Must admit I am not usually a fan of animal books but I found this to be an enjoyable read. Elephants I find are particularly fascinating with their matriarchal social organisation and devotion and tenderness to their offspring – as a species we could learn a lot from them! The cruelty some humans inflict on these magnificent and other beasts just for the sake of a quick profit beggars belief but this story is a beacon of hope. Sad to hear that the author, conservationist Lawrence Anthony died suddenly of a heart attack in 2012 aged 61 and, some three years after the book was published and just prior to the launch of his 3rd book ‘The Last Rhinos’. A poignant reminder of the author’s death is the last post on his website which is titled ‘I am currently finishing the writing of my next book entitled – The Last Rhinos.’ which has since been posthumously published. It is reported by his wife Françoise that shortly after his death the elephant herd he had most likely saved from certain death in 1999 and now numbering 21 approached his house in single file and lined up behind the fence and rocked from side to side, making deep and mournful rumbling noises. as if paying their respects and the way elephants usually mourn the death of one of their own.
The Elephant Whisperer is the true story of how Lawrence, owner of Thula Thula, one of the largest and oldest private game reserves in Zululand rescued a herd of 7 elephants which had been labelled as delinquent and rogue after escaping from their previous home. Many atrocities had been committed against the herd, including the slaughter of their matriarch and her baby. Given only a small window of opportunity to take the herd before they would most likely be ‘put down’, it was a race against time to prepare Thula Thula for their arrival. Thus begins an amazing adventure to prevent their escape by building a deep connection with the herd and so winning their trust.
A number of events are memorable, such as the baby elephant born deformed and the tenacity displayed by the herd to try and care and protect it by going without food and water over several days. The close relationship the author had with an outcast juvenile bull which eventually had to be destroyed as a rogue elephant, although it turns out that a simple course of antibiotics would have probably made this unnecessary it was subsequently discovered. The game rangers who turned bad and were running a side-line in bush meat. The poachers who set fire to the game reserve just so they could divert attention while poaching at the other end of the reserve.The book is both sad and joyful in equal measures and is not without its share of comical moments, such as the time the overweight vet was being chased by a rhino and how a couple of poachers had the tables turned on them by the use of pretend witch-craft.
There were a couple of occasions in the book where I did become somewhat sceptical such as where we are asked to believe that the elephants have some sort of telepathic connection with the author. When the author returned to the reserve after an absence of some time he would supposedly find the herd waiting for him at the gates, but on one occasion the elephants turned away at the exact time he missed a travel connection.
A thoroughly enjoyable book which you don’t necessarily have to be an animal lover to appreciate. An inspiring book, knowing that there are some who dedicate their lives to such noble causes and truly grasp that the real purpose of humankind is as caretaker of this Earth and not the exploiter, which unfortunately far exceed the former in number.