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They say that elephants never forget.
I beg to differ. I think that on Thula Thula Game Reserve, the female elephants have forgotten to take their daily contraceptive pills! What started out as a herd of seven has now exploded to a wonderful twenty-nine! And unlike humans, there are no condoms available for male elephants! In actual fact, with elephants it is the male that is given the contraceptive. The males are injected from the air by the vet, Mike Toft, every six months.
Ellie bookIn his book,The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony says: ” …any game ranger will tell you that if you decide to dart rhino for relocation to other reserves, the day you go out to do so there will not be a rhino around for love or money. Yet the day before, you saw them all over the place. Somehow they knew you were after them and simply vanished. The next week when you only want to dart buffalo, the rhino you couldn’t find will be standing by watching you.”
I think that the elephants are leading Mike Toft a merry dance every six months!

Ellie 1But dance or not, the injections don’t seem to be working. No matter how many injections penetrate those male hides, the herd continues to increase.

The bigger the herd, the more land is needed. They are outgrowing the space that they now inhabit. One could cull them, but that goes against everything Thula Thula stands for. One hears ‘Thula Thula‘ and one instantly thinks: Elephant!
Culling is not an option.
So, more land was needed. Francoise Anthony, the owner of Thula Thula put out feelers and the local community donated an additional 3500 hectares of land to the Game Reserve. This is unbelievably generous of them, you may be thinking. Yes, it is generous but the people see that it will mean more employment for them. That land will need to be fenced, new roads will be built, security and land management will need to be increased. The area will be opened up to more visitors. A place that has more visitors is bound to generate more work.

When the seven elephants first came to Thula Thula, Lawrence Anthony set about electrifying the fences surrounding the game reserve. In his book The Elephant Whisperer he says:
“However, with elephants, which are stronger than a truck, it’s a different ballgame altogether. You have to spike the fences with enough mega-volts to hold a five ton juggernaut.
The electrical force is designed not to injure the animals; it’s only there to warn them off.”
I laugh at the fact that despite this the fence didn’t keep the elephants in. They were able to withstand the mega-volts and simply knocked the impediment aside and went on their way. It was only when they decided that Thula Thula was no threat to their freedom that they accepted everything the fence was saying to them. The fence didn’t present a barrier to them. It merely served as a reminder of the boundaries in which they roamed. Now that these boundaries are being extended, additional fencing is required. This new electrical fence is unfortunately incredibly expensive.

“Money makes the world go around, the world go around….”
This refrain from Cabaret echoes in my head as I think on the vast amount of money needed to build this fence. 350 000 dollars! Dollars not Rands. Multiply it by 17 the current exchange rate and you get a preposterous amount of South African Rands.

Francoise has hit upon a wonderful way in which to raise this money.
                                                                                   ‘Adopt an Ellie!’

Ellie family TreeMe, my family, my nieces and nephew’s schools, my brother’s company, in fact ANYONE can ‘Adopt an Ellie’. Francoise has created a wonderful Thula Thula elephant family tree from which ‘we’ can select our personal favourite! You pay R250/$30 (outside SA) per month, and in return receive a photograph of your elephant along with a brief history. You will be regular updated on it’s progress; how it spends it’s days….etc, etc and an even bigger etc!
Can you imagine the learning potential for children? I can see a photograph of one of Thula Thula’s elephants on a fridge door or in a school classroom. The discussion about the elephant would be interesting and informative. Children might have seen elephants in films like Jungle Book or Dumbo. To actually “own” one is a different case completely! As a lover of nature and wildlife, I would find it incredibly interesting. More importantly, we will all be helping preserve elephants for future generations.

Isn’t it sad that we live in a time where our glorious wildlife has to be protected, fenced in, to survive? Soon the little rhinos in the Thula Thula’s rhino orphanage will be released into the reserve. They will need 24/7 armed protection. Just recently a baby elephant was caught in a trap. He was freed but think how much worse it would be with no fence to keep the poachers out. On one of our game drives during my recent stay, we came across a tunnel that had been dug under the fence. Poachers are vermin that need to be kept out at all cost. That is the one of the main purposes of the fence. Not so much to keep the animals in but rather to keep the poachers out.

I have a friend who is going to join me in paying R250 a month to “Adopt an Ellie”. What we are really doing, of course, is keeping all of Thula Thula’s animals safe by building a fence! We have our hearts set on Susanna. She turns six this year. How I wish that this scheme was already in operation when I visited Thula Thula last year. Then I could have met my ‘child’! I will have to see what I can organise for this year.
After all, Susanna and I will need to see each other. Regularly!!!

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If you are interested in ‘Adopting an Ellie” please contact:

Francoise – email: marketing@thula-thula.co.za