The inspirational story of Lazarus the Otter returning to the wild

Posted on 20 April 2021

‘I only had to see him for a short while, relishing in his newfound and unquestionable freedom, to know that there was no other decision that could be made – we had to see him through this; we had to help Lazarus return to the wild,’ Danelle writes in a new book, Return to the Wild.

'Return to the Wild' book launch

The process of releasing a captive-raised otter back into the wild is complicated and took conservationist couple Danelle and her husband Brendan Murray six months and as much as six hours a day of ‘training’ the otter, to accomplish this successful reintegration.

On the first day of working with the otter, they noticed something unusual; the otter was afraid to enter the water! This is when they realised that they had their work cut out for them.

The book tells the story of their challenges, adventures, and triumphs as Lazzy explores his new environment on his journey to become a wild otter. ‘Part of the process needed for Lazarus’s adaptation was to get him comfortable in his habitat by taking him for daily swims,’ Danelle explains.

This meant getting in the water with him to encourage him to do the same. ‘Animals, like people, can be taught through social learning. Learning takes place when new experiences are explored by watching and observing others perform certain tasks and then adopting this behaviour as your own. It is a game of imitation.’

‘This stretch of river was just about as wild as it gets and was indeed inhabited by crocodiles, among other predators. Often, we would watch as a snake swam across from one side of the river to the other. To unnerve me even further, a leguaan (water monitor lizard) would drop down from a tree somewhere behind me into the water, making a huge splash upon entry. At a quick glance, this large reptile, wiggling its powerful tail and body through the water, is easily mistaken for a croc.’

Return to the Wild is an inspirational story of dedication to a cause, bravery, and courage. ‘Lazzy’s story in many ways is a perfect analogy of overcoming challenges in our own lives – to have courage, persistence, confidence, and determination in what we wish to achieve. He reminded us, through his remarkable transformation, that it is never too late to be the person that we want to be and to live the life we were meant to have.’

Photos and video clips of Lazarus were widely publicised on social media and in magazines and newspapers around the world, and Lazzy gained thousands of eager fans following his brave journey.

This is his story.

Join the launch in Johannesburg at the Bryanston Room at Bryanston Country Club on 5 May at 18h30. For more information or to book your ticket, click here. 

The book will be available after the launch in book stores around the country, on Amazon, Kindle, or directly through Owl Rescue Centre at Proceeds support wildlife conservation.


The unlikey story of Lazarus the Otter

PICTURE: Supplied

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