Proof That Elephants Really Never Forget

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

They called him the “Elephant Whisperer,” a man who could confront an angry 6-tonne African bush elephant and by standing still and talking softly and calmly, get it to lower its trunk and tusks, calm down, and eventually turn and wander back off into the bush.

And more extraordinarily, when Lawrence Anthony, the “Elephant Whisperer,” died at his home deep in the KwaZulu bush in March 2012, some 31 wild elephants walked from two different reserves over twelve hours away, to stand in mourning for two days outside his home.

They did not eat or drink during that time, and on the third day simply turned and walked off as mysteriously as they had walked in. The scene left animal behavioural experts mystified to this day as to how the elephants on separate reserves so far away would sense the death of a ‘friend’ and make their way together to his home.

Lawrence Anthony was born in South Africa, and the wildlife lover bought the Thula Thula Game Reserve in the mid-1990s. It was soon after, that nine wild elephants escaped their enclosure and wreaked havoc on farms and in villages. Land owners demanded they be shot.

But Anthony objected and bravely confronted the matriarch of the herd that he had often “spoken” with, as its 30 followers shuffling agitatedly behind it. He wrote in his book The Elephant Whisperer how he had stood as calmly as possible, saying softly “don’t do it, Nana. This is your home now, please don’t do it, girl, they will kill you if you break out…”

He talked calmly for what seemed hours, and eventually Nana lowered her trunk, relaxed her body muscles and, in Anthony’s own words “turned and melted into the bush,” her herd following loyally behind.

Bruce Parkinson

Bruce Parkinson Editor-in-Chief

An observer and analyst of the Canadian and international travel industries for over 25 years, Bruce uses the pre-dawn hours to prepare a daily news and information package to keep industry members up to date.

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