- Paperback: 108 pages
- Publisher: Awakeling Press (May 3, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780692209967
- ISBN-13: 978-0692209967
- ASIN: 0692209964
- Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.3 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 13 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,563,130 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Elephant Letters: The Story of Billy and Kani Paperback – May 3, 2014
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From the Author
The Elephant Letters was written to bring the story of the Elephants to children and adults around the world. As a scientist and animal advocate, I have devoted my life to helping animals heal from the violence inflicted upon them by Humans. Our non-profit organization, The Kerulos Center, was created to spread the word that we are brothers and sisters with all Animals. Our motto is "kin under skin, fin, feather and fur," because science − and our hearts − tell us what children already know: all Animals deserve love, respect and dignity.
The characters of Billy and Kani are based on what science tells us about Elephants in the wild and in captivity. Their experiences show that the problems of Elephant poaching, habitat destruction, and the soul-crushing isolation in zoos and circuses are very real. The Elephants and other Animals need your help. You can make a difference in the lives of all Animals by sharing what you have learned from reading The Elephant Letters.
I look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can create a loving world for everyone.
Trumpets to you,
Dr. Gay Bradshaw
The Kerulos Center
About the Author
G.A. Bradshaw (gabradshaw.com) is author of Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity (Yale 2009) and the scientist who first identified post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in free living African Elephants. She is the founder and director of The Kerulos Center (www.kerulos.org) and lives with her trans-species family in Southern Oregon where they care for The Tortoise and the Hare Sanctuary.
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Children are told the story in letters between two elephants sharing their joys and fears. Dr. Bradshaw's voice allows the young reader to learn about empathy in another's life.
That lesson alone has the capacity to change the world, as well as the life of elephants.
In "The Elephant Letters" Bradshaw clarifies her message. By adopting the perspective of two young elephants, one left to eventually suffer the poacher's abuse in East African and the other living life in a Western Zoo, Bradshaw drives home her point about our treatment of these magnificent animals. The tragedies unfold in letters exchanged between these luckless souls. Through this heart wrenching story about how we treat them the reader truly does learn much about our own species.
recount the opening lines of G.A. Bradshaw’s latest book, The Elephant Letters: The Story of Billy and Kani, which tells of two elephant cousins, who several decades earlier – as babies – would have been looking at the same stars, marvelling at the vastness of the same moon, wrapped in the scents and warmth of the summer night air, falling asleep eventually under the same fig tree perhaps, caressed by the protective gaze of mothers, allomothers, sisters, brothers, family. Awoken, the following morning, by the soft rays of the rising sun, as magnificent as his sister moon had been the night before, Billy and Kani would go about their day, enjoying tasty shoots, playing like all kids do and learning the elephant culture along with everything that comes with it – day in and day out, until one day their life would change forever. Noisy helicopters descend on the once-upon-a-time peaceful land, which the elephant family calls home. Greed inducing violence escalates to the cognitive and affective unbearable; while Kani survives the poachers’ invasion seemingly undamaged, Billy is not so lucky: his mother is killed in front of his eyes, and he is captured and taken to a zoo on the other side of the world. Physically separated for an earthly eternity, their voices join together to bring an honest though fictionalised presentation of the life and being of elephants and the toll of anthropogenic violence.
Delightfully illustrated, and with a foreword by Dame Daphne Sheldrick from the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya, this largely epistolary work – written as a children’s book but equally well equipped to touch the heart and senses of an adult audience – unveils the internal turmoils and joys along with the external circumstances that underscore both, over the lifespan of two elephants.
Kani lives in a normative socio-natural environment of the African wilderness, surrounded and supported by family and friends; his life is full of adventures, long walks with soothing and jubilant intervals of ‘splashing and squirting’ in the fresh river water. Day by day, month by month, year by year, we see Kani growing into a healthy, strong bull, Elder and Leader of his own kind.
Billy, on the other hand, lives in a concrete pen in a zoo, deprived of everything Elephant, subjected to the humiliation and objectivisation that all zoos and other commercial captive settings muster so well. Day by day, month by month, year by year, Billy too is growing – bigger, older, wiser but unavoidably also increasingly more broken psychologically as well as physically due to the unsuitable living conditions and at times harsh ‘handling’ by the staff. Billy, too, is a Big Bull now, and by a more favourable twist of fate, he too might have been an Elder and a Leader; instead he’s trapped in this man-made hell with all its endeavours to break your spirit, kill every segment of your inherent potentiality, keep you small and ‘manageable’, forever infantilised and forever scarred:
"Humans are funny. Do they really think that Lucy and I will think that painted walls are real trees? (…) Someone threw in a big red ball and an old log. That’s it. Nothing else. No acacia trees, no tall green grass, and no sparkling water like home! And there is no one but Lucy and me so it feels really lonely."
However, as the story unfolds, Kani himself is not spared sleepless nights; just like the captive elephants, the wild tribes are also severely affected by the ever increasing violence perpetrated by humans, which comes in many forms, poaching being only one of them:
"Now, life is changed. Our lands are cut up into pieces. We are fenced inside tiny parks. There is so little room that some Elephants have begun to fight and kill each other. South of here, Bulls swell in rage and gore each other. As if that was not enough, there is other trouble. (...)
So many Matriarchs have been killed that there is often no one to teach the young Aunties how to raise the young."
Bradshaw, who was the scientist who first identified Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in free-living elephants, which seeded the new field of trans-species psychology and has been documented in several publications, most extensively in her book Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity (Yale 2009), brings the plight of elephants – and indirectly of other animals – to a new level with The Elephant Letters: The Story of Billy and Kani. In this book, Bradshaw’s scholarly insight into elephant trauma specifically and animal trauma more generally, combined with her heartfelt appreciation of nonhuman animals’ lives and beings translates into an exquisitely narrated testimony of what is and what is not, what could be and what should be.
The story – appropriately so, given the main targeted audience – spares us the details of the ongoing nonhuman animal holocaust, about which we learn implicitly through the narrative. The (moderately) happy ending steers clear from conventional feel-good approaches; instead it places the plight of elephants (and other animals) in the hands and hearts of children – all children, big and small.