After five days of a long and tiring journey, but without any unforeseen events, Asian elephants Pocha, 55, and Guillermina, 22, finally arrived at the SEB (Sanctuary of Elephants Brazil) in Chapada dos Guimarães, metropolitan region of Cuiabá, the place that will be the duo’s new home.
The truck that took a mother and daughter from Mendonza, Argentina, to Mato Grosso, parked at the shelter around 11 a.m. on Thursday (12). A group of specialists and veterinarians were on site to welcome them.
The first box from the truck was the one that Pocha brought. It was placed at the entrance to the veterinary center of the reserve, the only covered area in the space, used for medical care and training of animals arriving in their new habitat.
As soon as the first box was opened, a feast of fruits, vegetables, and palm and tree leaves awaited Pocha. Despite the treats on offer, Pocha remained suspicious and eyed the new location — her last move was 54 years ago, since she left Germany for Argentina.
Pocha stayed there for hours, throwing dirt on her body with her trunk to chase the insects away and protect herself from the sun, until suddenly rain came. Pocha wasted no time and with the mud that formed, he smeared his body, a game that elephants love.
Until the late afternoon of this Thursday (12) Pocha was still not out of the box, he was always going back and forth, signaling that he was doubting his movements. Once Pocha leaves the box, it’s her daughter Guillermina’s turn.
Until Bed sheet Daniel Moura, biologist and director of the SEB, explains that this process may or may not be time-consuming, but it is important to put the animal in charge to facilitate the trust process.
Even with Pocha’s delay, the biologist believes that the stage in Guillermina’s case will be faster, because she will see her mother in the veterinary center of the SEB.
Daniel says that space is the first place the animals in the sanctuary know. “If they don’t want to shower in the rain, they run here, but because they love the rain, they rarely come,” he says.
The place is necessary for the animals to go through the adaptation and training process and for veterinarians to access the animals’ bodies for care.
“We call it positive reinforcement. We give them some things that they like to eat, like fruits, so we can train them, so they get commands, and they can give us access to paw, ear, any part of their body. he explains.
Daniel points out that this process can also be time-consuming.
“They don’t immediately go through a series of tests as soon as they arrive. The elephant has to give them access first.”
Pocha and Guillermina lived in a sort of moat of about six meters in the Ecoparque in Argentina. “Here they leave tiny spots for a gigantic place with natural vegetation, with other elephants to socialize,” says the biologist.
“This makes all the difference in the process of restoring the physical and mental health of these animals who have lived all their lives in inappropriate situations. Pocha has been in the same corner for at least 55 years and Guillermina 22 years, since her birth. She saw nothing but the canal in which she lived,” he sums up.
After the adaptation process and the necessary examinations, Pocha and Guillermina will be able to leave the veterinary center for other lodgings, which are places of 10,000 m22 a 20 mil m2†
In these other phases, the approach with Maia, Rana, Lady, Mara and Bambi, the other elephants living in the reserve, will take place “in the time of the newcomers,” those responsible say.
“The first contacts take place in the first enclosures. There, because there are bars, they touch each other, smell each other, if they want to. And the trust goes to them whether they allow approach or not”, he says.
According to the biologist, there is also no risk of a fight between residents and newcomers. “There won’t be one elephant chasing the other. This doesn’t happen because they only approach when someone allows it. They exchange signals, when it’s time to approach or when they want to be alone. They are very polite and communicative. “
Pocha and Guillermina have been traveling by truck since last Saturday (7). In total, the two covered 3,228 km to their final destination.
With 1,100 hectares (equivalent to seven Ibirapuera Parks in São Paulo), SEB is the first place in Latin America dedicated to the conservation of these animals.
The place has a medical room, water tanks and a food sector. The elephants receive daily care and have 29 hectares of space to roam – only the adapted areas, not the entire country, are allowed for the animals so they can be properly monitored.
Pocha is described as a “quiet and protective mother”, while Guillermina has “a “great personality” and acts like a spoiled child, as she is young and does not know proper elephant behavior.
According to information from the shelter, Pocha was born in Germany in 1967 and arrived in Argentina the following year. She has pale pink skin with black spots, with the depigmentation common in Asian elephants.
Guillermina has a slim build, firm skin and a small belly. And despite living in captivity all his life, he shows energy to play.
In addition to the arrival of Pocha and Guillermina, the SEB is still awaiting authorization to take Tamy, Guillermina’s father, who is an Asian species and is 50 years old.
Another one awaiting a “visa” is Kenya, a 35-year-old African elephant. However, the necessary permits for the transfer of both to the shrine are still in progress.