Wild elephants gather inexplicably, mourn death of "Elephant Whisperer"

Author and legendary conservationist Lawrence Anthony died March 7. His family tells of a solemn procession on March 10 that defies human explanation

BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor

 

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uncommon for one to waste away without a will to live after the death of the other.

A line of elephants approaching the Anthony house (Photo courtesy of the Anthony family)

But these are wild elephants in the 21st century, not some Rudyard Kipling novel.

The first herd to arrive at Thula Thula several years ago were violent. They hated humans. Anthony found himself fighting a desperate battle for their survival and their trust, which he detailed in The Elephant Whisperer:

“It was 4:45 a.m. and I was standing in front of Nana, an enraged wild elephant, pleading with her in desperation. Both our lives depended on it. The only thing separating us was an 8,000-volt electric fence that she was preparing to flatten and make her escape.

“Nana, the matriarch of her herd, tensed her enormous frame and flared her ears.

“’Don’t do it, Nana,’ I said, as calmly as I could. She stood there, motionless but tense. The rest of the herd froze.

“’This is your home now,’ I continued. ‘Please don’t do it, girl.’

I felt her eyes boring into me.

Anthony, Nana and calf (Photo courtesy of the Anthony family)

“’They’ll kill you all if you break out. This is your home now. You have no need to run any more.’

“Suddenly, the absurdity of the situation struck me,” Anthony writes. “Here I was in pitch darkness, talking to a wild female elephant with a baby, the most dangerous possible combination, as if we were having a friendly chat. But I meant every word. ‘You will all die if you go. Stay here. I will be here with you and it’s a good place.’

“She took another step forward. I could see her tense up again, preparing to snap the electric wire and be out, the rest of the herd smashing after her in a flash.

“I was in their path, and would only have seconds to scramble out of their way and climb the nearest tree. I wondered if I would be fast enough to avoid being trampled. Possibly not.

“Then something happened between Nana and me, some tiny spark of recognition, flaring for the briefest of moments. Then it was gone. Nana turned and melted into the bush. The rest of the herd followed. I couldn’t explain what had happened between us, but it gave me the

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