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MAGGIE ENJOYS A DIFFERENT HOLIDAY SEASON

December 27, 2007

After a few warm, rainy days when the elephants sloshed in the mud, sliding down the hill and slinging gooey balls of wet dirt, the San Andreas elephants enjoyed a sunny Christmas Day. It was probably the first Christmas in several years that Maggie has spent outside.

A typical day for the African elephants begins at 6:00 a.m. when the night keeper leaves and the morning keepers arrive. Before breakfast, each elephant gets a huge drink of very warm water, then a hot bath which often triggers trumpets, rumbles and branch tossing. The elephants assist keepers by filling their trunks with water and spraying it over themselves and everything else in range. Maggie was hesitant about her bath initially, but quickly changed her opinion after watching 71 and Mara cavort through their ablutions.

The final part of her morning routine involves moving her into a small chute to check her feet and the lesions on her face. She is very cooperative as long as someone is feeding her favorite treats during the process.

After baths, 71 and Mara lead the procession out to the habitat. If there are turkeys or deer in close proximity, the two elephants conduct mock charges at the offending trespassers who usually ignore their frustration. Once the two have cleared the way, Lulu and Ruby saunter out and the four reunite under a huge oak tree in the habitat, consuming treats, branches and hay while they wait for Maggie who is the last one out.

If turkeys or deer delay the process, Maggie rumbles and trumpets until the gate is opened and she can join the others at the fence line. After a greeting ritual of trunk touching, more rumbles and spinning excitedly, the five separate and Maggie grazes on the new grass as the others move up the hill to the brush pile. They always remain in sight of Maggie and quickly return to the fence if she rumbles or trumpets.

Maggie’s wounds are healing, and she moves with alacrity up and down the hill holding her head high and bouncing in the “floppy walk” which is an amusing gait of a healthy African elephant. If she continues to improve and adapt, we will be moving her out with the others within the next few weeks.

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