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THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER - The Incredible True Story of Wild Elephants
A True Story of Wild Elephants and their Love for one Man
Africa lost an ardent conservationist this year, Lawrence Anthony, died of a heart attack on 2nd March, 2012.
He is perhaps known best as the Elephant Whisperer, but he was also a founder of the Earth Organization in 2003. He talked to Ugandan war rebels in the Congo, to protect the white rhinoceroses, he also fought to save crocodiles and other species.
When the allies invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003, he heard that Baghdad had the biggest zoo in the Middle East, and he flew to Kuwait, he packed his car with veterinary supplies and crossed the Iraq border. He arrived in Baghdad, amid the fighting to go to the Zoo.
Of the 650 animals in the Zoo, only 35 were just alive, mainly the large ones like tigers, lions and a brown bear which were all in bad shape. He bought donkeys to feed them and rescued the Hussein family's lions and tigers.
When he left the cages were clean, the animals healthy and the Zoo preserved. The United States Third Infantry Division awarded Lawrence Anthonly a medal for his bravery.
He wrote a book called Babylon's Ark about this experience.
In the mid 1990s, he bought one of South Africa's largest private game reserves called Thula Thula. (Thula means quiet in Zulu).
Elephants were not part of the plan, but in 1999, he was offered nine elephants and told should he not take this troublesome herd, they would be shot.
Unfortunately in the round up, one of the females and her baby was shot trying to evade capture.
When the herd arrived, they had to be sedated until they calmed down, when the side door opened the matriarch emerged, followed by her baby bull, three females and an 11 year old bull. Last off was the 15 year old son of the female who was shot. He flared his ears and with a trumpet of rage he charged, just stopping short of the fence.
Nana, the matriarch was an escape artist of note and had worked out how to break through electric fences. That night, the two females, worked together to fell a tree which pushed down the fence. They had somehow found the generator and trampled it like a tin can. They then headed north, luckily they managed to find them and bring the herd back to Thula Thula.
All about Trust - Laurence Anthony - Coronation
Lawrence Anthony fought a desperate battle for their survival and trust. That first night back again in the Reserve, he awoke to see the elephants facing the fence, Nana ready to break it down and make another escape.
At 4.45am, Anthony stood in front of this violent, wild female elephant, with her calf, a more dangerous combination is hard to find.
She tensed her enormous frame and flared her ears, "Don't do it Nana", he said as calmly as possible, "Please don't do it girl, this is your home now." Anthony says in his book, that as he continued talking to her, the rest of the herd froze and Nana's eyes bored into him. "They'll kill you all if you break out, this is your home now, you have no need to run. Stay here".
She took another step forward, and Anthony could see her tense up again, ready to go through the fence, and he was directly in her path. Anthony then says there was suddenly some spark of recognition flared and Nana turned and melted into the bush, the rest of herd following.
The bid for freedom increased their resentment, and Nana watched his every move. Anthony said that, in a flash, it came to him, he would live with the herd, be with them day and night. Anthony's book describes this adventure in great detail.
Later he was offered another troubled elephant named ET, who was alone, as her herd had been either sold or shot. The inimitable Nana saved Lawrence's life, when ET charged him. Lawrence said he had no idea how Nana moved to so quickly stepped in front of Lawrence, and place herself broadside to the charging ET. ET stopped, looked at Nana, then turned and walked away. Nana nonchalantly carried on eating, quite unaware of how shaken and grateful Lawrence was to her.
So once again, Lawrence started the process and, as his reputation spread, more troublesome elephants were brought to him.
The remarkable part of this story, is that all the severely traumatised elephants settled down, and two separate herds grew and stayed happily within 5000 acres of Thula Thula.
The family said, on Lawrence Anthony's death, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush, a journey which must have taken them at least 12 hours, until they reached the house of the late Anthony, the man who had saved their lives.
The former violent, traumatized elephants who were once destined to be shot as pests, rehabilitated by Anthony, arrived and stayed at his rural compound, on the vast game reserve to say goodbye to the man they loved.
No one knows how they knew Lawrence had died, especially as Lawrence had died in Johannesburg, over 600 kms away.
Both herds arrived at the family home, which they had not visited for a year and a half. They all hung around for a couple of days before making their way back to the bush. Extraordinary proof of animal sensitivity and awareness that only a few humans can perceive, Lawrence being one of them.
If there were a time, when we can truly sense the wondrous interconnectedness of all beings, it is when we reflect on the elephants of Thula Thula. A man's heart stops beating, and his elephants' hearts are grieving. This man's loving heart offered to heal these elephants, and now they came to pay loving homage to their human friend.
Elephants are known to mourn their dead. The less aggressive elephants in India are often raised from babyhood with a boy who will be their lifelong mahout. The pair develop legendary bonds, and it is not uncommon for one to waste away after the death of the other.
Hamba Kahle, Lawrence Anthony, we were privileged to have had you in our lives.
(Hamba Kahle - Go with God in Zulu)
News Report on the Elephants mourning Laurence Anthony
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