feeding thandora
A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – part 4

Thandora does not feel so welcome

Almost every translocation I have been involved in we arrive at our destination after midnight, and this one proved to be no different. The reserve staff were excited to be a part of the process and this meant that the numbers of the team had grown. More people, more ego’s, more chiefs.

I sat back knowing that in a few hours the adrenaline wears off and all will return back to normal. I made a suggestion that we set up a night-watch, but the suggestion was turned down, people were exhausted.

At sunrise the next morning news broke that Thandora had broken out of the holding Boma. Teams dispersed to go and find her.

A holding Boma is a fenced area used to hold game for observation after a translocation. There are very specific guidelines and regulations to releasing game from these Bomas. They are electrified and wired with strong cables.

animal welfare
Thandora had broken out of the holding Boma

My heart hurt for Thandora, this meek and mild little elephant must have been so terrified when we had all left. She decided that this was not a place she would stay in and burst through the electric fencing, snapping poles and flattening anything that got in her way.

Following her spoor I could not help thinking of how terrified she must have been. I imagined the adrenaline that must have been running through her to do what she did. She broke out of the game reserve and her journey stopped on a neighbouring farmers property where she chose to settle in and feed on the abundant corn available – a pantry for her.

The vet, reserve owner and his team and my team gathered near her talking to her and throwing her the odd vegetable we had brought along to entice her along. We had to try to get her back into the reserve and her weakness for vegetables and fruit would hopefully do the trick.

Thandora clearly wanted nothing to do with the reserve. Every effort we made to try to move her came to nought. Again, my heart went out to this girl. She was like no other elephant I had ever translocated before. She was timid, youthful and she had the most beautiful nature. Her body was mature however her mind appeared childlike.

I began begging her, talking to her quietly, urging her to follow me because I knew if she did not follow us, she would have to be darted again. Whenever I watch re-runs of this seen of the video, I cringe.

elephant in captivity
Helicopter and vehicle trying to return her to the reserve

Stubborn

The reserve manager called in a helicopter to try to assist her along. It was frenetic, helicopter in the air, 4×4 vehicles trying to flush her along and me walking in the road in front of her trying to calm her down.

She wanted nothing to do with the return journey and regardless of the commotion, she held her ground. Everyone seemed to realise this at the same time and collectively we called it off. The helicopter was sent back and we gathered in the field near her, realising that the presence of people actually did calm her down.

The day was nearing an end and I opted to stay with her in a vehicle whilst everyone else went off for some rest and recuperation. The moment they left I moved the vehicle closer to her to observe her. She was not grazing and only took the fruit and veg I made available to her, otherwise she just stood, motionless.

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