Douglas Alan Groves
May 25, 1954 - Aug. 27, 2020
Born May 25, 1954 in Boston, Mass., Douglas was the middle son of Vernon and Shirley Groves. Douglas with his family, moved to Oregon in 1957. During Doug's early years he developed a fascination and respect for the diversity of life including not only his various pets, but also such critters he discovered in his back yard, like worms, grass hoppers, snakes, and rabbits. As he learned to read, he came to love books as a way to explore life, especially books about animals and the natural world. Also, he may have been influenced by having a Methodist preacher father who advocated for the ethical imperative of "reverence for all life."
As he started school he found that he did not enjoy school books as much as the books about animals and the natural world. And when he discovered the zoo in Portland, Ore., he was more interested in spending his time there than in school. He became a zoo volunteer with a special interest in snakes, acquiring many for a home collection. He attained his GED credentials and found classes and seminars at Portland State University to further his knowledge of animals and the natural world.
Through his contacts at the zoo he became an assistant to the well-known animal philanthropist, Morgan Berry, who among other things helped provide animals for zoos in the Pacific Northwest and for circus acts throughout the United States. Through that connection Doug became a assistant to the animal trainer, Eloise Berchtold. They specialized in Lion, Bear and Elephant acts and traveled together several years with circuses throughout the United States.
His animal skills led him in 1987 to be recruited for a unique project - shipping four surplus (hard to handle) male African Elephants from zoos in America to be used in a film to be shot in South Africa. As he trained these and other elephants to follow this and other African film's scripts, he developed a marketable skill related to his love of animals and while doing so he fell in love with Africa with its abundant wildlife. He also went to work in a South African animal park where he met a young woman co-worker named Sandi who became his wife. When they discovered that the park's owner planned to sell two orphaned baby elephants, named Jabu and Thembi, whose care they had been hired to provide, they pooled all their resources and bought these young elephants with the intention of creating a supportive interspecies family with them. In 1994, they discovered that they could work with an eco-tourist company to give tourists an opportunity to spend most of a day in the heart of the Okavango Delta of Botswana with these elephants for a personal mind-expanding learning experience in interspecies understanding and respect. When they learned of a troubled orphaned female elephant living nearby, they took her into their family and named her Morula. They gradually launched a non-profit organization, Living With Elephants Foundation whose mission is to build understanding and respect between elephants and people.
For 31 years they have pursued this educational and conservation mission, while working with Sanctuary Retreats who provided them with paying eco-tourists. Then on Aug. 27, 2020, tragedy befell their family. Doug was with Jabu and Morula on their daily foraging for food. They did not return to camp at the normal time and then Morula came back by herself. Sandi organized a search group to go out on tractors to find the missing ones. When morning came helicopters joined the search and they found Doug's body. It is assumed that Doug was fatally injured in some kind of encounter with wild elephants.They also located Jabu who later returned to home camp on his own. But exactly what happened is unknown.
This is a painful tragedy for all concerned. But Doug's energy poured out for interspecies understanding and respect will live on in the countless lives he has touched. Doug's human survivors include his wife, Sandi; his mother, Shirley Clifford; his father, Vernon Groves (Betty); his brothers, Mark (Terrie) and Steven; his step-siblings, Gary Bialostosky (Terry), Kay Smith and Carol Bialostosky (Ramsey); and many nieces and nephews.
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