Thandora finally at home with wild herd

2013-05-23 16:47
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Thandora's first days in the wild

After 23 years of captivity, Thandora, an elephant from Bloemfontein Zoo is walking in the wild again. We take a look at what she's been up to in her first two days of freedom.

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Cape Town - Thandora, the elephant re-introduced into the wild in late April, has finally ditched her human helpers, and joined up with a group of elephants at the Gondwana Game Reserve.

Wildlife officials had been concerned that the elephant, who had been in a zoo for 23 years, would struggle to separate herself from her keepers who were monitoring her movements.

Gondwana Game Reserve director Mark Rutherfoord said on Thursday that for the last four days Thandora has been walking and foraging with a herd.

Much to the surprise of officials though, it was not the herd that they were actively encouraging her to join, but with a group of bull elephants.

Rutherfoord and other officials had been trying to get Thandora to join up with a group of cows and a calf after her release on 22 April, and they continued to monitor her progress day and night.

Rutherfoord said there has been much speculation and questioning throughout the process, as Thandora took time to engage with the wild elephants.

"We constantly had to consider various behavior scenarios as we mobilised Thandora to try to join her up with the cows and their baby," he said

Then the meeting with the bulls happened by chance.

Rutherfoord said that last Saturday while guiding Thandora to where the cows had been foraging overnight the Bulls appeared out of nowhere.

Thandora casually moved away from the vehicle towards them and after an hour did not return.

The surveillance vehicle stayed within 200m of her but she showed very little interest in it. 

Incredible journey

To test her bond the surveillance vehicle left her for long periods. Upon returning they would find her happily grazing and browsing with the bulls and little concern of the missing Land Rover.

"After two days of this independent behaviour, we started to allow guests in Game viewers to view them all together at an appropriate distance," he said.

"If Thandora showed interest in the game viewer the field guide would slowly move off and she would happily returned to her new herd."

"Despite our continual efforts to join her up with the cows and their elephant calf who are currently walking separately from the bulls on the reserve, she obviously felt more confident and secure with the bulls for whatever reason that enabled her not to come back to the Land Rover and the human contact inside it."

Rutherfoord said it has been an incredible journey for a brave animal and John Vogel, Taylor Hawkins, and Greg Vogt the dedicated team who helped her through it.

"We still have a long way to go with Thandora but each and every little milestone that we achieve motivates the team to continue," Rutherfoord said.

"This was a learning experience for all and the results hopefully will be used for future, similar, relocations and introductions," he said.

Read more on:    george  |  conservation  |  good news

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