January 23, 2013
Elephants in Winter
This time of year, a question commonly asked both at The Elephant Sanctuary’s Welcome Center and through email is “What do the elephants do when it is cold?” The answer is as simple as it is true: The elephants pretty much do whatever they want, regardless of the season.
The Sanctuary elephants are true individuals in every way – even in their tolerance for warm and cold temperatures. Some seem to not mind the cold at all and often have to be encouraged to return to the barns on cold winter nights. While some seem to be revitalized by the cold and the mud, others choose to stay in the warm heated barn on cold or even rainy days. Q Barn is a perfect example of the incredible diversity of their natures - let’s check in with the barns.
There has been quite a bit of rain lately at The Sanctuary, and this naturally translates into a lot of mud. This abundance of mud has proven irresistible to the Q Barn Girls, and they have taken full advantage of every opportunity to play, regardless of temperature. This “play” serves a practical purpose, however, as the mud acts as sunscreen and protection against insects, which is not such a big deal right now in winter but can be in warmer weather. Surprisingly, Billie, Frieda, Lizzie, Minnie, Debbie, and Ronnie have all taken part in the 2013 Mud Games. Minnie seems to take special delight in swimming in the cold weather, while Debbie expresses her artistic side by making “mud angels” on the pond bank.
For the first time ever, staff was able to not only witness but capture, on the Elecams, an exciting elephant activity at our African Barn: Tange and Flora sparring! This natural and healthy social behavior for female African elephants is just one more example that shows how content the Girls are here in Sanctuary.
This is truly “play” activity for Flora and Tange, but might be considered aggressive behavior by our Asian Girls – just one example of how very different the two species are socially and in their communications styles – which is why they are maintained in separate habitats. Flora and Tange often play in this style but it was wonderful to share this live with our Elecam viewers at home. If you missed it, we captured it on video; watch them square off here .
Dulary hasn’t been feeling well lately - she began showing signs of discomfort which we all anticipated to be the start of yet another bout of colic. Dulary has been prone to struggle on and off with this common intestinal problem for years. So all efforts are made to have ample items on hand that she typically favors when dealing with colic: oranges, grapefruits, nappa cabbage, romaine hearts, grapes, and watermelons. Unfortunately, Dulary has continued to show signs of discomfort. Sometimes it is very subtle, she will be vocal and engaging but still just "off," other times it is more obvious, even acting out toward Misty by hitting or kicking when Misty tries to "share" her hay. We all know how grumpy we can be to those we are the closest to if we are not feeling well. Caregiver Laurie and the Vet Care team are keeping close watch to make sure Dulary is comfortable and receives best care.
Throughout it all Misty is right there by Dulary’s side, offering hay or giving Dulary her space when she needs it. Caregiver Kayleigh, new to the Asia barn, describes the incredible bonds between these two best friends: “Misty is the epitome of a happy elephant. It is so incredible to see the bond she and Dulary have with one another. They are always intertwining their trunks, touching their heads together as close as they possibly can and just comforting each other. It is truly beautiful to see.”
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