Mila meets Shaba… another African elephant – by Erin Ivory (elephant Project Manager for Mila)
The relationship between Mila and the herd Matriarch Mary is still going very well. It is time to meet a new elephant. Shaba was chosen because she and Mary have a great relationship. Shaba is a very skittish elephant and often overreacts in the presence of other elephants. Mary and Shaba get along very well, so although Shaba is shy, if a relationship between her and Mila can be forged that leads to a great group dynamic of Mary, Shaba, Mila.
Shaba spent most of her life with one other elephant, Connie, who passed away a few years earlier. While Shaba has been integrated into the rest of the herd, she is not as socially adept. She often overreacts to the other elephants, especially Tembo, the other African.
When Mila met Shaba it was very interesting to watch her behaviour. For an elephant that has not interacted with other elephants for decades, Mila was very intoned to the personality of the elephant. Just like with Mary, Mila learned very quickly if she wanted Shaba to come closer she needed to stay calm and not make sudden movements. Even a glance in her direction would send Shaba scurrying away.
Mila was amazing this entire time. When Shaba wouldn’t come closer, Mila went into special needs (where she spent quarantine) and bashed her toys. When she came back out towards Shaba she maintained her calm demeanor.
After realizing that Shaba needed some reinforcement to give her a bit more confidence, Mary was added to the mix so that Mila was able to interact with Mary and Shaba together. Again, all of these interactions take place with fencing in the way in order to give the elephants time to get to know each other before they have full physical contact.
The introduction to Shaba continued to move slowly. In order to give all the elephants more time to build relationships, Mary and Shaba were placed in a yard adjoining Mila so they could interact through the night. Staff stayed overnight to observe.
Mila and Shaba spent quite a bit of time together at the wires touching and getting to know each other. Mila is behaving like a very confident, calm elephant, and showing no signs of aggression towards Shaba. There are a lot of high hopes for these two Africans to build a strong relationship, not just for Mila’s benefit but Shaba’s as well.
From that first night all three elephants have laid down to sleep near each other. In the mornings when the staff arrives Mila and Shaba have been seen hanging out together next to the wires touching each other. This is exactly the type of behaviour you wish to see.