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Elephants arriving to funeral

Lawrence Anthony, the South African conservationist and ‘elephant whisperer’ died last March of a heart attack.  Of all the remarkable life events of this outstanding person, the most extraordinary of all was his funeral, because arriving there, with no invitation or warning was a herd of elephants, who’d come to pay tribute to one of their best friends.

Anthony resembled a young and exuberant Ernest Hemingway, but rather than shooting game, he risked his life to preserve wildlife and their habitats from human atrocities, abandoning his early career in real estate to work in the African bush.  

Anthony’s amazing list of achievements included persuading Africans wanted as war criminals to protect northern white rhinoceroses; teaching African tribes to set up game reserves; and rushing into war-torn Iraq at the beginning of the 2003 American invasion to save the animals left to languish in the Baghdad zoo.  

Nine rogue elephants
In 1999, after setting up a 5000-acre game reserve in Thula Thula, Anthony was offered nine elephants who’d been considered troublesome and dangerous.  He was truly their last resort. They’d escaped every last enclosure attempting to contain them, were storming all over KwaZulu-Natal and were due to be shot if he refused to take them.

‘They were a difficult bunch, no question about it,’ Anthony once wrote after deciding to keep them at his reserve.  ‘But I could see a lot of good in them, too.  They’d had a rough time and were all scared, and yet they were looking after one another, trying to protect one another.’

Anthony began using certain words and gestures to show the herd the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, focusing his attention on Nana, the matriarch of the herd.  After studying how they communicated with each other and learning how to establish his own communication with them, he gradually won them over.  

‘I’d go down to the fence and I’d plead with Nana not to break it down,’ he said. ‘I knew she didn’t understand English, but I hoped she’d understand by the tone of my voice and my body language what I was saying.  And one morning, instead of trying to break the fence down, she just stood there.  Then she put her trunk through the fence towards me.  I knew she wanted to touch me. That was a turning point.’

Blessed events shared
Eventually, Anthony was able to allow the herd to roam around the reserve freely. His experiences resulted in his bestselling book The Elephant Whisperer:  My Life with the Herd in the African Wild, which was published in 2009.  

Anthony and his wife Francoise became so close to the elephants that occasionally they’d attempt to set up camp in his living room, and he’d have to gently usher them out. When Nana gave birth, she brought her newborn to meet them a few days after its birth.  When their first grandchild was born, Anthony returned the favor.

As the herd grew, and Anthony’s game reserve got more popular, he feared for the herd’s safety, and so deliberately had the elephants keep their distance, refusing to allow them to visit his home for the last 15 months of his life.

The elephant cortege
Several days after Anthony died of a heart attack, as if out of nowhere, a herd of 20 elephants arrived at his doorstep, led by two matriarchs. Separate wild herds had walked over 12 miles to make the journey to his home.

The family and others, who photographed the elephants making their way to the house, were amazed at the sight of the elephants not only because they somehow ‘knew’ about his passing but also because they’d been able to remember a route they hadn’t made for more than a year. But perhaps the most astonishing aspect of the funeral cortege was its demeanor.

As soon as Anthony died, the elephants had begun a slow and solemn single-file procession from their wild habitat to his home.  

After paying their respects for two days and two nights, they turned to make their slow journey home.  Nevertheless, the family says that they have returned several times since, to share their grief over the loss of their beloved friend.

This extraordinary situation begs many questions. By what mechanism, for instance, did the herd, at a 12-mile distance, know Lawrence Anthony had died?  

This, like the work of British biologist Rupert Sheldrake, offers more evidence that a great deal of information beyond the senses lies out there in the Field, accessible to all creatures  (which includes most animals, but sadly not as many humans) that stop long enough to listen.  

It also is a powerful demonstration of the fact that love speaks a language beyond time, space – or species
Systemic Connections
"All things are global, indeed cosmic, for all things are connected, and the memory of all things extends to all places and all times." ...E.Laszlo _______________ _______________ “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” ...... ~Martin Luther King Jr. _________ --------------------- "Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else. " Leonardo da Vinci