The Elephant Whisperer
I’m a fiction person. You all know that. But this non-fiction gem, The Elephant Whisperer, grabbed me at the start and hasn’t let go.
Lawrence Anthony was a conservationist renowned for his work rescuing animals at the Baghdad Zoo at the height of the US-led Coalition invasion of Iraq in 2003. But this book takes place before that.
Living and working in South Africa in the mid-1990s, he bought Thula-Thula, a 5,000-acre game reserve to which he added a herd of rogue elephants that would have otherwise been put down. The 7 elephants were angry; they had seen their matriarch and her young daughter shot and killed, and expected the worst from humans. Breakout artists, they had a knack for escaping from game reserves and endangering local towns. Lawrence’s mission was to keep them contained while he convinced them that they were safe on Thula-Thula and could make a permanent home there.
The intelligence of these elephants stunned me. Oh yes, yes, yes, we all know elephants have good memories. But that they are compassionate? Protective? Intensely loyalty? Wily? Even mischievous? I didn’t know the strength of their maternal instincts or their social sense. I had no idea that they communicated over great distances, not through that trumpeting trunk but through stomach rumbles. I had no idea that their intuitiveness was so keen that they could move to exactly where they needed to be to survive a raging wildfire in the bush.
The relationship that develops between Anthony and his elephants is truly remarkable. This book takes you through the slow build, the initial frustration, and fear on both sides, the gradual meeting of minds. As soon as I finished listening, I researched the author. I knew that he had died since writing this book. What I didn’t know was that every year since, on the exact anniversary of his death, the now-tripled herd approaches his home and stands in silence to mourn.
Not only is THE ELEPHANT WHISPERER beautifully written and, as an audiobook, beautifully read, but it is a beautiful tale of these beautiful creatures who came to care deeply for a very beautiful man.