Features, Reviews

The Elephants of Thula Thula: Interview with Françoise Malby-Anthony

The Elephants of Thula Thula by Françoise Malby-Anthony is a fantastic account of the challenges faced by the Thula Thula game reserve over the past 2 years. From lockdowns, Covid, looting, poaching and more it’s an eye-opening look at everything the team does to protect their reserve and the animals within it. But despite the seriousness of the subjects highlighted within the pages, you will find yourself laughing out loud at the funny antics of the animals in the reserve too (here’s looking at you Thabo!).

The book is both educational and inspiring, perfect for those interested in the conservation of our wildlife, nature and environment for the future generation, and hopefully a catalyst to spur us into action to help where we can. You can read my full review of the book here.

I caught up with Françoise Malby-Anthony to find out if she has a favourite animal at Thula Thula, if there are plans for another book in the future, how we can help to protect our endangered animals, and how she hopes this book will inspire you. Find out more in the interview below. 

We know that there are so many animals at Thula Thula who are special to you, but can you share with us who one of your favourites is and why?

All our elephants of course are unique, each one having a name and specific personality, but the one who stood out for me was Frankie, our former Matriarch. I shall let the reader discover more about her. My other very special creature is our rhino Thabo, who was an orphan from the age of 1 day, and only saw humans the first few months of his life. He is our problem child, totally confused about his identity. Stories about Thabo will definitely entertain the reader. Despite all his mischievous actions, we just love him and Thula Thula would not be the same without him.

What is something you learnt from the Covid-19 pandemic that you took as a positive?

Covid taught us that nothing is ever granted in life, and that the secret to survival is the ability to adapt to a new situation, that pressure, adversity and challenges open the door to new opportunities and are a necessity for evolution and growth. Change was inevitable during Covid, and I learned that it is the way we respond to it which makes the difference, and makes us realise that the impossible can be achieved. So yes we survived Covid despite all odds! The reader will have lots of fun discovering how we managed to survive!

We know it’s been important to you to see the rehab centre re-opening. Can you tell us a bit more about this and of any plans for the future?

We succeeded in re opening the rehab wildlife centre and are working closely with CROW for pre release of wildlife. We are expecting a jackal and genets by the end of this month, all to be released into the game reserve after a short stay at our rehab centre. We are delighted to be able again to rescue wildlife in the area of Thula Thula, and even more now that we are expanding to 5500 hectares by the end of the year.

Given that there is always something happening in the bush, and the fact that I’m sure you still have lots of stories to tell and plans to be made, will there be another book in the future?

Next book which should come out next year is a much requested cook book, but with stories of elephants, some inspirational quotes and fun stories. The name of the book will be Dinner with elephants. All recipes will be from our well known and reputable Elephant Safari Lodge, where all recipes were created for the past 22 years. What we call Franco Zulu cuisine, quite a bit more on the French cuisine side though.

It’s clear that you’re doing your best to do your part to help save our wildlife for the future generation. What would you say to the young people of today to inspire them to take action and get involved?

What delights me the most is to receive emails of messages from young people from all around the world who tell me they have been inspired by my books to get involved in nature and wildlife conservation. Some of them get extremely creative and find ways to raise funds for the cause of their choice. Some link up with top animal welfare organisations and for me, to create such new passions in this young generation gives me an immense sense of achievement.

Many people will be inspired by the call to arms in the book against poaching and protecting our endangered animals. How can we all help to contribute to this important cause?

The best way is to raise funds to help game reserves to provide them with new technologies to fight poaching.  Nowadays it is the way to go, as surveillance cameras for example. Anti poaching is one of our most financially heavy expenses.  It is an endless battle that we cannot avoid. But conservation is not a money making business, and we are blessed with the generosity of our guests to help us with our conservation projects through our non profit organisation The South African Conservation fund. We have set up an adoption program with our wildlife, where sponsors receive the full story with photos of their chosen foster animal. This helps us tremendously.

If there’s one thing you hope people will take away from reading The Elephants of Thula Thula what would you like that to be?

I hope that the readers will be inspired by the need and importance to create awareness of the growing number of endangered species, to protect them from extinction for future generations and the urgent necessity to create more space for wildlife. This book shows a bit of the behind the scenes of the challenges faced in conservation, and I hope to create new passions or purposes in this book with all its ups and downs, a new outlook on life on this planet, but an uplifting book with a happy ending and great achievements, with our philosophy of never giving up. A journey of discovery and survival for all, humans and animals.

Thanks to Françoise for taking the time to answer my questions, and to Pan Macmillan for sending me this book in exchange for an honest review.

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