Preserving elephant habitats is one of ELEPHAS’s main missions. Luckily, we are not the only ones who are committed to making this planet a safe place for wildlife. To start off the series about individuals who inspire us, Françoise Malby-Anthony and the late Lawrence Anthony are at the top of our list. This couple created a safe haven devoted to wildlife protection in South Africa, where many different species live peacefully, protected from the threats endangering them outside of the Thula Thula reserve.

Who was Lawrence Anthony?

“The Elephant Whisperer” is the title of one of Lawrence’s last books, and also his nickname. In his youth, Lawrence Anthony discovers the African continent and the threats endangering the environment of his homeland, South Africa. Seeking to protect the fauna and flora in conflict zones, Lawrence undertakes saving the animals of the Bagdad zoo in Iraq. Throughout his life, he has also toiled to save the critically endangered white rhinoceros, by stopping their extinction in war-ravaged Southern Sudan.

Lawrence’s story with elephants started when he was asked to keep a group of nine elephants in Thula Thula. Although initially hesitant to accept, upon hearing that the elephants would be slaughtered otherwise, he agrees to take them in. Fences are built around Thula Thula to keep the elephants safe within the game reserve.

In 2012, years after the elephants’ arrival in Thula Thula, Lawrence Anthony died from a heart attack. After his death, his family discloses how the elephants wandered to Lawrence’s house, walking many kilometers across the game reserve. It seems they too, were mourning Lawrence’s death.

Lawrence Anthony

Who is Françoise Malby-Anthony?

After her husband’s death, Françoise Malby-Anthony has to manage Thula Thula and its animals on her own. Although she initially moved to South Africa to be with Lawrence, she chooses to stay in Africa to continue the project they both dedicated themselves to for many years: to save the elephants and the white rhino. To do so, she decides to increase the surface of Thula Thula by creating the South African Conservation Fund.

But the biggest problem for the elephants and rhinos is not a lack of space, it is the battle against poaching. When one of her rhinos is shot following her husband’s death, she understands the harsh reality of what her responsibility entails. Françoise now manages Thula Thula reserve (4.500 hectares of wildlife!) on her own with the help of her wonderful team. The difficulties she encountered here are recounted in her book “An Elephant in my Kitchen”, where she discloses the decisions she had to make for Thula Thula following her husband’s death, and the events that kept her from giving up. Not only does the book tell the story of her life on the reserve, but it also teaches a valuable life lesson on finding strength in the face of opposition.

Lawrence Anthony et Françoise Malby-Anthony

Françoise Malby-Anthony

Thula Thula

Thula Thula reserve for the protection of wildlife

The beautiful reserve of Thula Thula is situated in Zululand in South Africa. Starting off with 1.500 hectares of wildlife, it is now 4.500 hectares big. Fenced to keep the animals inside and free from danger, many animals found shelter here, including elephants, antelopes, leopards and zebras. If you’re looking to stay there, you can discover the place here.