Elephant Thandora to be released

2013-04-22 13:58

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Cape Town – Thandora, a 27 year-old elephant is going to be released in the Gondwana Game Reserve near Mossel Bay on Monday after 23 years in captivity at the Bloemfontein Zoo.

Her new home is a 11 000ha game reserve.

Since being brought to Gondwana six months ago she has been prepared for re-introduction into the wild. She had low muscle tone and was very unfit which could be potentially life threatening had she been released directly onto the 11 000ha reserve.

The Gondwana elephant herd can cover around 8 to 15km a day, which Thandora needs to be physically prepared for.

Fransie Baur, a graduate student helping with the release had to lead Thandora round the boma to help her get fit.

One day as they came around the corner they saw a male lion sitting watching them. Needless to say Fransie tucked in very close to the electrified fence. Luckily the lion had other plans.

The next problem was easing her into a natural diet. At the zoo she was only fed twice a day on bread and lucerne, among other things. Elephants normally eat during most of the day as they fully digest less than 40% of what they eat.

Thandora also had to learn to eat grass that is still growing in the soil and stripping food from trees.

According to project leader Greg Vogt “after decades of living in captivity, [the release] is an extremely special and emotional occasion”.

The release is fairly low key. The gate to the boma will be opened and Thandora will be allowed to wander out. If she returns, her new owners will gradually stop providing her with supplemental food to encourage her to roam free and hopefully join the elephant family already at home on the reserve.

Thandora’s release is planned for 14:00.
Read more on:    george  |  conservation  |  animals

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