relaxed, content, calm elephant, enjoying  positive, protected attention during a brief part of her day - spent otherwise in Sanctuary, enjoying freedom to roam hundreds of acres of woodlands with her buddy Sissy.

 

Winkie totally relaxed and calm
Winkie calm, content, and relaxed.

Caregivers caught a quick video of Winkie gently passing her foot soak tub back to them once she was finished, while Caregivers remained a safe distance away, out of her trunk's reach, still continuing to praise Winkie for her cooperation. 

 
 
If you missed the Elecam Encounter that posted on Friday, Click Here to watch the video of Caregivers giving Sissy and Winkie a pedicure in the new PC Training Corral in Asia.