After 23 years in captivity, an elephant from the Bloemfontein Zoo will soon be released back into the wild. Zoo officials decided to free the recently widowed 27-year-old Thandora following the death of her companion. She would soon be joining a herd of elephants in the Gondwana Game Reserve in the Western Cape.
Game reserve and zoo officials will be working with the Conservation Global group to try and adapt her into the wild.
They have named the mission “Free Thandora”.
The Free Thandora group agrees their biggest challenge will be preparing her for her new free roaming life.
Elephants herds at the game reserve can cover between eight and 15 kilometres in a day.
After spending over two decades in a small and confined space, Thandora is in no shape to keep up.
“Due to her captive environment she has low muscle tone and poor fitness, which could be potentially life threatening if she is released directly onto the 11 000 hectare reserve,” said the Free Thandora group.
Plans are underway to get her into shape and physically prepared for the long treks.
A new diet and exercise plan was introduced to her ahead of her release next Tuesday.
“While in the holding bona, her diet will be adapted from captive-based food such as fruits, vegetables, bread and lucern to natural forage.
She will partake in a fitness programme where she will be walked daily within the holding boma building up to a target of 10 kilometres a day,” they said.
They anticipate that it could take between six to eight weeks for her to adjust to the programme.
The Conservation Global research department would be closely monitoring the process. They believed the results from this mission could help in future relocation of other elephants. - Sapa