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Frankie, Thula Thula’s matriach elephant, dies

Frankie the matriach elephant, who has died, led with wisdom and commanded respect from her herd. Picture: Kim Mcleod

Frankie the matriach elephant, who has died, led with wisdom and commanded respect from her herd. Picture: Kim Mcleod

Published Jan 31, 2021


Durban - The Thula Thula Private Game Reserve elephant herd is mourning the loss of its matriarch, Frankie, 46, who succumbed to liver damage two weeks ago.

Her death has left a void among the herd but a possible successor has been identified.

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In her honour, a dam at the reserve where she died has been named after her and a passage enabling access to an isolated area of the game reserve will be constructed.

Francoise Malby Anthony, owner of the game reserve and the wife of the late Lawrence Anthony who was widely known as the Elephant Whisperer, said they were all devastated as they had hoped until the end that she would survive.

“Frankie was special. We miss her mischievous, unique personality. She had an amazing character, personality and temper which I now see in all her four children,” she said. “It was a couple of months ago when we picked up a change in her attitude and eventually saw that she had removed herself from the herd which is usually a bad sign. She was on her own but that made it easier for us to take care of her.”

Malby Anthony said Frankie became part of their family in 1999. At the time, Nana was the queen but as her health deteriorated and she suffered a cataract in her right eye, Frankie took over and excelled.

“Frankie was a good, strong and wise leader,” she said. “Elephants have an amazing non-egocentric way of leading. They lead for their families, for the best of everyone. There is a great deal of respect among them and we should learn from that as humans. Harmony is a common thing within a herd of elephants, whenever there are disagreements they are able to sort it out in a civilised manner among themselves. That is so beautiful to watch.”

She said when Frankie had isolated herself a vet arrived, darted her and took some blood samples. She was immediately put on treatment for her symptoms and they also used CBD oil to help the elephant.

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“There was a big pocket of water near her belly which was growing and when we received the blood test results we learnt that she had liver damage. We knew for sure that if it was her kidney that was affected she would not make it but with her liver, we could try to slow the process,” she said. “Frankie was looking better and feeding for about 10 days and we had hope.”

However, on January 9, the matriarch disappeared. A helicopter, an anti poaching team and all the rangers went on a search and screened the reserve for days without any success.

But on January 16, Malby Anthony received a phone call informing her that Frankie was found.

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“She was found in a little dam in a hidden part of the game reserve; it was very difficult to access. We had to go through thick bushes and we were not even aware of the dam’s existence and we are now going to make a passage to make it easier to get to that dam which will be named after her,” she said.

“That is how we want to always remember her and who she was. We will never forget her.”

Malby Anthony said the elephants had lost their leader and their direction and that she had seen them completely spread out in the big part of the game reserve which was not normal.

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“Nana had taken back the matriarch but she struggled. We think that maybe Frankie’s daughter Maria will take over as she is already showing some signs of strength, authority and domination but we will see in the next couple of months.”

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Sunday Tribune

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