Where the zebras and the elephants play

About 45 minutes from my house, there is an elephant sanctuary named Two Tails Ranch.  Right now they house only four elephants, but they have had as many as 62 at a time.  The elephants come to them in various ways, including zoos who need temporary housing due to hurricanes or remodeling, circuses, or private owners who can no longer take care of the animals.  Some have been short-term visitors, others have stayed permanently.  The four who are there now are all permanent residents.  The owner, Patricia Zerbini, gives tours of her ranch by appointment, and I was lucky enough to go there today.

MJ is a huge elephant lover, so this was partly a birthday present to her, but I was almost as excited about it as she was.  We were not disappointed in the least.  Patricia knows quite a bit about animals, coming from a long line of exotic animal trainers.  She obviously has great love for her elephants, who obviously also have great love for her.  This is Luke, the youngest elephant on the ranch, as he strikes a James Dean pose for us.

Luke has obviously been trained to do a trick or two!  He saluted the crowd and sat on command.  He can’t sit for long before he topples over, but it was adorable!  How often does that word apply to something weighing in at 8000 pounds?

I apologize for the quality of these pictures.  It was a bit hard finding a position where I could capture Luke’s antics.  There was nothing I could do about the bars and fences.

Luke painted a picture, then took a bow when we applauded him.  He hammed it up a bit for the crowd.

Roxie is the oldest and gentlest elephant on the ranch, so after watching Luke perform a few tricks, the crowd was allowed to get a little closer to Roxie.  For a small charge, people were allowed to queue up and feed her a carrot!  It was amazing to watch how delicately this large elephant takes the treat in her trunk before eating it.  None of the kids pictured here are mine, because they would rather watch the elephants than feed them.

The elephants are not the only animals on the ranch.  Before we heard about the elephants, we were introduced to some small tortoises, a couple of birds, and my favorite, Mrs. Tiggywinkle.  Well, not really, this is a male hedgehog named Spike, but I thought he was pretty cool.  The spines of the hedgehog go every which way, so even though we were allowed to touch him, it wasn’t something I would want to do often.  He stayed curled up in a ball, letting his nose be seen for just a second.

There are also these beautiful zebras.  Unfortunately, zebras are not interested in allowing humans to ride and play with them, so they stayed on their side of the fence and we stayed on ours.

A huge tortoise and a pair of geese share a pen.  I am not at all sure why such a strange trio live together, and perhaps I should have asked.  I liked the tortoise, but didn’t really care much for the loudmouth geese.  Sorry, goose lovers everywhere, but you don’t get to see the geese.

This tortoise can live about 80 years in captivity.  Did you know that tortoises are differentiated from turtles in that they don’t swim?  They are land animals, and have elephantine feet, while turtles have flippers.  We really did learn a lot today!  Patricia was really good at  telling us interesting facts, and she was also very kind about answering questions.

There were also an ostrich and an emu, which are both flightless birds with hairy feathers.  These are both females and they lay eggs every day during egg-laying season.  When exactly that is, I didn’t ask.  The ostrich eggs are huge; each one is worth about 2 dozen chicken eggs.  They do sell the eggs, emptied, in the gift shop/museum that I did not visit simply because there were too many others waiting to and I had other things I had to do.

The ostrich is the larger bird, with her head over the fence.  The emu looked a little bit evil as she eyed me.   I could not really get a good shot on either of these birds.  Please forgive me and realize that they are much, much more beautiful in person.

A donkey and some ponies, (or miniature horses, I don’t really know the difference) rounded out the menagerie.  This little donkey loves attention and followed the girls around every time they came near, which they loved.

If you are ever planning to be in Williston, Florida, for whatever reason, call the Two Tails Ranch and try to get on their tour.  It costs a little bit, but the money goes to the upkeep of these wonderful animals and the tour is well worth it.

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