Lawrence Anthony: Elephant Whisperer



Philip Long, via Flickr

Mike Procter and Anne Muir tell the story of Lawrence Anthony. He saved and tamed herds of wild elephants in South Africa, and worked to protect animals in many other places too.

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Transcript


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Mike Procter.

Voice 2 

And I’m Anne Muir. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1 

In South Africa a group of elephants starts to walk slowly across the land. These large grey animals walk for more than 12 hours. Their long noses or trunks move from side to side as they walk. This group or herd of elephants goes to the home of their human friend. They have not been there for about two years. But they seem to sense that something has happened.

Voice 2 

Something has happened - their human friend has just died. The elephants seem to mourn his death. They seem to be honouring him. But who was this man? And why was he special to the elephants? Today’s Spotlight is on this man. His name was Lawrence Anthony. Many people called him ‘The Elephant Whisperer’. He was a friend to many wild animals.

Voice 1 

Lawrence Anthony lived in Zululand, South Africa. He was a conservationist. He worked to protect wild animals and the places they live. He owned a game reserve called Thula Thula. This very large area of land is used to protect wild animals. Such animals do well in game reserves because they can live in their natural environment.

Voice 2 

In 1999, an animal organisation talked to Lawrence Anthony. They told him about a herd of elephants. These elephants were a big problem. They were very dangerous. They charged, or ran at vehicles and people. The elephants were so dangerous that the authorities would have to kill them. But Anthony did not want that to happen. He wanted to save the elephants. So he decided to give them a home at Thula Thula.

Voice 1

The elephants arrived at Thula Thula in a big truck. They were released into a special area for keeping animals. This area had strong fences. The elephants would get an electric shock if they touched the fence. But still the elephants escaped.

Voice 2 

Anthony had to find the elephants. They had left the safety of Thula Thula. Other people would shoot the elephants if he did not find them. After many days he found them. But they had destroyed more property. And they had charged at another man. They were very dangerous.

Voice 1 

Anthony brought the elephants home to Thula Thula again. This time he tried something different. He decided to live with the elephants!

Voice 2 

He lived and slept by the elephants for many weeks. But he did not go too close. The elephants got angry if he came too near. But Anthony would sing and talk. He did this for a particular purpose. He wanted the elephants to trust him.  He told the BBC World Service:

Voice 3 

‘I would walk around talking to myself. I tried to get them used to my voice. Sometimes I would sing. I would be there for weeks.’

Voice 1 

After a little while the elephants let him come closer to the fence. He talked to them as if they were people. He told them they were in their new home. He told them that they would be happy. He wanted to persuade the elephants to stay in Thula Thula.

Voice 2 

The leader of the elephants was a female called Nana. Nana was the matriarch. Anthony concentrated his efforts on her. As the weeks passed Nana let him move nearer and nearer. Then one day she put her long trunk through the fence. Anthony moved closer. She reached out. And Nana touched Anthony with her trunk! She had accepted him. Anthony said that everything changed after this happened. He discovered that all the other elephants accepted him too. He told the BBC World Service:

Voice 3 

‘I began to understand that once the matriarch makes a decision she communicates it to the herd. The next day there was no tension. The elephants were calm.’

Voice 1 

That day Anthony released the elephants from the fenced area. This was a big decision. If the elephants left Thula Thula they would be shot and killed. But it worked. The elephants knew how to escape. But they chose to stay.

Voice 2 

Anthony formed a very special link with the elephants. They became very close. They were friends. His son, Jason, told BBC Radio 4:

Voice 4 

‘He could stand and call to them. And call and call and call. And they would come and touch him. An amazing relationship!’

Voice 1 

Anthony had a special relationship with elephants. But he wanted to protect other animals too. In 2003, he saw television news of the bombing of Baghdad, Iraq. He knew that there was a big zoo there. He discovered that no-one planned to save the zoo animals. So he decided to save them himself!

Voice 2 

He flew to Kuwait. There he collected supplies. He drove to the border of Kuwait and Iraq. The guards at the border were very surprised to see him. Iraq was a war area. Everyone else was trying to leave Iraq. But Anthony was trying to enter. He explained that he was going to rescue the zoo animals. The guard said that the idea was insane. But he let Anthony into Iraq.

Voice 1 

Anthony got to Baghdad. He saw ruined buildings. And he heard gunfire. There was still fighting in the city. But Anthony found the zoo. It was wrecked. Anthony saw many dead animals. Flies were all around them. Other zoo animals had been eaten by local people. But dangerous animals such as lions and tigers had survived. However these animals were deeply shocked. And they were starving.

Voice 2 

Anthony and some helpers immediately began to save the animals. Anthony bought donkeys to feed the zoo animals. He paid zoo workers to return to work. It was hard work repairing the zoo. Soon American soldiers started to help. A few weeks later former Iraqi soldiers helped too. These men had been killing each other on the battlefield only recently. Anthony told the BBC:

Voice 3 

‘American soldiers were fighting during the day. They put down their weapons at night. Then they would come across to the zoo and help. I was watching American soldiers and Iraqi soldiers both working to help these animals. Completely amazing.’

Voice 1 

Anthony stayed in Baghdad for six months. When he left the animals were healthy and the zoo was clean. The zoo had been saved.

Voice 2 

Anthony’s work protecting animals could be dangerous. But he learned a lot from animals. In his book ‘Elephant Whisperer’ he explained:

Voice 3 

‘They taught me that all life forms are important to each other. There is more to life than just yourself, your family, or your kind.’

Voice 1 

The writer of this programme was Katy Blake. The producer was Nick Mangeolles. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programmes on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This programme is called ‘Lawrence Anthony: Elephant Whisperer.’

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight programme. Goodbye.

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Question:

Do you agree that all life forms are important to each other? Why or why not?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
georgino
said on October 01, 2012

Anthony is a good man, love the animals most of the time the war doesn’t respect the environment when their interest is over all before.
Every time the world is weaker than before. We must protect our world to live.

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Barbara Wiseman
said on October 02, 2012

Lawrence Anthony was a dear friend of mine.  When he asked me to help him create the Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization, an environmental and conservation non-profit, and to become its International President, it was one of the greatest honors I have experienced. 

I am so delighted to see that Spotlight has done a story based on his experience at the Baghdad Zoo, which was the original place where he first decided to start this organization.  One of the many things we do is take groups of people on Eco Safaris to Lawrence’s game reserve called Thula Thula where they can enjoy a 4-star experience in the African bush, and on the many game-viewing drives, see Nana and the herd that befriended him, as well as the abundance of wildlife that can be found there.  It is a life-changing experience and I invite anyone who might be interested in joining us on one of our safaris to contact us at (818) 769-3410 or go to our web site at http://www.TheEarthOrganization.org

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Dela
said on January 21, 2014

An excellent story of a great man. I mainly admire his effort to rescue the animals in the zoo during the state of war. This doing was really courageous, just as being next to the elephants and taming them too. Anthony wanted to save elephants, he loved them very much and that was why they let him approach near and near, they began to accept him. Protecting the wild animals and also their natural area is still necessary, particularly because of decreasing the number of these amazing animals year after year.
Thanks for the interesting topic!

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Endlessmemories
said on June 30, 2015

I admired Anthony.I think we need many people like him too protect this world get better

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kenhieuloilam
said on February 28, 2019

Nature brings life freshness. We love nature, everyone and life. Green trees, streets, sounds of birds singing on branches of trees, people in community, friends, family and many things more are part of our lives. The sunshine, the wind, the flowers, the rain, the leaves falling, the dawn, the sunset and many things more move our hearts. We live to love one another in life. We live to love one another and we receive love in life. We share joys and we share sadnesses. None of us is forgotten. Nature brings life freshness. We love nature, everyone and life. We may be rich or we may be poor. We owe one another and life love.

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Honneur
said on March 02, 2019

I think it’s correct. Nature is wise and makes the world balanced. An ant is as important as a whale for species balance. If we, the humanity, understand this way, we would live better than before ... I am not an ecological activist, but I usually respect every living being in the world. Animal or vegetable.

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VĂ­ctor Hugo Loachamin
said on March 03, 2019

Good morning.-
I think that Anthony was a great person. He is not alive, but every good things that he did are living in the mind of the people.
Greetings