February 14, 2012

Happy Birthday and Valentine's Day Tarra!

Thank you to photographer Jerry Atnip for donating his time and talent and capturing the "hero shot"
of our founding elephant, Tarra. Happy Birthday, beautiful Girl!

Today, February 14, 2012, we celebrate Tarra's 38th Birthday. Of course all the Girls who reside here at The Elephant Sanctuary – Tarra included – were born in the wild, captured and shipped to a life in captivity, so we don't actually know any of their true birthdays. But Tarra's has always been celebrated on Valentine's Day, which we think is a wonderful tradition.

As a special treat for Tarra's birthday, we took advantage of a rare opportunity to have a professional photographer take a portrait of the Birthday Girl in all her glory. While we all appreciate and admire the amazing video and photos our Caregivers are able to capture of the Girls through their days – there is something special, a gift, that enables professional photographers to capture the true energy of their subjects, one that adds a dimension of their personality through photos. Those of us here at The Sanctuary get to see their true elephant personalities in the little things they do each day - our hope was to be able to share this view of Tarra with you, our supporters.
The visit by the photographer was arranged for a day just over 2 weeks ago – but the heavy downpour that morning put a damper on our expectations – we were about to reschedule when the photographer said "No, the storm will be gone by mid-day, the sun will come out and we will have amazing light" and he was exactly right. It turned out to be a brilliant day.
As always – we never stage any of the girls for video or photographer - we simply try to capture their images as they go about their daily lives. Tarra is always one who likes to wander and can be difficult to locate – despite the rain and late January date, it was an unusually warm day and Tarra was nowhere to be found. Caregiver Laurie set out on the 4 wheeler searching high and low throughout the Asian Habitat for Tarra, while the photographer and Director of Husbandry, Steve Smith, waited patiently. After a brief tour of the barn, and some candid shots of Misty and Dulary in the south yard – the humans came walking around the west side of the barn to find Tarra ambling out of the piney woods on the east side of the barn – it was as if she had been playing hide and seek with us all afternoon and got tired of waiting for us to find her.
Our reaction of "Tarra – where have you been?" must have seemed comical to her. Steve radioed Caregiver Laurie "We found her – she was in the woods right here behind the barn the entire time." You could hear Laurie's laughter through the radio – how foolish our antics must have seemed to Tarra and all the Girls. For us there settled in a sense of awe - for where else in the world other than The Elephant Sanctuary could anyone possibly lose an elephant. 
So the photo shoot began and Tarra was in her glory – always the social butterfly, this cheerful Girl seemed curious about the visitor but mostly enjoyed the extra treats of hay and fruit left out in the yard for her, which she carried here and there.  After about 20 minutes and what must have been hundreds of pictures Jerry stopped, put the camera down and said "That's it – I got the hero shot!"
Tarra has had her good days and her bad as she continues to adjust to life without her companion Bella, but the good days are more and more frequent and this was definitely a good day. Be sure and check out the Asian Ele-Diary to hear a description of a recent Day in the Life of Tarra. Bella enriched Tarra's life and watching their friendship enriched all of our lives. She may no longer have her furry friend Bella by her side, but her life is still full and rich and filled with love from all of her elephant sisters, and she still revels in the warmth and familiarity of her home, complete with all of the comforts of Sanctuary. And on this special day as we celebrate her birthday, of course, Tarra has her treats. We all know how Tarra loves her treats.

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