April 26, 2013

A Trunk Like No Other

Liz

Elephants belong to the order of Proboscidia, which is derived from the ancient Greek words for “in front” and “to feed.” This order contains all mammals with a long appendage protruding from the face that is used to breath and to feed…a trunk. An elephant’s trunk may well be the feature for which it is best known. Whereas other big, grazing mammals evolved long necks to get their mouths closer to the ground and their food source, the elephants evolved an appendage that would bring their food source to them. The trunk is made up of six major muscle groups with over 100,000 individual muscle units. On average, an elephant can lift about 4.5% of its own body weight with the trunk. To compare the trunk to human morphological features, it is a combination of the upper lip, nose, arm, and hand all packed into one amazing appendage.  For an elephant not to have the use of its trunk would be an devastating disability. 

Luckily, no one told that to Liz. By now, most of you are aware that Liz came to The Sanctuary without the full use of her trunk. The cause of this partial paralysis is unknown. The bottom, prehensile portion of Liz’s trunk works normally. You may compare it to having full use of your hand, but not having control over the rest of your arm.  What is known is that Liz is able to utilize her trunk in nearly every way that the other Girls utilize theirs, albeit in a different fashion. Whereas Tarra or Winkie may grab a load of hay with their trunk then deliberately curl it upwards to her mouth, Liz lifts her head back to swing her trunk like a pendulum to get the contents of her trunk to their desired destination. Lizzie feeds herself, drinks, dusts, scratches, sniffs, and ably performs most other normal elephant behaviors with her visibly thinner trunk. Liz has overcome a tremendous setback, and The Sanctuary is proud to be able to share this recent video of Lizzie and her very unique trunk and skill set at work. 

Remembering Barbara
This week, we have been remembering Barbara, the second resident of The Elephant Sanctuary.  She found Sanctuary on April 25, 1996 and passed away in 2001.