Category: animal care

Where did it all begin

It was during the long nights with Thandora that my mindwould  drift and search for the answers that plagued the captive elephant tourism industry of today. The attraction of being able to stand right beside these huge magnificent beasts, feed and interact with them, makes one oblivious to any doubt of them being unhappy. Having witnessed tens of thousands of tourists visiting captive elephants I learned that these visitors invariably believed what they were told. Some of what they are told is the truth and then there is a lot that is not true.

And what are the tourists told?

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elephant in captivity
A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – Final Chapter

Anthropomorphism

Readers of this blog will probably ask 100 questions and offer as many possible answers as to why the girls did not accept Thandora.

During my hours with her in the reserve I challenged every scenario possible. All I can say is that Thandora was happy on her own. The day after the famous meeting described in videos and pictures in the previous blog, we meandered to a dam I called our ‘secret dam’. The water was clear and for some reason there were no traces of elephant spoor at this Dam. I assumed the other elephants did not come to this dam very often for whatever reason.

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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.

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captive elephant release
A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – Part 9

Our quest was to get her to interact and link up with Bonnie and Thembile, two elephants we released from captivity a few years earlier (mentioned in a previous blog post). The brief encounters Thandora had with the two girls were always in the evening, and were unpleasant. The two girls would attack her, striking her with their tusks and she would flee. During these times I would feel so helpless, when I eventually caught up with her she would come close to the vehicle for protection. These encounters destroyed me emotionally. There are no words to describe her state after these encounters, especially when her distress was tangible with her tremors vibrating through the vehicle as she leaned closer to the vehicle than ever before.

 

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elephant release
A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – Part 8

Standing in the exact same position I was in when I released Bonnie and Thembile, I waited as Thandora tentatively approached the invisible line that separated her holding-boma space from 10 000 hectares of reserve. The gate was open and all she had to do was walk out, but the moment was to big for her and she was clearly not happy about taking this next step.

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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.

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A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – part 6

Reserve Life

The holding Boma is situated a few kilometres from the main lodges and within the 11 000 hectare reserve where Thandora was to be released. At this stage I was with Thandora 24/7, and with life returning to normal on the reserve, my support group had whittled down to two reserve staff who relieved me when I needed a break.  My team had whittled away slowly, with the behavioural specialists having left, leaving me alone with her. It was important to have consistency in the staff working with her as we built up to the release date.

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conservation guardians
A Journey with Elephants by Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians
Thandora – part 5

Who put who to bed?

It was a warm night and the sun set to a kaleidoscope of colours with Thandora setting a lone figure with a backdrop of beautiful mountains. I was checking mails on my phone and drifting off in thought when I felt a thud, and the car jolted and shook. I startled and turned to see that Thandora was leaning against the vehicle, a 4×4. She was using the vehicle as her sleeping pillar. Then she started snoring and I then realised she was just a scared little soul that wanted to be close to another being.

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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.

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animal welfare
A Journey with Elephants By Greg Vogt – Conservation Guardians

Chapter 1: The awakening

Thandora – part 3

Moral dilemma

It was at that moment that I knew my life was about to change. The moment I reported that I knew a plan was going down to take young elephants from their mothers to enter the tourism industry, I would be targeted. I knew that at some stage I was going to report the facts that I knew of and that hell would follow this. I would be accused, threatened, and emotionally assaulted by the culprits when they found out that I was the whistleblower.

This one simple example is representative of how some of the places get wild elephants into captive environments.

Not all of them, but some of them.

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