A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – part 7

Thandora does not like elephants

Bully lost interest in Thandora after 15 minutes of circling the Boma. Thandora remained motionless during the entire Bully visit and my daughter was most distressed. She simply said to me in her childlike honesty that Thandora did not like elephants. Thandora seemed to be a human in an elephants skin.

Thandora’s behaviour was haunting me and I could not come to terms with the notion that something was not right.

I sat there watching her, wondering whether she would bond with Thembile and Bonnie, the two girls I had released at this very spot some years ago.

Bonnie and Thembile

A few years before this occasion, I had released Bully and another bull, as well as Bonnie and Thembile, the two girls we were hoping would accept Thandora into their group. Bonnie was from a circus/zoo set-up in Kwa Zulu Natal (KZN) and Thembile was from the park I used to work at. Thembile hated people and as a result was not tourist friendly. A non-tourist friendly elephant in an elephant interactive environment does not fit the financial model of that place. It means that the tourist-unfriendly elephants had to be managed separately from the others, an extra resource allocated to the elephant that is effectively not earning money for the business. These businesses are not, or were not, designed to accommodate unfriendly elephants. It was simply not a part of their purpose.

elephant release
The day Thembile went into Boma that Thandora was kept in

Bonnie had been translocated from KZN to a remote reserve in the Eastern Cape where she was to be retrained. She came with another bull called Clyde, however Clyde went back into the elephant back ride safari’s and Bonnie remained at the training camp.

Bonnie proved to be a handful for the trainers and as a result she was not worth the risk for tourist interactions. We were then able to convince the powers that she be moved with Thembile to a reserve. That is how Thembile and Bonnie came to this reserve.

Sitting at the entrance to the Boma doing observations with Thandora,  memories of their release came flooding back to me. They had never met one another before and we split the camp with one tiny electric wire to separate them on their release into the Boma. There was far less fanfare with their release compared with Thandora’s, and I was alone when I popped back to the Boma later that evening to check on them. It was past 8pm and the moon was out, so I could see them standing close to one another in the gentle light. It was really beautiful to see these two feisty ladies finding solace in one another. They had stood by their decisions to not give in to training and I wondered if that is where they found their connection. I left feeling  at peace with their situation and really proud of the gift that we were about to give them. At sunrise the next morning, I was alone with them once again. They had bonded overnight and without giving the matter to much thought, I dropped the centre line and let them explore one another; they were already friends. I then opened the central metal gate to release them into the reserve. I was not far from Thembile when I opened the gate and if this were any other occasion, she would have charged me, but this time she seemed to know that the key objective was to walk free, not to hassle with hurting me. I was alone, releasing these two girls catching the moment on my camera, no one around to witness the occasion other than myself.

animal care score
Bonnie and Thembile

The two girls disappeared into the bush before I called the reserve owner to advise him of what I had done.

Now, here at the exact same spot five years later, I was pondering Thandora’s fate.

Help us provide the best quality of life for elephants in captivity!


Add your thoughts

There are no comments, add yours