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The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence: Book Review Essay Part 3 : Meet the Elephants!

Meet the Elephants!


Matriarch named in honor of Lawrence’s “mum” Regina, that name which she is affectionately known by her grandchildren. Nana’s sister (Mnumzane’s mother) had been the matriarch of this herd of “highly disturbed elephants” (ch. 2) before “she and her baby had been shot during the capture in Mpumalanga, their former home, some 600 miles away. “The justification was that she was ‘bad news’ and would lead breakouts from Thula Thula as well.”

“…This killing cemented my determination to save the rest of the herd.” Lawrence Anthony (ch. 3)

And what was the “dawn patrol”(ch. 6) that, while in their boma, Nana so diligently began (and what caused it to stop? (ch. 9)  Nana, a “…ten-foot five-ton wild elephant…” (p. 138) Nana disciplines ET at a very crucial time. (ch. 28) …”Nana was still boss of the herd.” (p. 288)


Image: CC flickr fyre mael:  observed as Matriarch Nana by photographer.  Thula Thula Elephants : The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants



Female, “the feisty aunt” (ch. 42) Named after Francoise. (ch. 2)  …the second in command… was the main aggressor” (ch. 6) “The herd’s self-appointed guardian. She delighted in breaking away from the rest and storming past us at full speed, head held high and glaring fiercely just for the hell of it.” (ch. 9) Read about the Nokia cell phone incident with Frankie and the elephant herd in ch. 13.

Signs of Frankie’s agitation: Frankie…angrily lifted her foot, stamping the ground until it trembled, shaking her mighty head…” Frankie to the rescue! (see ch. 28)  “the herds prizefighter” (p. 286)



Frankie’s 11 year old daughter. …Always quiet and well behaved, seldom straying far from their mother. (ch. 9)


Frankie’s 13 year old son. Surprisingly, his disposition was similar to his sister, Marula. (ch. 9) “firstborn son” (ch. 16)


Image: CC Flickr: fyre mael: Thula Thula Elephants : The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants



“Named after King Shaka’s influential mother…meaning “good & nice” (p. 310) “Nana’s teenage daughter and mirror image, was much more independent and would often wander around exploring on her own.” (ch. 9) At age 22 Nandi had become…”dignified, confident & alert”. “She was inheriting from Nana the hallmarks of a potential matriarch.” (p. 310)  Mother of baby elephant Thula. (ch. 35 & 36)


(meaning rain in Zulu) (ch. 21) son of Nana, born at Thula Thula.

“The Stand-Off:”  Mvula joins in on the garden fun with his elephant mama Nana & elephant brother Mandla “together topping the scales at perhaps ten tons” facing Bijou & Francoise “a combined 125 lbs”. (p. 288)  “…the first elephants (along with Ilanga) born in the area for more than a century.” (p. 367)



(meaning the sun in Zulu) (ch. 21) son of Frankie, born at Thula Thula. “…the first elephants (along with Mvula) born in the area for more than a century.” (p. 367)


(meaning “power” in Zulu) Nana’s two-year-old son. During the elephant herd’s breakout from their boma, after they first arrived, the name Mandla was chosen for this little elephant “in honour of his incredible stamina in staying with the herd during the long chase.” (ch. 4)

“…A born clown whose antics kept us endlessly amused. Full of bravado he would regularly mock-charge us- just as long as his mum was close by.” (ch. 9)

Experience the “spectacular Zululand thunderstorm” (p. 254) Would the elephant herd escape through the “sacrificial fences”? (p. 255) Read about Mandla and the “sacrificial fence” (p. 260)

See “The Stand-Off” above, with Mvula


Image: CC Flickr: fyre mael:  Thula Thula Elephant : The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants



(pronounced nom-zahn) meaning “Sir” in Zulu. Bull elephant. At age 15 & 3 ½ tons he arrived at Thula Thula with a “rage” having witnessed his mother (the herd’s previous matriarch) and baby sister being shot to death. Despite his youth “he instinctively knew…that he must protect his herd”. (ch. 2) Mnumzane “… had been demoted from crown prince to pariah after his mother’s demise.”

And as is “the eons old elephant way (as elephant herds are fiercely feminized) once a male approaches puberty he is evicted,” cast away from “the inner circle”. From that moment on he would spend the majority of “his time either alone or on the periphery of the group.” In the wild “evicted males would form loosely knit ‘askari‘ bachelor herds under the guidance of a wise old bull.” “Unfortunately…there was no father figure for Mnumzane.” (ch. 9)

He was a superb specimen, well proportioned with strong tusks.” (ch. 11)  “Towering almost five feet above me… (and Lawrence Anthony was a stately 6’3” tall & “only came up to his tusks” see photo section in book)  (p. 285) Mnumzane reaching out with his trunk in silent communication to the Elephant Whisperer. He had a new confidence now.

“Everybody quickly learned bull elephant etiquette, namely to stay the hell away from him or else.”  (p.286, 287) “To me he was the same old Mnumzame and our bush meetings continued, although less frequently as he didn’t trumpet or call me any more. I was more careful when I was with him…” (p. 287)

Mnumzane & the White Rhino  “Rhinos in South Africa are rare and very expensive.” “The ten million dollar question.” (p. 294, p. 297)…he was being teased by rogue rangers.” (p. 342)

Mnumzane & the VIP Guests (p. 343) “His feet, practically the size of dustbin lids were literally inches from my head.” (p. 346) Nana, Frankie & the herd “had probably saved our lives”. (p. 348) “I had a big problem on my hands.” (p. 349)

“Poor Mnumzane had been in so much pain for so long that he just couldn’t stand it any more.” (p. 356)  Mnumzane, bull elephant, “my big boy” … who in the end had become “one of my dearest friends“.  (ch. 42)


Image: CC Flickr: fyre mael: Members of the Thula Thula elephant herd  : The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants


ET: “enfant terrible

introduced to the herd when EMOA called concerning the “14 year old female that desperately needs a home.” “…her entire family has been shot or sold and she’s completely alone on a big five reserve” (an almost certain death for a juvenile elephant, especially “without the protection of its herd,” as big fives are home to “the most dangerous animals to hunt”. “Even worse, she’s been sold to a trophy hunter.”  After an exhausting round to secure the elephant’s release ET arrived, “sprinting straight into the thickest part of the boma’s bush. And there she hid for the next few days…” (p. 220)

She was “terrified’ of humans. And despite the bravado of her charges, “I could sense that this poor creature… had the “self-confidence of a mouse.” Now, with a little psychology and boosting of her ego (“elephant whispering“), this all but defeated elephant was responding and Lawrence Anthony had, once again, prevailed in saving another elephant. “I wanted to show her how powerful she was – that she was queen of the bush. Elephants are majestic; they are not bullies or cowards. I had to let her rediscover herself.” It may have “worked too well”! (p. 222)

“During these encounters she never uttered a sound, whether she was intrigued, angry or frightened. To me that was uniquely sad. A trumpeting elephant is bush music. Yet this distraught creature was as silent as the air, even when coming at us at full tilt.” (p. 222) Then one day in a fit of hunger (after a food drop) a tiny squeak of a trumpet would come out, though in the young elephant’s mind “she was trumpeting for all of her worth,” trying in vain to shoo them both away.

Both David and Lawrence soon realized that what had befallen the adolescent elephant was this: while “pitifully alone out in the wilderness (with lions circling around) the poor creature had destroyed her vocal cords, calling to her mother and aunts screaming herself hoarse calling for help”. This all to no avail. The orphaned elephant had been truly traumatized by those tragic events.

She was really a special case.” In that moment they “affectionately named her ET for enfant terrible – terrible child.” Even as the days rolled by “she was a profoundly unhappy” girl. “The sadness bordered on a grief too embedded to penetrate.” That is when Lawrence “went looking to the herd” for help.  (p. 223)

“Again I called ‘Coooome , Nana!, willing her forward, calling out, telling her it was important, that I needed her.” …” I looked in the rearview mirror. There were nine elephants following me; I was for a fleeting instant the pachyderm Pied Piper. … It was all so implausible- and yet it was happening. God, I loved them.” (p. 224)

After some moments of trunks lifting in the air & discovering new scents… “suddenly, excited as a teenager at a funfair, she came out and ran to where Nana was standing at the fence. These were the first of her own kind she had seen in a year.

…Nana responded by walking over to the exit gate. She had made “her decision: ‘Let her out’ (p. 225)

“….as she (ET) chased after the herd’s scent, her trunk twitching just inches off the ground”, her stride increased to “a gaiting run.” (p. 226)

“…They were still in single file but already the pecking order had been established. ET was second-last, holding the tail of the elephant in front with Mnumzane behind her. He was resting his trunk on her back as they moved along. Comforting her. Walt Disney himself could not have scripted a better ending.” (p. 226) Nana began to “take charge of ET’s aggression” against humans, especially Lawrence. How did Nana save Lawrence’s life once again? (ch. 28)


Image: CC Flickr : book   The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence


Baby Elephant THULA:  

Female calf born to Nandi, named by Francoise after her birth on the Thula Thula Reserve. Thula’s grandmother (the Matriarch Nana), her Aunt Jackie and the other members of her elephant herd stood guard over Thula after Nandi gave birth even “taking turns to act as her umbrella” to shade the newborn elephant from the “blazing” South African sun. Why were they so attentive to the little elephant?

Read the story of this sweet elephant in Chapters 35 & 36. It is perhaps the most touching elephant story in The Elephant Whisperer book.

“…she always seemed cheerful, almost laughing in an elephantine way as she struggled to get up.”  (p. 321) “…she always seemed to be smiling.” (p. 323) “…this would be the first elephant who would want her marula berries marinated in garlic.” (p. 326) …Thula was our talisman.” (p. 326)


To be continued: The Elephant Whisperer:  My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence: Book Review Essay Part 4: Don’t Miss This

Purchase The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence through The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization  “Purchasing the book from us, LAEO, helps forward the work we are doing to achieve the goals that Lawrence envisioned.” See Lawrence Anthony’s Elephants

Image: CC dl edu: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence



The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony & Graham Spence  wiki

The Elephant Whisperer book cover (baby elephant)  CC Flickr

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony $ Graham Spence (baby elephant II)

CC Flickr Fyre Mael Elephants Thula Thula

Thula Thula Elephant Family Tree at Thula Thula website



Thula Thula YouTube Video  “THULA THULA Elephant Whole Family Parade”  game ranger gives name of each elephant as they walk by!

Thula Thula Elephants YouTube Video


Image: Wikipedia. book: The Elephant Whisperer My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence



Image: “Thula Thula Elephant Family Tree” Descendants of Matriarch Nana featured in the book The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony



One thought on “The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence: Book Review Essay Part 3 : Meet the Elephants!

  1. Pingback: The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence: Book Review Essay Part 2 : Team Thula Thula | Elephant Spoken Here

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