conservation guardians
A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – Part 10

Have you ever had that feeling where you wish for something but know it will not happen? I was wishing that Thandora would connect with the girls but knew deep down it would not happen. It was almost as if Thandora had told my deeper conscious that she was not interested. The concept of her living in a reserve, sustaining herself just did not fit with her.

Bonnie and Thembile stopped at the vehicle I was sitting in, raising their trunks to take in Thandora who at this stage was shielding herself from them by constantly placing the vehicle between herself and the two cows.

The camera man and producer of a video on Thandora was communicating with me via the sound system I was connected to and asked me to translate the non-verbal dialogue between the elephants. Try to imagine yourself dwarfed by three elephants and being used as a buffer, knowing that these elephants could throw the vehicle you were in around like a toy. That said, I was in no mood to make a sound and attract any attention.

Thandora saw the open vehicle from which the filming was taking place and dashed towards this vehicle, hoping the two girls and young calf would not follow. Within seconds, they followed her and luckily found a distraction in the rear of the open backed game drive vehicle occupied the attention of all three elephants.

The wildlife manager had thrown a bail of Lucerne (hay) into the vehicle before leaving, thinking it might be valuable to use in case we needed to lure Thandora to a different place. All three elephants partook of the hay whilst reaching out to one another in a behavioural gesture we call trunk-to-mouth. This is when one elephant places their trunk into the mouth of another elephant. This behaviour continued for some time, probably 15 to twenty minutes. Would this work?

The trunk-to-mouth gesture encouraged me to believe there was hope in them connecting. But my hopes were dashed when Bonnie moved around the vehicle and suddenly, in a very aggressive gesture, jabbed her tusks into the rump of Thandora. This was typical of each of their evening meetings and that is why Thandora had tusk marks on her rump. Thandora took off away from the vehicles – she had had enough of this stress.

What a sad ending to the most beautiful setting with perfect gold light as the sun began dipping towards the horizon. Everything was gold interrupted with puff’s of dust splayed up from the pads of the elephants as they jostled for position around the vehicle, with the little calf always between the legs of the cows, alternating between her mother and her allomother.

I started my vehicle and moved towards Thandora to comfort her, or was it for my comfort?

Thandora wanted nothing further to do with the cows, she carried on walking towards a road that followed a very steep path down towards the valley where she sought the comfort of solitude.

The film- maker was in his element with the footage they captured. Imagine three elephants interacting over you with you cowering beneath them – a once in a lifetime experience. The British media lady who was with them must have thought she had reached the end of her time. I could hear over the system that they were all in their element, full of adrenaline and chatting like excited primates about each of their experiences.

Thandora did not share this sentiment, and I could sense her despair and terror. The sun set and she moved against the vehicle once again finding her comfort zone. I was filled with the most empty and hollow feeling of despair.

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  • April 13, 2018 at 3:25 pm
    Reply

    Poor Thandora! I was hoping for a happy ending … I can’t imagine how Greg felt. Why were they always so aggressive towards her?

    • April 14, 2018 at 10:41 am
      Reply

      Hi Chris! Greg here. Yes, this is quite interesting considering that they are sentient animals and that the two cows were also from a captive background. There could have been any number of reasons? There is one more blog on Thandoras story and I will give my opinions in this last blog. I was devastated Chris. At that stage of our relationship I was starting to really understand her. In the last blog we will post a video of a moment I sharewd with her whilst living with her in the reserve. A moment that captures our times together.