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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first glimmer of hope since the elephants had first thundered into my life.”

Elephants gathering at the Anthony home (Photo courtesy of the Anthony family)

It had all started several weeks earlier with a phone call from an elephant welfare organization. Would Anthony be interested in adopting a problem herd of wild elephants? They lived on a game reserve 600 miles away and were “troublesome,” recalled Anthony.

“They had a tendency to break out of reserves and the owners wanted to get rid of them fast. If we didn’t take them, they would be shot.

“The woman explained, ‘The matriarch is an amazing escape artist and has worked out how to break through electric fences. She just twists the wire around her tusks until it snaps, or takes the pain and smashes through.’

“’Why me?’ I asked.

“’I've heard you have a way with animals. You’re right for them. Or maybe they’re right for you.’”

What followed was heart-breaking. One of the females and her baby were shot and killed in the round-up, trying to evade capture.

The French version of "The Elephant Whisperer"

“When they arrived, they were thumping the inside of the trailer like a gigantic drum. We sedated them with a pole-sized syringe, and once they had calmed down, the door slid open and 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 dead mother. “He stared at us,” writes Anthony, “flared his ears and with a trumpet of rage, charged, pulling up just short of the fence in front of us.

“His mother and baby sister had been shot before his eyes, and here he was, just a teenager, defending his herd. David, my head ranger, named him Mnumzane, which in Zulu means ‘Sir.’ We christened the matriarch Nana, and the second female-in-command, the most feisty, Frankie, after my wife.

“We had erected a giant enclosure within the reserve to keep them safe until they became calm enough to move out into the reserve proper.

“Nana gathered her clan, loped up to the fence and stretched out her

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