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By: The Elephant Sanctuary

Socialization in Q Habitat

Elephant introductions are highly anticipated events by Care Staff in any elephant care program. They require careful planning and months of pre-introduction social interaction over fence lines so that the elephants can grow comfortable with one another prior to sharing space.

In the wild, female elephants spend their lives with the family herd in which their born. In captivity, unrelated female elephants can form close familial bonds, but it often takes time and patience. At The Sanctuary, Care Staff observe the elephants’ interactions over fence lines prior to allowing them share space. Signs of progress include elephants appear curious, non-intimidated, touch one another, and graze nearby one another. Next, a space-sharing introduction is set up.

In July 2017, Asian elephant Sissy moved to The Sanctuary’s Q Habitat. After several months sharing fence lines with Billie, Ronnie, Minnie, and Debbie, she began to share space with each of them. As bonds developed, Care Staff decided to plan a time for Sissy, Ronnie, Minnie, and Debbie to all share space together at the same time.

Preparing for any new social event involves The Sanctuary’s Care and Veterinary teams working together to develop a plan of action—complete with a diagram of the habitat that looks similar to an athletic play-book. Each Caregiver has a role to play to ensure the safety and comfort of all involved.

During the introduction, Care Staff observe the elephants’ behaviors and record an ethogram of each elephants’ behavior and movement throughout the habitat.