When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” wild elephants on his game reserve in the heart of Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse.
But he was the herd’s last chance of survival: they would be killed if he wouldn’t take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in.
In the years that followed, he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realise that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.
He recorded his remarkable life’s journey – and lessons in: Babylon’s Ark, the incredible wartime rescue of the Baghdad zoo, for which he received the United Nations Earth Day medal; The Elephant Whisperer, the extraordinary story of one man’s battle to save his herd; and The Last Rhino, the powerful story of one man’s battle to save a species.
This all happened on Thula Thula located some two hours drive north of Durban, that traces back its origins to the private hunting grounds of King Shaka, founder of the Zulu Empire where the first historic meeting between Shaka and his father took place, which set the stage for the creation of the Zulu nation.
How symbolically appropriate then that the name of the private game reserve in Zulu literally means ”peace and tranquillity”, that Lawrence’s go-to spot and spiritual place to commune with his elephants was Mkhulu dam, that means ”grandfather” (and was named after Lawrence), and that the dam is located on Fundimvelo land.
Because since Thula Thula opened in 1998 as a place of refuge to its original herd, it’s been working with local communities. And following Lawrence’s death his courageous and feisty widow Françoise Malby-Anthony is continuing his legacy.
In May 2017 she created the Fundimvelo Thula Thula Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, a joint venture partnership with Thula Thula Game Reserve, Fundimvelo Community Conservation Trust and international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS, for the purpose of rescue, care and protection of wildlife, conservation education and community involvement.
She has opened a volunteer camp where people from all over the word, along with youngsters from local communities, can live in simple tents that bring them closer to nature and wildlife, where they will be taught the values of conservation.
She’s fundraising in order to comply with wildlife authorities land-to-elephant-ratio demands, as well as evaluating the social and emotional impact their male contraception policy has on the herd. It’s ground-breaking stuff.
For tear-jerking stuff, read about how ”when Lawrence’s heart stopped, something stirred in theirs, and the elephants crossed the miles and miles of wilderness to mourn with us, and pay their respects, just as they do when one of their own has died”.
In her inspiring book An Elephant In My Kitchen, Françoise shares what the herd taught her about ”love, courage and survival”.
All power to her keeping the dream alive!