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Tshombe, Durga and Owalla were born in Kruger National Park in the 1960s and were one of the first load of baby elephants captured from the wild and sent to overseas zoos. The 3 were shipped to the USA and landed up in a circus.
In the 70s Randall Moore, an elephant trainer, became involved with them. Tshombe was 15 years old and a headstrong independent bull with long tusks. Owalla, a teenaged female, took on the role of matriarch to the three. Durga was completely submissive and docile, about the same age as the other two.
Randall Moore soon became obsessed with the idea of bringing them back to Africa. And after tedious paperwork, the elephants were shipped back to Tsavo in Kenya. However the Kenya’s Wildlife department suddenly refused to allow the elephants a permanent stay. The reason was that they had been born in Kruger National Park, a WHITE game reserve (this was the height of apartheid) and they did not want ‘white’ elephants in ‘black’ Africa.
Shortly after, Tshombe succumbed to an illness. Durga cried with tears for two days, and her and Owalla were destined to go back onto a boat and the USA. Meanwhile, Pilanesberg National Park had expressed willingness to obtain elephants, but until all the paper work was accomplished the elephants were already back in the USA. Eventually luck turned and a shipping company offered to ship them back to Africa – their 4th sea trip. The two females were slowly reintroduced back to the wild in Pilanesberg, where they are still living out their old days. Eventually as more orphans came to Pilanesberg Owalla took on the role Matriarch.
Text: Randall Jay Moore with Christopher Munnion. Back to Africa. Southern Book Publishers 1989