Zoo elephant to be released in reserve

By SAPA Time of article published Mar 6, 2013

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After 23 years in captivity, an elephant at the Bloemfontein Zoo will soon be released back into the wild.

Zoo officials decided to free 27-year-old Thandora after the death of her companion.

She will soon be joining a herd of elephants in the Gondwana Game Reserve in the Western Cape.

Game reserve and zoo officials will be working with the Conservation Global group to adapt her to living in the wild.

They have named the mission “Free Thandora”.

The Free Thandora group said preparing Thandora for her free-roaming life is a challenge.

Elephant herds at the game reserve can cover between 8km and 15km in a day.

After spending over two decades in a confined space, Thandora is in no shape to keep up.

“Due to her captive environment she has low muscle tone and poor fitness, which could be potentially life threatening if she is released directly on to the 11 000 hectare reserve,” said the Free Thandora group.

Plans are under way to get her into shape and physically prepared for the long treks.

A new diet and exercise plan have been introduced, to prepare Thandora for her release.

“Her diet will be adapted from captive-based food, such as fruits, vegetables, bread and lucerne to natural forage.

“She will partake in a fitness programme where she will be walked daily within the holding boma, building up to a target of 10km a day,” the group said.

They anticipate that it could take between six and eight weeks for her to adjust to the programme.

The Conservation Global research department would be monitoring the process. They believed this mission could help in the relocation of other elephants. – Sapa

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