Sunday Times

Shock over death of famous baby elephant

- HEATHER DUGMORE

ON the verge of being returned to the wild, Themba, the famous orphaned baby elephant, has died.

Themba died two days before we reported last week on his friendship with a sheep named Albert.

For two years Themba had thrived at Shamwari Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape after being rescued from Sanbona Game Reserve in the Karoo. His mother died when he was six months old.

At Shamwari Themba and his best friend, Albert the sheep, were regularly filmed and screened to the world on the Animal Planet series, Shamwari: A Wild Life. They were introduced by Shamwari’s wildlife team, who knew Themba needed an animal friend.

This month they would have said their final goodbyes as Themba was prepared for the trip back to his family at Sanbona. Then tragedy struck. On Thursday last week, after the story was written, Themba’s minder Victor Kwangqa noticed Themba was out of sorts and immediatel­y contacted Shamwari’s resident vet. He was treated for severe colic and his condition improved.

That night, despite monitoring, he went into a coma and died on Friday morning.

The postmortem revealed a torsion of the large intestine, an uncommon condition in elephants and almost impossible to treat surgically, given their anatomy and size.

Themba’s death came as a huge shock, and all those close to him are devastated.

Said Shamwari’s senior full-time vet and wildlife director, Johan Joubert: “Until this happened, we were not at all worried about Themba; he was in excellent health. Our biggest concern was whether his original herd would accept him, or if he would follow the herd when we re-introduced him.

“We knew we had only a 50% chance of getting this right, and we had done everything possible to achieve a positive outcome.”

He said it was a freak death, “just like his mother’s, who slipped to her death while the herd was walking along a path they had made for themselves on the top of a cliff”.

Themba will be missed by millions all over the world.

His passing will also create a huge gap in Albert’s life, as they had been inseparabl­e for two years.

News of Themba’s death reached us the day after publicatio­n of the story. — West Cape News HE AIN’T HEAVY: Director of the Animal Planet series Shamwari: A Wild Life, Lyndal Davies, watches as Themba plays soccer

 ?? Picture: Shamwari/WCN ??
Picture: Shamwari/WCN

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