On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, Tange, then later Sukari, took turns meeting Artie for the first time through the fence lines of Africa Habitat and the Elephant Health Care Center.
The past several weeks have seen many milestones in the socialization of the African herd. Elephant introductions are highly anticipated events by Care Staff in any elephant care program. They require careful planning and months of social interaction over fence lines so that the elephants can grow comfortable with one another prior to sharing space. Elephant Care and Veterinary Staff were on hand to observe and document the introductions to ensure safety of all involved.
After The Sanctuary welcomed Artie, a 40-year-old bull, Flora, Tange, and Sukari have had auditory and visual contact with Artie through a fenced alley that connects their separate habitat spaces. Showing much curiosity for their newest herd mate, the three females have been seen taking turns traveling to the Plateau and staring covertly across the valley toward their new male companion. It has been many years, if at all, that Flora, Tange or Sukari have interacted with a male elephant. So, with many signs of increased interest and comfort, Care Staff felt it was time to take the next steps for a closer introduction through a protected barrier.
As Artie traveled to a designated habitat area prepped to meet his new herd mates, he spotted Tange already waiting at the fence line and quickly made his way over to her. Possibly surprised by his eagerness, Tange made a speedy retreat backward, but it did not take long for her curiosity in Artie to bring her right back to the fence, where she reached greeting him with her trunk. The two elephants chose to stay near each other, occasionally eating grass and gently touching and sniffing each other for some time. Tange even turned around to allow Artie to sniff her backside, with her tail swinging side to side, a sign of relaxation. Artie, who stands 11 feet tall, reached high over the fence with his face and trunk stretched, touching Tange for as long as she allowed. When Tange decided to indulge in the delicious spring grass instead, Artie would rest his head on the fence, watching her intently, patiently waiting for her attention.
After a successful introduction, Tange chose to part ways and make room for Sukari to say hello. With her ears spread wide, Sukari slowly approached Artie, who was waiting to greet her with his forehead pressed against the barrier. A little more reserved, Sukari eventually reached out, and the pair began to touch their trunks. After a short while, Sukari seemed more comfortable towards Artie, occasionally walking away, then returning to let him get another sniff. Once the pair decided they had enough interaction for the day, they both went on their separate way to continue foraging.
These first-time interactions allowed Tange, Sukari, and Artie to get acquainted in a comfortable, controlled environment. Introductions are always a choice for each elephant, and Flora, seemingly uninterested in joining her companions this time, exercised her autonomy by choosing to spend a quiet afternoon foraging at the Pipeline instead.
We look forward to more introductions and increased social opportunities for each elephant in our growing herd!
Pictured at top: Artie & Tange