January 21, 2012
All of our resident elephants respond to the colder winter temperatures differently, and they have their own built-in temperature gauges, their trunks! Some of our more sensitive Girls will peek just their trunks out the barn door, testing the chilly air, only to decide… “umm, no thanks,” they'd rather remain in their warm barn, with heated floors. On the other hand, some really don't seem to mind it that much. Elephants regulate their internal body temperature with heterothermy. They absorb and store heat from the sun and surrounding environment throughout the day, and then gradually lose it as the night gets cooler. A few of our Girls have even dual memberships in the Pachyderm and Polar Bear Clubs, and will actually break through frozen ice on the ponds to go for a dip in the winter!
In Asia - Grandma Shirley, for example, much prefers roaming the habitat to being in the barn, and she will explore the hills and valleys for as long as possible, seemingly oblivious to the cooler temperatures. She prefers to sleep under the stars! And if it's nice and sunny, she'll go nap in the sunshine and pine trees, even when it feels cold to us humans. Tarra, too, doesn't really seem to mind the cooler temperatures as much and keeps company with Shirley during most of her travels, though we can count on her to come back to her warm barn in the evening.
Misty loves to swim, and she'll have no qualms about going in even when it's cold. She took a dip in the pond the other day when the temperature was in the low 50s. Rather impervious to weather, Misty's even been known to nap right through a hail storm rather than come back to the barn. On the other hand, Dulary and Winkie are more sensitive to the cold and start shivering long before Sissy or any of the other Girls.
In Africa, Flora is more sensitive to the cold than Tange, but she still spends time outside when it's chilly. Our African Girls find pockets of warmer air in the woods and will tuck themselves away there; they know how to locate those sweet, secret spots and stay comfortable. Tange readily goes outside in the cold, and will play in the mud a lot, even when it's chilly and rainy. Under those circumstances, Flora much prefers to stay inside and watch the rain, and Tange's play, from her stall door. Tange periodically revisits Flora and the barn during this type of weather, and she redecorates upon her return by painting the bars of her stalls a nice reddish brown color with the mud and clay.
In Q-Barn - On a chilly morning the other day, Liz led the way out of the barn into the brisk air with Frieda following and Billie trailing behind her. Frieda got part way into the yard and started enjoying a few bites of hay. Liz got to the gate and seemed to decide that she thought better of being out! She promptly turned around and headed back into the toasty barn; Billie, too, made an about face and followed her friend Lizzie back inside. Frieda took her time, ate a little more hay, and then eventually headed back into the barn to rejoin her companions.
Cold temperatures send Debbie scurrying for the barn. Our Debbie is a very delicate flower and she does NOT like the cold. Even when the sunshine is inviting and pleasant, Debbie prefers the warmth of the barn. But we know the sun and the grass are good for her, so Caregivers will try to coax her outside with treats and hay if they can. If she follows, they give her a nice pile of hay in the bright warm sunshine to enjoy. Once she's gotten brave enough to exit the barn and go outside, she is content. We can't tell if Ronnie feels the same way about the cold…or if she'd just rather not leave Debbie. But if Debbie doesn't go, Ronnie won't go! Minnie, however, doesn't seem to mind the cold, especially since she has her warm barn to return to when she's finished playing in The Sanctuary's winter wonderland. In the past, she has even been known to break the ice on the pond to go swimming! Time will tell if she'll pull her polar bear routine again this winter.
However, the unseasonably warm weather this year has Debbie and Ronnie doing things their Caregivers never thought they'd see them do in January, venturing further from the barn, or not returning at all! Last Thursday evening, Caregivers arrived to do night feed, only to find Deb and Ron not in the barn. This was an unusual sight, especially for Deb! Shrugging, they put down hay for the Girls in case they returned later in the evening. Friday morning, Deb and Ron were inside, but all evidence (no manure and but lots of leftover hay) indicated that they'd arrived only a short while ago. Saturday morning found Deb and Ron up the hill behind their barn, and Sunday morning they were all the way up in the South Habitat, a place they normally frequent in the Spring and Summer. It's much warmer up there in the South Habitat than it is down in the valley where the barn is situated. Still, we've hardly ever seen them venturing out that far to take advantage of the temperature difference in January!