Book Corner 2019.29


The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony, with help


Snapshots from his efforts to introduce a small herd of wild “problem” elephants into his South African game reserve. My experiences with “problem” goats had me relating very much to many of these incidents; sympathizing wholeheartedly with members rejected by the herd and babies born deformed; and seeing the same emotions and smarts we attribute to ourselves in our fellow mammals. We’re all cut from the same cloth.

Anthony’s descriptions of ‘communicating’ with his herd do not devolve into the unbelievable or anthropomorphizing – though many of his brink-of-disaster stories do sound almost unbelievable; still, I feel they were too crazy for someone to have risked making up. His descriptions of the Zulus who inhabit the country with him are fairly even-handed; they are portrayed as individuals, but it’s always a fine line, and they do always feel a bit “other”.

Anthony develops relationships with this herd because they come to him with problems that must be overcome – they need to learn to trust him and accept his reserve as their new home. Ultimately, though, the saddest part of the book is the end where we are reminded rather suddenly that Anthony is really running a game reserve, not a petting zoo. His reserve is a place for wild animals to live wild. Thus, he develops no relationships with the newer additions to the elephant family. Presumably he does not even give names to the new babies anymore. That felt sad, but right.


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