By Sarah Ann Harris
A HOMEOWNER minding her own business had the shock of her life one afternoon - when a lost baby ELEPHANT wandered into her lounge.
Francoise Maldy Anthony was relaxing in her living room when she spotted the animal stumbling around her garden.
The 10-day-old baby had been separated from her herd in Zululand, South Africa, and had managed to travel an impressive 30 miles in search of her mother.
Francoise, who owns the Thula Thula Private Game Reserve, said: "I have owned this ranch for 15 years but I have never experienced anything like this.
"She must be like the littlest hobo as baby elephants never ever get lost from their herd.
"It's also remarkable that she ended up at my home - we have 4,500 hectares of land and she was spotted a day before she arrived at my home with her herd at the other end of the reserve.
"She had walked kilometres to get here and was quite distressed when she arrived - she looked tired, thirsty and hungry."
Francoise, an experienced ranger, was able to keep a cool head and care for the little elephant, which she called Tom despite the fact she is female.
She said: "We helped her into the living room and just left her free to roam.
"I gave her some milk but was careful to not have too much contact as I didn't want her to be rejected by her herd when we finally got her back."
Tom took a nap in Francoise's front room while rangers tried to locate her herd.
Happily they were able to find the herd and return the lucky little wanderer to her mother.
Francoise said: "Her mother – who we rescued from a neighbouring reserve which was going to allow a hunter in to shoot her – was delighted when Tom was finally reunited with her.
"I can't say the same for Tom - she must be a bit of a renegade as she tried to run after the van as we pulled away.
"She was only here for a few hours before we managed to get her back but it was magical.
"Her herd was monitored overnight to make sure everything was fine and she was accepted back in.
"It really is a remarkable rescue story.
"I tried to take photos but couldn't use the flash as I didn't want to startle her.
"It was a fantastic experience."
Francoise now lives alone at the reserve after she lost her husband Lawrence Anthony two years ago.
Lawrence, a well-respected conservationist and novelist, actually saved the life of Tom's mother, which he wrote about in his book entitled "The Elephant Whisperer: the Extraordinary Story of One Man's Battle to Save His Herd".
Francoise added: "Some people on Facebook said that it was just too much of a coincidence that out of the 4,500 hectares available this elephant chose to make her way to my garden.
"Lawrence was famous for the work he did saving elephants and even saved Tom's mother – people are saying the elephant needed saving and was drawn here.
"I don't really know about that but I am sure that she couldn't have spent much longer out there alone.
"She was very dehydrated and very stressed as she had been walking for an incredibly long time.
"The important thing is she is back with her mother and herd and can now continue with them – unless she decides to wander off again."