- EMPANGENI, South Africa (AFP)
- The matriarch of a herd of elephants in South Africa opened a gate with
her trunk to free antelopes being held at a camp in the east of the country.
- Lawrence Anthony told the SAPA news agency Tuesday that
a private game capture company had rounded up the antelopes at their camp
near Empangeni to relocate them for a breeding programme.
- The team were settling in for the night when the herd
of 11 elephants approached, he said.
- "The herd circled the enclosure while the capture
team watched warily, thinking the herd were after lucerne (alfalfa) being
used to feed the antelope," he said.
- The herd's matriarch, named Nana, approached the enclosure
gates and began tampering with the metal latches holding the gates closed.
- She carefully undid all the latches with her trunk, swung
the gate open and stood back with her herd.
- "At this stage the onlookers realised this was not
a mission for free food, but actually a rescue," Anthony said.
- The herd watched the antelope leave the camp before they
walked off into the night.
- Ecologist Brendon Whittington-Jones said: "Elephant
are naturally inquisitive -- but this behaviour is certainly most unusual
and cannot be explained in scientific terms".