Thula Thula Expansion
16. December 2022
My interest in the Thula Thula wildlife reserve in South Africa started wile reading of The Elephant Whisperer. The world-wide popularity of the book is the author’s (Lawrence Anthony) incredible success to gain the confidence of the matriarch of an elephant family of seven “rogue” elephants offered to him for living in his Thula Thula Reserve or to be killed since they had broken out of all previous reserves. Without any elephant experience, Lawrence accepted the challenge and took in the elephants.
Mutual respect and trust between the elephants’ matriarch, Nana, and Lawrence Anthony matured over the years, and even as the herd grew in numbers, they never again attempted to break out of the reserve. From the 7 elephants welcomed to the original Thula Thula reserve in 1989 the herd has grown to 29 elephants. Lawrence and his wife Françoise, together with the Zulu elders, always had the joint ambition to create a much larger reserve in Zululand. Even after Lawrence’s unexpected death in 2012, Francoise and the Zulu elders kept this dream alive. With important land additions in 2008, 2010, 2021 and finally on June 10, 2022, the last territory of the 1,000 ha Blue Ridge Land added, The Greater Zululand Wildlife Conservancy has become a reality with a total land mass of 5,400 hectares (13,344 acres).
A great accomplishment for all involved, and a piece of South Africa made safe for its fabulous wildlife and natural flora. The people in and around the reserve will find more employment opportunities and benefit from revenues generated by visitors. The wildlife within the reserve is protected from industrial and agricultural development as the extended conservancy will be completely fenced in consisting of enough land to support 60 elephants sustainably.
The secret of keeping the crucial balance between the number of elephants and the available land is based on a humane male contraception control program developed with the assistance of the Humane Society, rather than relying on legal culling, which brutally disrupts the life of healthy elephant families. It also requires an enlarged team of armed rangers and trained dogs to keep illegal poaching under control.
The entire conservation system of the Greater Zululand Wildlife Conservancy is based on protecting the elephants and all other wildlife that make up a functioning eco-system. Most importantly, it protects local communities close to the conservancy from elephant/human conflict, keeping their crops safe and providing additional employment opportunities. It instills human pride in and understanding of “their” wild animals. .
Once elephants and other wildlife learn to trust the people who protect them, and the land reserved for them provides them with all they need to live their normal, natural lives, elephants are too intelligent to break out into the unknown dangerous environment of open national parks and their surroundings, thus securing as the keystone species they are, the natural existence for all wildlife within this sustainable habitat.
For more information about Thula Thula contact the wildlife reserve directly at: