[Published 2010 by Pan Publishing. First published 2009]
As much as I am an avid animal-lover, I tend to avoid animal stories at all costs (call it childhood trauma from ‘The Incredible Journey’ and ‘Watership Down’). I can read books and watch movies about the most terrible human tragedy with some semblance of bravery, but if there is a dog or cat involved, there will be many, many tears. Hence my hesitance when ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ was thrust into my hands.
Lawrence Anthony, a passionate South African conservationist, takes on a herd of troubled elephants who have become notorious for breaking fences and being a menace. Even after the move to his reserve, Thula Thula, it doesn’t take long for him to realise that these elephants have a target on their heads.
This book follows the story of how he bonds with these animals, learns to understand them, and ultimately saves their lives through kindness. It is an amazing story – one it would be hard to believe if not in the animal world with all of its miraculous tales of survival and tenacity. I have been awed at the thought of elephants touching Anthony with their trunks, showing off their young, and learning to trust again. I will continue to be moved by this account for a long time.
In addition to recalling his experiences, Lawrence Anthony has written a special book that captures life in the bush in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. As someone who lives here (albeit in more of a metropolitan sense), I was thrilled to read a book that so accurately captures what it is to be an instrument of change in a country with a mottled past, giving readers a glimpse into Zulu culture and beliefs, and showing how, with a bit of tolerance, understanding, and effort, consensus can be reached and decisions can be made that are for the good of all.
Animal-lovers will adore the conservation aspect of this book and I am deeply moved by this man’s dedication to the protection and preservation of wildlife. I have taken a lesson on instinct and how it is dulled the more time we spend out of the bush and how it can save those who allow themselves to intuit the signs around them. I have smiled at the different forms of communication in the animal world – systems that we can only begin to understand, but which surpass our own most of the time. I have been astounded by the miracles of nature and the systems it has for every living thing and I have wept inconsolably at the heart-wrenching facts of life and death that pervade the world. What a special book!
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