Rabbits Who Grunt and Bunny (an elephant) Who Chirps and Squeaks by Kate Elliott

The residents and the activities of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee will continue to dominate these columns but I will begin to introduce some of the other fantastic and highly evolved creatures who fascinate me including, hummingbirds, sea otters, sea turtles and a very advanced being: the rabbit.

I had never been a rabbit person, as a child I shared my home with hamsters, turtles, cats and dogs.

The idea of a rabbit confined to an outside hutch was never very appealing. Then one summer, not so many years ago I volunteered at the wonderful Green Chimneys Farm in Brewster, New York.

A world leader in animal-assisted therapy, Green Chimneys has a barn full of rescued animals as well as a wildlife rehabilitation center. They are a residential center for seriously troubled children and youth. The respect learned from caring for the animals is the first step in learning respect and boundaries in their lives. It’s an awesome place where I spent happy Saturdays mucking the barn and cleaning rabbit cages. With the barn and classroom full of rabbits in huge cages with all the hay they could eat, I was completely captivated by their high energy and very seductive characteristics, some were funny, most were highly sociable, I was hooked.

I am so drawn to these beautiful loving, comic, deeply spiritual creatures, who utter barely a sound.This silence is precisely why they have a reputation as low- maintenance animals, very sad.

This silence is also why rabbits (and guinea pigs) are widely used as research animals, very tragic.

The noises I have been privileged to share include: grunts in a bossy mood, soft teeth grinding,(very happy rabbit being stroked), and even snoring! Thumping of the hind feet alerted me that either the music is too loud or there might be a raccoon nosing at the cat door-Attention must be paid!

Happy house rabbits leap and dance when you come home- Gomez, my big lop, loved to race out the cat door and delight in shoveling snow with his big nose, and Alex, my black and white rabbit loved his cardboard condo, he would build a front lawn of hay mounds and guard it carefully. They loved to be stroked bunny style, around the head and eyes. The very best resource for house rabbits is The House Rabbit Society. (Sadly, in the months since I first wrote this article, both Gomez and Alex left their bodies. Being highly evolved beings, each departed after I had spent an unusually long period at home with them (unusual in my life) and both in my presence. The silence that remains without these two beautiful creatures is deafening.)

There are thousands of beautiful loving rabbits still bought as baby bunnies for Easter presents, sent to shelters as soon as they grow bigger. I urge you to consider adopting one, or even better a bonded pair. Bunnies bond in a very deep way, one of the most moving, and inexplicable things I have read is at the passing of one of a bonded pair of bunnies, at the moment of death, the living bunny leapt in the air in a vivid dance of emotion.

And now to a 7500-pound Bunny who is an elusive, extraordinary, and simply beautiful elephant! The fifth resident of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee,Bunny has spun a great mystique around herself as she seemed to deliberately elude the Sanctuary’s cameras and is rarely seen on the ele-cam.

If you were to sketch an elephant, chances are it would look a lot like Bunny she is short, stout and completely pleasing to the eye! Bunny was born in Burma in 1952 and captured from the wild two years later. She lived most of her life alone at the Mesker Park Zoo in Illinois prior to coming to the Sanctuary in 1999. What did Bunny do when she arrived at the Sanctuary? After being greeting by those most welcoming of hostesses, Tarra, Jenny and Shirley the ele-diary reports:

For the next few hours the air was filled with chirps, rumbles, trumpets, pops, squeaks, and every number of elephant vocalizations. Shirley and Bunny could be heard conversing in the same language. Their chirps and rumbles were identical and followed a pattern that we recognize as communication.

She is cooperative and content and trumpets a lot. All day Thursday and Friday trumpets pierced the air of the tranquil Sanctuary valley. Bunny had discovered that with a simple blast of music through her trunk she could roust Jenny and Shirley in seconds. Shirley and Jenny never tired of coming at Bunny’s beck and call, even though the last days’ events had left them completely exhausted. Bunny seems to bask in the attention.

Nearly six years later, Bunny is the outdoor girl, last into the barn at night, soaking up everything thatshe missed for nearly four decades. If elephants had paparazzi, Bunny’s photos would fetch the most money. She enjoys her time with Jenny and Shirley, who never reveal Bunny’s location. Bunny and her herd have recently moved to a new part of the Sanctuary to make room for the former Hawthorn elephants.And our loss is Bunny’s gain, for the moment, no cameras!

by Kate Elliott (Elephant photos and ele-diary quotes used with permission of the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee)
Kate Elliott is a theatrical and event producer living in the woods outside New York City. Kate has worked and/ or produced shows with Patrick Stewart, Bobby McFerrin, Martha Graham Dance Company, Rudolf Nureyev and all major Hollywood film studios. Before falling in love with elephants, Kate was studying for a masters in Marine Biology. She now serves on the Executive Council of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and is also their volunteer grantwriter.