Mila’s meets her first elephant in thirty seven years – by Erin Ivory (elephant Project Manager for Mila)
Mila has not had a conventional upbringing to say the least. She wasn’t brought up by other elephants, in fact, it has been almost four decades since she last saw another elephant. Be-cause Mila enjoyed the company of our Franklin Zoo elephant team and the guests that would come to visit her, I had high hopes that her desire for company and interest in socializing would mean she would want to interact and be part of the social herd at the San Diego Zoo. What I have seen from Mila thus far has exceeded my expectations.
The first elephant Mila met was Mary. Mary was chosen because although she is an Asian ele-phant, she is the herd matriarch and fairly patient with new elephants. Their first interaction was amazing to watch. Mila started off a bit unsure and charged the gate flaring her African sized ears at Mary. Mary, being a confident animal didn’t budge from her location and eventually Mila started to approach her more calmly.
The second day of interaction, Mila was given access to an area adjoining Mary separated only by a few wires. This allowed for more contact. Mila was still charging, although she began to do it less and less. Mila is a very confident and smart elephant. It wasn’t too long until she was watching Mary and learning from her on what is appropriate elephant behavior and what will not be tolerated.
The relationship between Mila and Mary has grown significantly. They enjoy some gently spar-ing through the fence and trunk wrestling. Mila has learned not to let Mary pull her trunk, it might get pinched! They have taken turns inspecting each other thoroughly. Mila has shown a lot of interest in hanging out with Mary and Mary seems to show African elephants a lot of patience, which made her ideal for this first interaction. Mila is comfortable enough with Mary to take a nap right next to her, a clear demonstration of relaxation and trust.
This first introduction through the fence has been incredible and I am excited to see how Mila greets the other four females. All the elephants at the San Diego Zoo have very different back-grounds and personalities. It will be very interesting and a lot of fun to see how Mila reacts to each of these amazing, yet totally unique members of this herd. Her first step into herd integra-tion has been very positive and bodes well for her future here at the San Diego Zoo.