Nelly is a little less nervous

2013-03-16 00:00

GEORGE — A former zoo elephant who trampled a fence in fear of wild animals in her new home now listens calmly to the roar of a lion.

Thandora, who spent 23 years in the Bloemfontein zoo, was recently moved to the Gondwana reserve near Mossel Bay.

Nine days ago, she broke out of the one-hectare camp where she is acclimatising before being released into the company of four wild elephants.

Thandora is the first elephant in Africa to be released into the wild after a life in a zoo.

For the last four years in Bloemfontein she was alone, after her mate was put down when he became too aggressive.

Staff struggled to get her back into her enclosure, and then realised, when she took fright at a herd of gemsbok, that she was probably scared of other animals.

Since then she has been guarded day and night to prevent another break for freedom.

But now she seems to have calmed down, and reserve owner Mark Rutherford said she listened calmly on Thursday evening as a lion roared nearby.

“She started to recognise more animals that walk past her camp and is getting used to them,” he said.

Her diet and exercise programme were progressing well, and the reserve’s greatest challenge is to reduce her reliance on humans.

“Thandora is used to people and seeks comfort from them. It is difficult, because we have to help her exercise, but we are trying to encourage her to have less interaction with people.”

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