For 12 hours the huge beasts slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of the man they loved – to say good-bye.
That, according to the son of conservationist and adventurer Lawrence Anthony, who passed away while on a business trip to Johannesburg last Friday, was the profoundly moving sight at Thula Thula Private Reserve this week.
Dubbed ‘the elephant whisperer’ for his unique ability to calm traumatised elephants and herds, Anthony became a legend when it came to light that he had rescued animals from the Baghdad Zoo during the Iraqi invasion.
There are two elephant herds at Thula Thula. According to his son Dylan, both herds arrived at the house after Anthony’s death.
“They had not visited the house for a year-and-a-half and it must have taken them about 12 hours to make the journey,” said Dylan.
The first herd arrived on Sunday and the second herd, a day later.
‘They all hung around for about two days before making their way back into the bush,” said Dylan.
Yesterday family and close friends gathered at Thula Thula for a private memorial service, following a public service held at Moses Mabhida Stadium on Thursday.
Anthony, in a collaboration with his brother-in-law, former Durban journalist Graham Spence, wrote the book “Babylon’s Ark”, which details his unorthodox rescue of animals from Baghdad Zoo.
The pair also co-authored “The Elephant Whisperer”, which tells of Anthony’s techniques in communicating with elephants.
Having been at the frontline in the war against rhino poaching in Africa, when he died Anthony was in the process of launching a third book (also co-authored with Spence), “The Last Rhinos”, which tells of his exploits deep in the Congo jungle.