Elephant Whisperer Speaks No More

Lawrence Anthony:  Camera Press

Two herds of wild elephants in mourning.  They traveled over 12 miles to pay homage to Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist known as "The Elephant Whisperer." Lawrence Anthony, Telegraph.co.uk

Anthony was a native of Johannesburg,South Africa.  He made international news in 2003, when he arrived in Baghdad to rescue animals in Saddam Hussein's zoo. 

Anthony witnessed horrific conditions at the zoo.  Carcasses of dead animals lined the cages.  Parrots were loose, monkeys'  and baboons'  ran wild.  He worked for six months' to restore the original condition of the zoo.  By the time Anthony finished his mission, the animals were well fed, with fresh water, and in good health.

In his native South Africa, he was known for establishing the "Earth Organization," a  conservation effort which established two new reserves.  The first of which The  Royal Zulu Biosphere in Zululand, and The Mayibuye Game Reserve in Kwa Ximba, both in South Africa.  These reserves provided people with jobs, and helped preserve wildlife from uncontrolled development.

So when Anthony learned the fate of two herds of wild elephants, he decided to work with them to save them from certain death.  The elephants had broken out of every enclosure they had been in.  There were nine in all, highly dangerous and and feared by villagers.

Anthony explained that he began to work with them by pleading with them to behave.  He singled out "Nana" first, the matriarch of the group.  At one point, he literally threw himself in front of her, explaining that if she broke through the electric enclosure again, she would be killed.  Remarkably, his effort to try to speak rationally to "Nana" paid off.   He used words and gestures, explaining to her that he knew she couldn't actually understand, but he hoped that his tone would convey what he was trying to say. Gazing at him in anger, she ultimately turned around and walked away.  

So, on March 2nd, when Lawrence Anthony died, two herds of elephants that Anthony had worked with unselfishly to save, made  the 12 mile procession to his grieving family's home.  How they understood is unknown.  But it is said that elephants are fiercely loyal to their families.   The herds mulled about the family property for two days, as if to pay respect and love for sparing their lives.  Then, after spending two days on the property,, turned around returning orderly to the reserve.

To the locals, there is no question that these elephants were in mourning.  They had accepted Lawrence Anthony as their own.  In their own way, they understood his passing.

I treasure this remarkable story, it is another testament of the intense love and devotion animals are capable of expressing.

Lawrence Anthony was one of the privileged few to understand this connection,  Because of his special gifts, he was able to communicate with them in his own way.

It is unlikely the elephants' will every forget his unconditional love and devotion.

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