Lawrence Anthony (17 September 1950 – 2 March 2012) was an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer, and bestselling author.
Anthony was born in Johannesburg, South Africa, and raised in rural Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe), Zambia, and Malawi. He was the long-standing head of conservation at theThula Thula game reserve in Zululand South Africa and the Founder of The Earth Organization, a privately registered, independent, international conservation and environmental group with a strong scientific orientation. He was an international member of the esteemed Explorers Club of New York and a member of the National Council of the South African Association for the Advancement of Science, South Africa’s oldest scientific association.
Anthony had a reputation for bold conservation initiatives, including the rescue of the Baghdad zoo at the height of the US lead Coalition 2003 invasion of Iraq, and negotiations with the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army rebel army in Southern Sudan, to raise awareness of the environment and protect endangered species, including the last of the Northern White Rhinoceros
Details of his conservation activities appeared regularly in regional and international media including CNN, CBS, BBC, Al Jazeera and Sky TV and featured in magazine’s and journals such as Readers Digest, the Smithsonian, the Explorers Journal, Africa Geographic, Men’s Journal, Shape magazine, Elle Magazine and others.
Anthony was married to Francoise and lived on the Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand. He has two sons and two grandsons.
Anthony, 61, died of a heart attack before his planned March 2012 conservation gala dinner in Durban to raise international awareness of the rhino-poaching crisis, and to launch his new book, The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures. Following his death, there were reports that some of the elephants he worked to save came to his family’s home in accordance with the way elephants usually mourn the death of one of their own. 
Baghdad Zoo was the biggest zoo in the Middle East; however, by 8 days after the 2003 invasion, when Anthony reached the zoo on a private rescue initiative, out of the original 650 to 700 animals in the Baghdad Zoo only 35 survived owing to bombing of the zoo, looting of the animals for food, and starvation of the caged animals without food and water.Anthony could not get to the zoo any earlier at the height of the war owing the safety, transport and bureaucracy issues. The animals that survived tended to be the larger animals, including bears, hyenas, lions and tigers. In the chaos of the war, Anthony used mercenaries to help protect the zoo, and with some of the zoo keepers looked after the zoo animals, and fed the carnivores by buying donkeys on the streets of Baghdad. US Army soldiers, Iraqi civilians and various other volunteers including former Republican Guard soldiers came to assist. Eventually L. Paul Bremer, then head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, supported the zoo and American engineers helped to reopen it. Anthony wrote a book about the wartime rescue of the Baghdad Zoo, and the movie rights have been acquired by a major Hollywood production company.
As an African Wildlife expert, Anthony was long involved with programs to involve remote African tribes in conservation on their own traditional land, an activity he considered essential to the future well-being of conservation in Africa. He had created two new Game Reserves in South Africa. The Royal Zulu Biosphere in Zululand, which is expanding to join the world famous Umfolozi Hluhluwe reserve, and the Mayibuye Game Reserve in Kwa Ximba.
Anthony’s private focus was the rehabilitation of traumatized African elephant. He had developed a unique relationship with a wild herd of elephant on the Thula Thula Reserve in Zululand. Anthony’s second book, The Elephant Whisperer, tells the story of his working relationship with the African elephant.
Anthony had served on the National Transitional Executive Committee during the South African Governments transition from Apartheid on the panel for the electronic media which appointed the Board of Directors of the South African Broadcasting Corporation and on the committee which appointed the Film Board of South Africa.
Anthony is a bestselling author and his books have been translated into several languages.
Anthony’s first book “Babylon’s Ark“, published by Thomas Dunne Books, is the true story of the wartime rescue of the Baghdad Zoo. Babylon’s Ark has won literary awards including the Booklist Editors Choice in the category adult books for young adults, and the French 28th Prix Littéraire 30 Millions d’Amis literary award, popularly known as the Goncourt for animals.
Awards and recognitions
- The Global Nature Fund, Living Lakes Best Conservation Practice Award, for “A remarkable contribution to nature conservation and environmental protection.”
- The Earth Day medal presented at the United Nations by the Earth Society for his rescue of the Baghdad Zoo.
- The Earth Trustee Award.
- The US Army 3rd Infantry, Regimental medal for bravery in Iraq during the Coalition invasion of Baghdad.
- The Rotary International Paul Harris Fellowship for outstanding contribution to the ideals of Rotary.
- The IAS Freedom Medal.
- The Umhlatuzi Mayoral Award for Outstanding Community Service.
- International membership, the Explorers Club of New York.
- At a presentation in Washington, DC in March 2009, respected international journalist Tom Clynes named South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony amongst his six most impressive and influential people in a lifetime of reporting. Other names on the list include such luminaries as Sir Edmund Hillary
“There is more to life than just yourself, your own family, and your own kind.”
“I don’t think I have a mission in life. I just want to hold together the values that are important to us as human beings. The name of the game is to survive, and we can’t survive without the plant and animal kingdoms.”
“Our inability to think beyond our own species, or to be able to co-habit with other life forms in what is patently a massive collaborative quest for survival, is surely a malady that pervades the human soul.”
“The green movement has become tainted with extremism and intemperance resulting in lack of credibility. It needs new direction, new priorities and new leadership.”
“Workable solutions for Earth are urgently needed. Saving seals and tigers, or fighting yet another oil pipeline through a wilderness area, while laudable, is merely shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
“Man’s cultural and traditional links to nature that used to be passed down, generation to generation, have become lost in a sea of ‘civilization’, bureaucracy and technology.”
“It just got serious.”
“The prophets of doom are already saying it is too late, that the crude and uninformed impact of man on the planet’s life systems is just too great and that we don’t have enough time to turn it all around. I don’t happen to agree, but I do know that we are entering the end game. That unless there is a swift and marked change in our attitudes and actions, mankind could well be on its way to becoming an endangered species.”
“This time around it may not be a natural phenomenon; it may be ignorance and neglect of the natural world will prove to be our undoing.”
“Thankfully the Earth has an incredible capacity to sustain life, so perhaps something can still be done about it.”
“‘Ethics’ is the key theme. Ethics are essential to establish a granite moral code as an environmental lodestone.”
- ^ Hamba kahle, Lawrence Anthony the Elephant Whisperer. Conservation News. Wednesday, 07 March 2012 13:22
- ^ Bekoff, Marc (2012-03-07). “Elephants Mourn Loss of “Elephant Whisperer” Lawrence Anthony”. Psychology Today. Retrieved 2012-05-13.
- ^ a b c d “The Choice, featuring Lawrence Anthony”. BBC radio 4. 2007-09-04. Retrieved 2007-09-04.
- ^ Anthony, Lawrence; Spence Grayham (2007-06-03). Babylon’s Ark; The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo. Thomas Dunne Books. ISBN 0-312-35832-6.
- ^ Davis, Sharon (3 December 2009). “The elephant whisperer: Saving the Earth, one animal at a time”. leadershiponline.co.za. Leadership Magazine. Retrieved 4 March 2012.