– by Erin Ivory (Elephant Project Manager for Mila)
..and what happens on day two was amazing!!!
The first day Mila and Mary were introduced we were amazed at how calm Mila was. She again proved what an intelligent elephant she is. She responded well to Mary’s cues on proper elephant behavior and was very relaxed as she maneuvered the habitat. From the beginning Mary started teaching Mila that she was the dominant female. She would give Mila a gentle nudge if she wanted her to move away from the feeder, she took browse from Mila, and even when she maneuvered Mila into a corner and displayed some dominant elephant behaviors Mila stayed calm and reacted appropriately. Mary, being the benevolent dictator, recognized this and therefore was very gentle with Mila.
Day two of the introductions is where the Mila we all know and love came out. Mila loves to play. After most of the food was gone, Mila and Mary started facing off and playing. How do elephants play? In New Zealand, Mila would bash her toys and push on logs. She was very rough on her toys. This was the first time that Mila had another elephant to play with. She and Mary would face off and wrap trunks and spar back and forth. At one point Mila had her head resting over Mary’s back, and Mary was moving forwards and backwards getting a nice back scratch. Mila was running around flailing her trunk around like a helicopter, all behaviors we have seen her do when she is having fun playing with her toys and getting wound up.
Mary and Mila played for almost forty minutes. Shaba was in the neighboring yard and she wanted in on the action as well. Every once in a while Mila would break from Mary and head over to play with Shaba for a bit. Shaba, who has grown far more comfortable with Mila due to their nights getting to know each other, did not flee from Mila running towards her. She stayed put and played. This is amazing because it wasn’t too long ago that Shaba would flee if Mila so much as glanced at her. Everyone has great hopes that a strong relationship between the two Africans will form. It would be great for both elephants.
Mila went back to sparing with Mary, and every so often when Mila would get a bit too pushy Mary would push back and remind her that while this is all fun and games, she was still the boss!
The team at Franklin Zoo would like to thank all of our supporters. Without your help and contributions none of this would have been possible. Seeing Mila with Mary today proved that we made the right choice in the facility for Mila. She has a new family of elephants, and it looks as though her integration with at least two members of the herd will be a success. Time will tell with the rest of the herd, but Mila is a smart elephant that has proven her ability to read the other elephants and respond accordingly. She is making a friend in Mary, and it always pays to be friends with the boss!