March 17, 2012
Caregiver Laurie shared a happy moment with Tarra when she delivered "meals on wheels" to her in the habitat this week. She was driving down the left branch of Marcella's through the pines, when something caught her eye. She had almost driven by her; Tarra, standing still and silent, huge and yet perfectly camouflaged amongst the trees. Surely Tarra had seen her coming from a long way off. But the moment Tarra saw that she'd been spotted by Laurie, her eyes widened with excitement and she enthusiastically flapped her ears. "As she emerged into full view, I laughed and made out as if she'd played a great trick on me, and that she'd won her little game," Laurie said. When Bella was still with us, she would be the one to end these little jokes, rather than Tarra. Silent until after the Caregivers passed by, Bella would make the two friends' presence known by bounding out into view and barking behind the Caregivers—just a single bark as if to say 'Ha!'
Over at Q:
It was time to weigh the Q-Girls, and one in particular, Miss Billie, seemed not to want to share the pertinent information of her weight with us. Caregiver Ashleigh laughed, "Billie didn't want us to know just how 'fluffy' she is." The scale is placed at the entryway into the barn at Q, so all of the Girls are used to crossing over it regularly, and don't normally pay any attention to it. Part of the recent improvements at Q have included covering the scale to keep it protected from the weather. Over time, moisture had permeated the equipment and it was in need of repair. Daniel from Facilities sent off the parts in question out of state to be fixed. After he got it in working order, the Caregivers were able to weigh the Q-Girls. However, during that initial weigh-in, the Girls were shifting, so the weights weren't considered to be very accurate. Caregivers and Dr. Mikota made plans to attempt another weighing session, but Billie had plans of her own!
On the floor of the scale is a metal plate, securely bolted down, which protects the wiring beneath it. The Girls have been sauntering over it every time they enter the barn ever since it was installed. When Caregiver Ashleigh arrived the morning after the weigh-in, Billie had managed to manipulate and remove the bolts and was holding the metal plate triumphantly in her trunk, banging it on the scale, the wiring broken and dangling down like spaghetti. So, back Daniel came, and he sent off yet another part of the scale to be repaired. Once again, he got the scale repaired and functioning.
Billie, who had never before shown interest in or been fascinated by any parts of the scale, decided that the display panel, which had always been inside the barn and within trunk reach was either now offensive or a fun new toy for her pleasure. Caregivers did not immediately realize something was amiss until Liz's morning medicine treatment, when she shook shavings off of her back and they heard something solid hit the ground. It was a knob from the display panel. Billie had destroyed it sometime during the night and sent pieces of it flying everywhere. Liz had dusted her back with not only shavings, but pieces of the now defunct panel! When Ashleigh went over to Billie's stall to investigate, Billie shook the panel proudly with her trunk and broken pieces rattled around inside of it like a box of cracker jacks.
So, back Daniel came, and this time he rewired a new display panel eight feet away, for safekeeping in a nearby shed, burying the conduit in the ground. Billie watched his progress the entire time. The next day, when Caregivers arrived at the barn, the conduit was dug up and dirt was scattered everywhere. It seemed Billie was determined not to let us know the extent of her girlish figure. Finally, Daniel reburied the conduit when Billie was not around, and he camouflaged the area and left piles of dirt and brush nearby to distract her from his work. So far, she seems to have lost interest in her new "toy." As far as her weight goes, well, that's just not a polite thing to ask a lady!
Caregiver Angela is an excellent photographer. She writes, "The Girls always provide plenty of photo ops, no matter the location or activity. It is our good fortune to be present for so many moments most people only see in a photograph, or in a video. This is our way to share and let people get up close and have a small idea of what it's like to spend part of your life every day with these wonderful Ladies.
The tiniest details can sometimes be the most striking, and it is an education becoming familiar with the features of each elephant. For example, photographing elephant eyes: Tange tends to open her eyes really wide, with thick lashes and a distinct white ring around her iris. This makes for amazing, dramatic pictures when framed and zoomed in well. Flora's eyes are equally as amazing, just in different ways. Her eyes are a bit darker and smaller than Tange's, with no distinct, bright white ring, but a warmth and wisdom that is all Flora. Maybe it's the photographer's interpretation only, but you get these things when capturing such intimate images time after time.
Some of my favorite things to capture are the little parts that make up their massive bodies-close up shots of beautiful, expressive eyes; veins and folds in the ears; detailed pictures of tail hair, toes, and some of the most intriguing skin wrinkle patterns imaginable. You could take photos all day long, and still be left wanting more, or wishing you had gotten "that" shot, even when you have dozens of great pictures in the bank.
Often times, we may be driving around on the 4 wheelers looking for Tange and Flora to deliver their meal, only to say, 'Wow, I wish I had a camera right now.' The dramatic shots of them in greeting with ears out and heads held high, excitement as a tractor drives by on the nearby road along the Plateau, loud trumpets, rumbles and roars are so hard to transfer onto film, but we try. The old saying, 'pictures don't do it justice' holds true, but it's as close as we get to the real thing."