The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild – Review

The Elephant WhispererPoachingFacts rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence recounts Anthony’s struggles and successes in acclimating a traumatized group of elephants to his 5,000-acre Thula Thula Game Reserve in South Africa.

When taking on the elephant herd, traumatized after having one of its members shot for being a “problem elephant,” Anthony does his best to create a situation that is suitable to the elephants on the property and does not endanger any of the people living or working nearby. He quickly finds that the elephants are both very clever and very determined not to be caged and deported from their natural homes and Anthony must contend not only with the will of the matriarch, but also the emotions of the herd itself. And a few elephants that would have been secondary to any other private game reserve suddenly take on a new importance to Anthony even as he manages his reserve, deals with local poaching, and the politics of South African land reform.

One of the best aspects of The Elephant Whisperer is the way that Anthony describes his perspective, his efforts in understanding and communicating with the herd, and creates a meaningful bond with the wild elephants in a way not well documented previously. The events that transpire seem larger than life at times, but for anyone who has had an opportunity to experience elephants in their natural surroundings, living with their family, and going about daily life the book is remarkable for its naturalness and the way it conveys something that we should all already know: This is the way that wildlife live and behave at all times: as complex, emotional animals who are capable of thinking, reasoning, and even disliking the way that they are treated by those around them.

Most inspiring was Anthony’s ability to overcome the challenges that he faced while keeping an open mind as to the needs of the elephants as he worked with them and learned from them so that he could build a very successful private game reserve that suits visitors and wildlife alike. Of significance to many prospective readers of The Elephant Whisperer will be that this memoir of success has a happy ending for the Thula Thula Game Reserve and surrounding tribal lands, as well as the elephants and their babies.

Though Lawrence Anthony passed away in 2012, his Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization continues his tradition and values of pursuing practical conservation projects aimed at making the world a better place for humans and wildlife.

Other Books by the Author:

Lawrence Anthony has written two other true stories, with the help of Graham Spence, about his own personal adventures in conservation.

Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo is worth reading for anyone impacted by the U.S.-led coalition’s invasion of Iraq in 2003, or anyone with an interest in wildlife preservation. It adds another perspective to the conflict and highlights not only the lives led by the city’s inhabitants during the inter-war period until the outbreak of conflict but also the lives of the animals in the Baghdad Zoo and those kept by the Saddam family in their lavish homes.

With more determination than a plan, Anthony set out to rescue animals who were as unaccustomed to warfare as the people of Baghdad. On his journey he meets an array of selfless individuals willing to help, these include zoo employees hoping to return to work even as fighting continues in the city, South African private security volunteering their own time to guard the dangerous area around the zoo, and American forces that volunteer their time, rations, and money to help Anthony on his quest to save all the remaining zoo animals — and those across the city who have been caught up in illegal wildlife trafficking and are held in poor conditions.

The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures details Anthony’s attempt to save the Northern White Rhino from rampant poaching as a result of demand from China and Southeast Asia. He journeys into the heart of Central Africa where rebels and militia groups reign, including the Lord’s Resistance Army, and fights to save the rhinoceros species native to that area. As of November 2015 the last three of the Northern White Rhinos live in Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.


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