“I had never seen the jungle. They fed me behind bars from an iron pan, till one night I felt I was Bagheera – the Panther – and no mans plaything and I broke the silly lock with one blow of my paw and came away; and because I had learned the ways of men, I became more terrible in the jungle than Shere Khan” – Bagheera, the Panther

― Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book

I was five years old when I saw The Jungle Book.
Mums then bought me the record and I sang along with Baloo the bear, Look for the bare necessities, the simple bare necessities…..The elephants’ marching number had me marching around the house shouting Up, two, three, four! Keep it up, two three four! Imagine the disappointment I must have felt at the discovery that animals don’t talk or sing or dance.

Or do they?

Eighteen months ago I visited the incredible Thula Thula Private Game Reserve in Kwazulu-Natal and I left there knowing that all animals do indeed talk. It is just that we humans are not well versed in their language!

“I have got ears. And my ears have got ears” – King Louie

If only we were.
I am positive the “Elephants Whisper’s” herd know when there are poachers invading their ‘home’. If only they were able to convey this knowledge to Francoise Anthony and her team.
Unfortunately this is not possible.

As a result Thula Thula is surrounded by an electric fence. The two adult rhinos have been dehorned. They have the freedom to roam the reserve but are surreptitiously guarded around the clock by men with rifles. While I was staying on Thula Thula, I was fortunate enough to visit the Rhino Orphanage. Although situated on the Thula Thula estate, it was operated by the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation.

At that time, in my blog Elephants…..and so much more, I wrote:
“I am not wanting to talk further about these baby rhinos and the terrors that have happened to them with the slaughter of their parents. I prefer to to let them savour the safety and care that they are now being subjected to by the extremely knowledgeable helpers….”

I sighed as I read my words. Unfortunately, earlier this year, five poachers breached the safety of that haven. The result was dire. A worker was assaulted and two baby rhinos perished. When I heard this catastrophic news, my feelings were murderous! I felt a hot, scorching anger that boiled inside of me. How did those poachers have the gall to invade the rhino orphanage? How dare they attack baby rhinos?

“My heart is heavy with the things I do not understand” – Mowgli’s Song

As a mere visitor to Thula Thula, I felt like this. I could not begin to imagine the rage that the rhino orphanage team and everyone involved at Thula Thula must have experienced. An explosive anger and an engulfing despair.
The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organisation’s primary focus was ensuring that the facility was safe for both people and animals. The Board of Directors made the heart wrenching decision to close permanently the rhino orphanage.
The Rhino Orphanage was no more.

“Now, don’t be angry after you’ve been afraid. That’s the worst kind of cowardice.”

– The Troop-horse

‘Those poachers not only killed two baby rhinos and assaulted a person that was dear to me’, Francoise Anthony, wife of the late Elephant Whisperer thought, ‘their atrocity has resulted in the closure of the entire rhino orphanage. If I accept this, then the poachers have won. I will have permitted them to dominate me and Thula Thula. I cannot allow that to happen.’
Francoise is not one to sit around weeping or ‘gnashing her teeth’. Neither is she one who is prepared to capitulate. Remembering her husband’s dream of creating a safe haven for the animals, she thought: ‘What would he do?’ Her thoughts turned to the desolate, empty shell of the rhino orphanage. Why not modify this building and create a rehabilitation centre for all wounded/orphaned animals not just rhino’s?
Francoise began setting things in motion.

“The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack”

– The Law of the Jungle – The Wolves

I so admire Francoise and her team. They were courageous and didn’t give up. They wanted to continue the dream. After the orphanage atrocity, people donated towards the security fund raising campaign from all around the world. This made Francoise realise that people loved Thula Thula and the concept of the rhino orphanage as much as she did.
The animals must smile to themselves with this knowledge!

The Fundimvelo Thula Thula Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre was established!
It is an exciting partnership between the Thula Thula Game Reserve,  Fundimvelo Community Conservation Trust and the international animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS. It’s aim is to take in all injured and orphaned wildlife. There they will be treated and cared for and then gradually rehabilitated back into the wild. It was evident from the rhino orphanage’s demise that security was now paramount.

A state of the art security system has been installed. CCTV cameras are activated even before the premises are approached. These cameras contain motion detectors and analytics which automatically detect anyone trying to enter the area surrounding the rehabilitation centre. An infra-red motion detector and heat sensor are able to differentiate between animal and human movement. In addition to all of this high-tec, Bruce the dog has joined the rehabilitation team and will inevitably play an important role as a four legged security guard!

On hearing of these precautions, I want to stand on a mountain top and ululate long and loud. You cowardly, spineless, hacker of rhinos, don’t you dare set a foot near that Rehabilitation Centre! You will be decimated!!!

Francoise was aware that a project like this needed the help of the local community in order for it to survive. She asked a well known Sangoma from the hills of Zululand to come and throw his blessings all around the Centre. A Sangoma is a traditional Zulu healer who communes with the unknown spiritual terrain of the ancestors. By doing so all the ‘bad spirits’ would be done away with. High technology meets Zulu tradition and culture! He did so with vigour and enthusiasm. Thus she has ensured that the Zulu community is on her side!

The Tiger? ……He hates man with a vengeance, you know that, because he fears man’s gun and man’s fire!”
– Baloo

I think of the recent fires on the Garden Route. Fires which were horrifying for the people and terrifying for the animals. The humans knew what was happening. The animals didn’t. They saw the flames and one thought entered their minds – FIRE: Get away! And they ran. They ran this way. They ran that way. They didn’t know in which direction to run! Everywhere there were red, hot, leaping flames! This fire made me realise that it is not just the big five that need rehabilitation and help. When disasters occur, all animals are caught up in the devastation. Monkeys, baboons, leopard, tortoise, buck, even the ghost ‘Knysna elephant’ were all made homeless if not injured in the fires.

How I wished Francoise’s Rehabilitation Centre was closer and so could have helped those traumatised animals!

Keep it up, two three four!