Sunday, February 14, 2016

not a mystery--THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence

The Elephant Whisperer is both heartwarming and heartbreaking. 

Lawrence Anthony took on a herd of rouge elephants at his Thula Thula game reserve in the South African KwaZulu. Had he not adopted them, professional elephant killers would have had to kill them. 

As soon as Anthony got them in his preserve, they escaped and had to be corralled. That dangerous episode opens the book.

Then the excitement begins.

In the course of the book, poachers threaten the elephants and the other animals on the preserve. 

The elephants threaten Anthony's Land Rover, several of his rangers, and even the home compound. They come to know Anthony's dog and other members of the family, but only Anthony can relate to them. At one point Anthony writes--

"I had at last grasped that the essence of communicating with any animal, from a pet dog to a wild elephant, is not so much the reach as the acknowledgement. It's the acknowledgement that does it. In the animal kingdom communication is a two-way flow, just as it is everywhere else."

But they are wild animals. Anthony plans to communicate with them long enough to make it possible to keep them in the compound, to keep them from creating the kind of havoc which would cause him to have to kill them. Then he plans to pull away.

By the time the book ends, he has pulled away. He has faced a terrible tragedy caused by his own rightly-motivated wrong decision, and he still knows that the animals love him and are thankful that he saved them. 

There is a lot to learn from a book like this. Anthony writes about male elephants--

"An ageing elephant male is not something surplus to be dispatched by some meager trophy-gatherer. He is a breathing reference library; he's there for the health and well-being of future elephants. He teaches youngsters who they really are and imparts priceless bush skills to succeeding generations."

The matriarchs lead the herd, and the males pull away and teach the younger males. That is the way with elephants. 

Anthony and his co-writer Graham Spence provide a book full of excitement, humor, tragedy, and reality. No wonder the book was a bestseller. 

I researched this book to prepare to write these words. I am terrible with spelling names and remembering small details. I have to try to make sure I have things right. This time, I ran across another story, the story of how at Anthony's death the now-two herds of elephants came through the bush to his house and mourned. 

The Elephant Whisperer is a book well worth reading.

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