Elephant whisperer's widow is keeping his dream alive
Francoise Malby-Anthony hopes an academy launched at Thula Thula will continue his conservation legacy
Nearly 20 years after the “elephant whisperer” Lawrence Anthony accepted a rogue herd into his nature reserve in Zululand, his widow has started a project with the lofty goal of keeping Anthony’s conservation dream alive.
Francoise Malby-Anthony last week launched the Thula Thula Volunteer Academy at the Thula Thula nature reserve, which was started in 1998, a year before Nana, Frankie, Ilanga, Numzane, Mandla, Mabula and Marula were brought in from the Kruger National Park. These elephants would be the start of the resident herd at Thula Thula – and the start of a love affair.
Anthony, who received worldwide recognition for his role in evacuating the Baghdad Zoo, died in 2012.
But now, Malby-Anthony hopes that the volunteer academy, established to coincide with Thula Thula’s 20th anniversary, will ensure that her late husband’s legacy and conservation ambition continues to thrive.
At the academy, local and international volunteers can, for between one and six weeks, get involved in conservation activities at the reserve. They might even find themselves patrolling the fence line and removing poachers’ snares.
The academy aims to “educate and inspire”.“Game reserve management activities will form a large part of the volunteer programme,” the academy said. “Some of these activities involve physical work and therefore a certain level of determination from the volunteer’s side is required. Keep in mind that the ‘reserve needs’ are always taken into account and you will help to fulfil those needs as a volunteer.”
But Malby-Anthony believes that the academy’s biggest influence – and how it can make the biggest difference to wildlife and nature conservation – is how it will involve the surrounding communities.
“It’s a community project,” she told Times Select at the launch. “We are going to educate and inspire young children from the local schools, from the local community, [and] to teach them about the importance of wildlife conservation.”
It was vital that they understood that wildlife was “part of their universe”.
“It’s their land as well, and they must understand that we have to protect those animals. If they learn that, they will spread awareness around them. Children, I always say, teach their parents. So when they see a guy with a reputation of being a poacher in the village, they will know it’s wrong,” she said.
Each volunteer session will include one person from the local community, who will not pay for the session. For South Africans it will cost R1,000 a night.