Big Steps for Billie
Earlier this week, EleCam viewers saw something never before observed at The Sanctuary. Asian elephant Billie, age 53, slowly walking into the "60" area (so named for its 60 acres) of the Quarantine Habitat. In her decade at The Sanctuary, Billie had never before set foot in this area. This was new territory. But her walk into the 60 was one milestone of several in recent days for this amazing elephant.
After arriving in 2006, Billie showed signs of anxiety around the other elephants (especially the very large Debbie and Minnie). She began spending her time with Liz and Frieda, and the three became very close…remaining a very tightly knit group until both Frieda and Liz passed away in 2015.
Caregivers quickly began arranging socialization opportunities for Billie and Ronnie, and both seemed to be comfortable in each other's presence. Billie, however, still did not show any interest in being in close proximity with Debbie and Minnie.
Since Liz's passing in August, Billie has had full access to the Phase I habitat. For the most part, Billie chose to spend her time in the areas near the barn, out of sight from Minnie and Debbie. But, in time, Billie started to venture away from the barn area and for longer periods of time. Caregivers observed her walking down to the pond and going for swims and as far out to the area known as "Frieda's Field" to graze.
In March, without any encouragement from her Caregivers, Billie walked all the way to the top of the hill behind the barn, the first time she had done so since the passing of her companions. She has returned to the area since.
Sensing that Billie was in the mood to explore, Caregivers made plans to give Billie access to the 60 and adjoining areas. Debbie, Minnie , and Ronnie were relocated to different areas. Last Sunday, Billie walked all the way out to the "mud wallow" before returning to the barn for the evening. On Monday, she made her way to the creek. On Tuesday, Billie stepped into the "60" for the very first time.
Lead Caregiver Justina observed Billie throughout Tuesday and in the days that followed.
"Billie spent all day Tuesday grazing and exploring her new area, showing no signs of anxiety. While Billie usually chooses to return to the barn at night, she chose to spend Tuesday night out in the habitat, grazing alongside the deer as night fell. We arrived Wednesday morning to see Billie still grazing in the 60, and found no signs of her returning to the barn overnight. Wednesday morning Billie ate her breakfast next to a flock of turkeys. As all the elephants made their way deep into the pastures in the late morning, each girl found a way to cool down. Minnie bathed herself with the water from one of the automatic watering devices, Debbie bathed herself with the water from a trough, and then Billie was spotted making a B-line towards "Minnie's Pond" located at the far end of the '60.'"
"At first, Billie appeared reserved: she only dipped her trunk and toes in the pond. Then she casually used the water she had sucked up with her trunk to bathe herself. This only lasted a short time before she let loose and fully entered the pond, quickly submerging her whole body. Caregivers were amazed that Billie was so comfortable swimming in a pond she had never explored before. Billie spent the next 15 minutes dipping her head under water, splashing, blowing bubbles, bobbing, rolling on her sides, and sitting in the pond. After she decided her late morning swim was done, Billie exited the pond and travelled to a shady area at the side of the pond where she discovered some loose dirt. Billie then spent 15 minutes dusting herself to perfection before returning to grazing in the pasture."
"Brave" is a term that has been used to describe Billie since her arrival at The Sanctuary, and this description fits now as much as ever. In her 10th year at The Sanctuary, Billie is still showing how brave she can be.
The Big PayBack is Back on May 3rd!
Mark your calendars! Tell your friends! The Elephant Sanctuary is again participating in The Big Payback, a 24-hour online fundraising campaign hosted by The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.
Funds raised will be used for mission-critical needs: providing lifelong care for retired elephants and raising public awareness about their plight.
Visit www.elephants.com on May 3rd and help sustain The Sanctuary.