Elephant Thandora on walk to freedom

2013-04-22 19:15
Gondwana Game Reserve

Gondwana Game Reserve

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Cape Town - Thandora, the elephant re-introduced into the wild at the Gondwana Game Reserve near Mossel Bay after 23 years in captivity, was growing in confidence as she becomes accustomed to her new surroundings, an official said on Monday.

According to John Vogel, Gondwana Game Reserve's wildlife manager, "She was initially reluctant to come out of the boma, which we had expected, since the boma has been her home for nearly two months.

"She is progressing nicely with growing confidence and she has now travelled 2km, and is already browsing and grazing and drinking."

"We are guiding her down into a valley near the elephant cows and their young."

Thandora had been at the Bloemfontein Zoo since she was about 5-years-old, until she was released in early March.

Since then she has been at Gondwana where the reserve together with the Bloemfontein Zoo, and Greg Vogt of Conservation Global, have been working hard to prepare her for the challenges facing her.

Thandora has been physically and mentally prepared while living in a boma in the bush - getting used to her surroundings and learning to feed herself.

The elephant has been exercised so that she will be fit enough to keep up with the herd on the property should she join up with them. Her stride length has had to be normalised through exercise.

Thandora has also had to be weaned off the "zoo" food she has been used to.

The team preparing her has been keeping track of her actions and activities and matching it to a normal wild elephant's activity budget, as the framework is called.

On Monday she was released and emotions ran high for all those involved in this monumental journey.

After the final release strategy session, between 13:30 and 14:00, the boma doors were opened and Thandora took her first tentative steps into the bush.

Just after 20:00 Thandora met up with the two other females that the team was guiding her to. Greg Vogt reports "The encounter was energetic but brief, lasting all of twenty minutes.

"The amount of stimulation Thandora has had today is probably more than she has had in her entire life."

She is currently grazing and browsing happily next to the observations vehicle.

He continued "There is curently no sign of the other elephants, but  I am sure a day encounter will be more productive."

Read more on:    george  |  conservation  |  animals  |  good news

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