April 9, 2012
Shirley's recent travels took her into the area of the habitat the Caregivers call the Black Berry Gauntlet, where she remained for several weeks. During the cooler evenings, Shirley preferred to stay there, in the midst of the tightly packed pine trees, where the temperatures are warm. Since Shirley has been spending almost all of her time off-camera and deep in the habitat lately, our Elecam followers were thrilled to see Shirley and Tarra dining together for breakfast this week near the North Well. We also captured the footage of Shirley's morning meal and shower and posted it to The Elephant Sanctuary's Facebook page. Keep an eye out for our periodic new postings called "Elecam Encounters" for those of you who can't tune into the Elecam during working hours. After breakfast, Shirley was also seen on the Elecam diligently working on pulling down a tree branch with her trunk and having a grand old time. Now that the weather is warmer, Shirley has wandered down to the lake and has been there in the good company of Tarra for most of this week.
Last Wednesday night Caregiver Laurie opened the North and Lake gates so Sis, Winks, and Tarra could venture into the North Yard. The three spend a good part of the afternoon moseying around; it was nice to see them enjoying a leisurely afternoon together. Late Thursday afternoon, after a day exploring in the habitat, Sis and Winks came down on the Lake Road and were spotted near the Asian Barn. After Caregivers delivered their hay, Sissy and Winkie expertly maneuvered their back ends to block advances from Tarra, who was trying her hardest to sneak a taste.
Thursday morning, Steve, Director of Elephant Husbandry, and the Caregivers continued their Protected Contact training with several of the Girls in Asia Barn. While all the Girls are progressing nicely, Winkie was very eager to participate and did particularly well! This week Laurie and Steve rode out to Marcella's and Winkie was very excited when she approached them. She was vocalizing good, cheerful sounds, and every action conveyed her enthusiasm and happiness.
During her PC training, Caregiver Katie treated Winkie, who was very gentle about taking her treats. She did not display any aggressive behavior. Steve did the manicures and introduced Caregiver Laurie into the session. Laurie was able to touch both Winkie's foot and ear, and though Winkie appeared a tiny bit apprehensive, it was a big and wonderful step forward for Winkie. Said Steve, "The goal is not for Winkie to have a favorite Caregiver but to understand that we all mean well... It's the sharing of positive interactions, actions to build and foster trust, so we can care for them without them feeling they need to react with fear. It's a challenge, but I can't think of any better challenge and I can't think of any better reward than when we see and hear Winkie's displays of contentment and happiness."
Over at Q
Vet Tech Deb says that Frieda is a wonderful patient, and that the condition of her feet has been consistently improving with the daily foot soaks and the foot care facilitated through Protected Contact training. Frieda really enjoys the water, and the Caregivers were inspired to bring in a new toy for her to play with. Creative Caregivers Kelly and Justina borrowed a sprinkler from Carol D. and set it up on two overturned buckets, so that the spray would arch up high and over Miss Frieda's head. To ensure the fun would last more than a single day, the apparatus was wisely constructed outside the fence. Frieda crowded right up next to it, reaching her trunk up high and opening her mouth to catch the spray as it sprinkled down. She also raised her trunk up and under, catching the droplets as they rained down with the tip of her trunk. Frieda really got into it, tilting her head to and fro to let the water spray get every inch of her head wet, and Billie took advantage of the spray, too. Sweet Liz stood behind her, observing the antics. Eventually Carol D.'s flowers might start missing their sprinkler, so the Q Caregivers have requested one be added to the Wish List!
Steve and all of the Q Barn Caregiver staff have really been working with Billie to help her overcome her apprehensions, and their efforts were rewarded this week with very positive interactions between Billie and Caregiver Ashleigh. In preparation for Liz's TB treatments, Caregivers ask Billie to follow them to a different area of the habitat every morning. This request is not easy, for Billie and her Caregivers are typically met with both reluctance and possibly, suspicion, when they ask her to leave the barn and go into the habitat. Caregiver Ashleigh describes Billie's reaction, "It's amazing just how LONG Billie can make herself. She would stretch all four feet out REALLY wide, straddling the exit/entrance to the barn while she REACHED out with her trunk" attempting to grasp the treats being offered by her Caregivers for her cooperation. If Billie stretched out really wide, it was impossible to shut the barn gate behind her. It was not unusual for Billie to implement a "two steps forward, one step back shuffle" as she reached for her treats and then retreated back across the threshold. This behavior was clearly a sign of her not being comfortable leaving the barn, at which point Ashleigh would playfully try to coax her out, asking "Are we dancing, Billie?" But this week, thanks to new positive reinforcement techniques suggested by Steve, full apples being given as the reward (four cut up pieces just won't do), and the unfailing patience of her Caregivers, Billie is now shifting with relative ease for her Caregivers. To her delight, Ashleigh was able to walk down the fence line encouraging Billie to come, and Billie playfully mirrored her movements as she ran alongside the fence, following her. A big step for Billie and an important step for Caregivers who continue to work diligently on Liz's second TB treatment. We are so pleased that Liz continues to have a healthy appetite and a positive attitude as we move forward.
Minnie has been enjoying almost daily dips in the pond, and the other day she cavorted with her favorite play toy, the culvert, for hours. A particularly humorous moment was when the Elecam caught her giant head disappearing into the culvert completely and repeatedly. Mighty Minnie loves to roll it around her habitat and into the ditch, only to push it back out again. One of Steve's goals is to understand Minnie's behaviors and work with her in order to minimize her pushy interactions with Debbie. Once their TB treatments start, it is important that Debbie and Ronnie come into the barn on a daily basis so that Caregivers and the Vet Care staff can treat them. Caregiver Kelly has been successful in encouraging them to visit the barn at the same time every day in preparation for their daily care. As she's shown us in the past, our boisterous Girl Minnie might make those necessary daily return visits to the barn difficult for Debbie, so for the time being Minnie is staying in her section of the Q Habitat.
Now that it's warm out, Tange and Flora have really been enjoying digging and then playing in their mud holes. Caregivers Angela and Maddie have to be ever mindful of new ones the Girls have created so they don't end up having to dodge a giant hole in the ground while driving the 4 wheeler. A few days ago, Flora and Tange were sharing the same wallow, and put both front feet down in the hole, kicking them all around to get the mud churned up. Then they lifted their chests up into the air, throwing their trunks over their heads and dousing themselves with the muddy water. Caregiver Maddie noticed, "They can manage some pretty artistic patterns on their sides and foreheads!" They've also started to allow their Caregivers to spray them with the hose more often now. Neither of them appear to enjoy baths when the temperature is less than 85 degrees outside. Tange especially dislikes the hose. She'll allow us to spray cool water into the end of her trunk for a drink but as soon as you try to spray any part of her body she turns to leave. Only on the really uncomfortably hot days does Tange really look like she's enjoying a nice cool shower. Flora, on the other hand, is much more tolerant of getting rinsed off. But, if it's not warm enough, she too will back up far enough to be out of hose range but just close enough to reach out with her trunk for a drink. Last week, when it got into the upper 80s, Flora enjoyed nice long drinks from the hose sprayed straight into her mouth. She's not one to waste, so while her mouth is wide open she curls her trunk around so the tip is in the corner of her mouth to catch any runoff. After some long drinks, she stood close to her Caregivers, eager to be rinsed. Caregiver Maddie observed, "When Flora's really into it, she'll turn all sides to us so we can properly access every little spot. She'll even open one ear at a time to have the backs and fronts rinsed clean. Once we're done, she heads straight for a good dusting spot to get nice and filthy again, giving another opportunity to see very interesting patterns on their skin. Their skin is dark and clean with bright streaks of orange dirt down their face or along their sides."
Now that summer's just around the corner, all of the Girls have really been enjoying their water sports.