Monday, 16 April 2012

The Elephant Whisperer...

From modern day explorers to adventurers of a different sort; today I want to tell you about another of our local (South African) heroes.

In March 2012, African conservation lost one of its giants with the death of Lawrence Anthony. Anthony, known as the Elephant Whisperer, was born in 1950 in Johannesburg, and spent his childhood in the small towns of rural Rhodesia, Zambia, Malawi and lastly South Africa’s Zululand.

The Elephant Whisperer

Despite a career in business and property development, his heart was always in the African bush and in the mid ‘90’s, he bought 5,000-acres of wilderness in KwaZulu-Natal and founded the Thula Thula game reserve. Here he worked with African tribes, involving them in conservation projects on their ancestral lands. He also founded the environmental group, Earth Organization, an independent, non-profit group which “seeks to reverse the dwindling spiral of the plant and animal kingdoms and our environment through education and action.” Follow this link to read more about their continuing work.

Mother and Child

In 1999, a herd of nine dangerous rogue elephants, in need of a home, were given refuge by Anthony at Thula Thula.  The transformative power of his love and commitment to these animals led to his label ‘the Elephant Whisperer’ and the story of their rehabilitation became the subject of his second book by the same name, “The Elephant Whisperer” co-written with brother-in-law Graham Spence. (2009)

He spent much time protecting wildlife from the devastation's of human conflict and 2003 found Anthony in Iraq, where he organized the rescue of the remaining wildlife at the bombed Baghdad Zoo. While there, he helped save countless animals, including the Hussein’s exotic pets that had been forgotten by both the invaders and local Iraqis.

The harrowing account is the subject of his first book, “Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo.” Also written with his brother-in-law, Graham Spence. (2008)

Northern White Rhino

His last book 'The Last of the Rhinos (The Powerful Story of One Man's Battle to Save a Species)' was released at the end of March. It is the account of his 2007 expedition into the heart of the Democratic Republic of Congo to raise awareness of the last of the Northern White Rhinoceros. This involved talks with the infamous Lords Resistance Army (LRA), the Ugandan rebel group led by accused war criminal Joseph Kony. Anthony said in an interview last year; “Essentially, I went and found them in the jungle to try and persuade them not kill the game guards or the last few rhinos”.

Lawrence Anthony has left an example to all of us; one person who stuck to his ideals and never said “I can’t” but rather, something must be done so “I’ll try”.

He made a difference…


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