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VINE VOICEon November 16, 2009
I love Elephants, and was looking for a book that would recall the absolute joy I felt when I first saw them in the wild. I could not have done better than Lawrence Anthony's The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild.

Anthony, a former businesman-turned-conservationist, manages the Thula Thula private game reserve in Zululand, South Africa. At the beginning of the story, he accepted a "rogue" herd of Elephants onto his reserve. As soon as they arrive they start trying to escape. Anthony realizes that that, in order to calm the herd down, he has to communicate with them. Throughout the book, nthony often finds himself alone in the African bush with the Elephants. He uses the same verbal and physical language strategies that humans employ everyday to communicate with each other, such as changing the intonation of his voice. The amount of communication between Anthony and the Elephants is truly incredible. Eventually, he forms a strong bond with the two leading females. When one large female, Frankie, does charge him, Anthony is able to persuade her to stop by shouting, "Don't, it's me!" Throughout the book, Anthony shows just how deep and sincere the bond really is. In one memorable encounter, Anthony is standing near the giant matriarch Nana when he realizes she just wants her presence acknowledged. That simple act of recognition satisfied Nana and cemented their connection.

Part memoir, part collection of anecdotes, each chapter of The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild contains a different and generally exciting story about Anthony, the team at Thula Thula, and the herd. If the book had a theme it would be emotions and wildlife. I often felt like Anthony took me, as the reader, along for a ride on an emotional roller coaster. I've read many books about Elephants, but found myself floored by some of their antics. Anthony reports that whenever he arrived back at Thula Thula from a trip, the Elephants would line up to greet him at the front gate. Once, when he was in Durban and his flight was canceled, the Elephants stopped their march to the gate and turned back - at exactly the same time Anthony heard his flight was canceled. At another point, the Elephants demonstrated their love for freedom by opening the gate to a boma enclosure and freeing a herd of Nyala antelope that was being prepared for transport. Other animals, from the Elephants to Anthony's dog, show amazing courage in the face of adversity. By the end of the book, I was almost in tears, but also happy to know that humans were slowly breaking the barriers of communication with Elephants.

None of this is to ignore the human characters in the book. They're also an incredible bunch. Françoise, Anthony's Parisian wife, helps in the maintenance of the lodge and often provides lighthearted relief. David, the bush ranger, seems absolutely fearless as he drives toward burning fires and ventures out into the night with two male lions on the prowl. The regal Zulu king Nkosi provides a connection to the Zulu tribe's past as well as a vision for the future. As with all good heros, the book has its set of villains, from poachers to cattle barons. It even features several shootouts.

The real question isn't whether to get this book - it's how soon you're going to book a trip to Anthony's Thula Thula reserve (where I heard his wife makes a great cuisine). I've already told my wife that it will be our next adventure. In the meantime, I ordered Lawrence Anthony's Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo.

Here are some other good books and movies on Elephants that I've enjoyed:
Echo and Other Elephants
Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family
Elephant Destiny
Elephant
When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals
Wildlife Wars: My Fight to Save Africa's Natural Treasures
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on September 22, 2015
Though Anthony is a conservationist and not a writer by trade, he tells a multitude of fascinating, tear-jerking, and evocative stories about the herd of elephants he adopted to save from execution. They were described as a rogue herd for their aggression and amazing escape artistry. It didn't surprise me that elephants could push over a tree to break an electric fence, but I had no idea they can actually feel along just under the top wire of an electric fence for breaks in the current, or that they had the uncanny ability to know when Anthony was going to return from a trip while he was still miles away. It turns out that elephants use a combination of intuition and a very low frequency noise emitted from the stomach to communicate over incredibly long distances and keep tabs on their loved ones. Unless Anthony is really embellishing and I don't think he is, he's convinced me elephants are as intelligent as humans in many ways, and that they are often braver and more noble.

It turned out that rogue was entirely the wrong word for Anthony's herd. The elephants had been continually traumatized and betrayed by watching their family members get shot for disobedience, and had resolved always to escape, and never to trust another human. Anthony turns this distrust around over the span of years, and the way that the elephants react to him evidences their incredibly complex intelligence.

What I love about this book is that it's about so much more than a single herd of elephants. Anthony situates his stories in the complex ecosystem of a game reserve, showing we city-dwellers the incredibly delicately balanced and orchestrated system that operates just below the surface of any outdoor environment. His years of experience are rich with insight, and every story was page-turning. The game reserve's tenuous status among local Zulu tribes was also fascinating. Many of the surrounding people had never even seen an elephant or a rhino, so long had they been disconnected from the land of their birthright, so long had poaching and human encroachment caused wildlife at every level to dwindle dangerously low.

This would have been a life-changing 5-star book for me; the only downside is the occasionally distracting machismo and bravado in Anthony's description of his exploits on the reserve, and the fact that the writing could have been better in places. However, I defy anyone to read this and not care about conservation or be completely floored by the intelligence of elephants.
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on January 13, 2017
Wow. Loved this book. Originally purchased it as an audible book to listen as I exercised. It was so good, I sent a copy to a friend who loved it so much she sent it on also. Then, purchased it as a Christmas gift for another friend who spent several years raising a family in South Africa. She absolutely enjoyed the book as well and is passing it along to her daughter. Who knows how many more copies will be purchased and read by my family and friends simply because it's so good!
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on May 21, 2016
This book provides a realistic picture of what it is like to run a game reserve in Africa from an extremely empathetic, sensitive and caring individual. Anthony is never overly sentimental about the realities of his relationships with the wild animals in Thula Thula, his 5,000-acre preserve. He maintains an attitude or respect for his charges. The reserve is fenced and hot-wired to keep the animals in and the poachers that are armed and dangerous out. It is a constant vigil to avoid disaster. Escaped animals are fair game for poachers and hunters. It is a delicate balance to maintain peace among the various tribes who want to the land returned to them for cattle grazing. Learning about the very special relationship Anthony had with the wild elephant herd he adopted is just one of the many fascinating aspects of this account. If you are contemplating a visit to Africa, you would do well to read this book.
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on July 16, 2016
"There are no walls between humans and elephants, except those that we put up ourselves...." Love conquers the impossible to be possible.
Compassionate, resilient, courageous, socially intelligent, a problem solver, open, kind, patient, kind, funny and confident. Sad I never got to meet him as well anyone who reads this book or visits Thula Thula, What an inspirational journey to follow, as I could not put this book down. The determination to unite and create an extraordinary game reserve is remarkable. When you read this you walk away moved and just want to be better towards humanity, animals and the environment. The love for his elephants and the love for him, leaves you in tears. Heaven can Wait, I'm off to Thula Thula.
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on October 11, 2014
This book was fantastic, I loved every minute of it. The book is not just about the elephants, although obviously a lot of it is, there is also snippets of information about his own personal life and a little about the staff and rangers on the wild life reserve that Lawrence Anthony was head of, it's so heart warming but in parts sad. I am totally in awe of elephants now, so, if you're an elephant lover you too will love this book and if you're not an elephant lover you certainly will be after you've read this, I'm 99 percent sure of that. Sadly Lawrence Anthony has passed away and I only hope that someone with the same love and affinity for the wild life and the Thula Thula reserve is carrying on the wonderful work he did.
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on August 12, 2013
Overall, I would recommend this book. I read it in a couple of days. I found it very interesting learning about this remarkable elephant family. I enjoyed discovering new facts about elephants such as how they communicate with other elephants, what their body language means and how family-oriented and intelligent these creatures truly are. If you are interested in learning more about elephants and their behavior, then this book would be a great choice.

The book was not as heartbreaking as I anticipated it would be although there were definitely some sad parts. There were a couple of parts that I had a hard time getting past. I don't want to give too much away but I'm referring to what happened to the matriarch and baby elephant before the transport. And of course Mnumzane's story really affected me. I must say I had a very difficult time forgiving the author for what transpired but I know we all have regrets as he mentioned. I do think there were parts of the book that were tedious and uninteresting like the politics and history of the tribesmen. I was more interested in this elephant family and their relationship with the author. He did specifically mention this book was their story but at times it didn't seem that way.

Elephants are my favorite animals because they possess so many emotions that humans do. They are highly-intelligent, social animals. I find them so amazing and fascinating. Learning about them was the best part of this book in my opinion. And I also appreciated all the lessons the author learned from each elephant. Animals can teach us so much. I admire his love and respect for the elephants and all the other animals on his reserve. He was this elephant's family last hope. I appreciate his sacrifice.

Lastly, this is very minor...But I did notice some errors in this book. Maybe I'm being too critical but published books should not have any typos or left-out words. That's just my opinion.
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on July 8, 2017
Words cannot express how much I enjoyed and learned from this book. When I went online to research Mr. Anthony and learned he had passed away in 2012 I was sad. I tell everyone this is a must read but I also tell them to get Audible and listen to it. I'm not sure I would have enjoyed so much if reading due to the tribal names and knew I would have butchered them. The Narrator was absolutely perfect. Plan to listen many times more, you will smile, be appalled at some things, and laugh and cry at others. Such devotion from this humanitarian!
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on August 21, 2016
How do you put such deep emotions for the animal kingdom into words.

Not only is this author at the top of his field describing the beautiful African plains but also ones emotions are peaked while learning from Lawrence's rare experiences with true wildlife.

It has been a real blessing to have this insight - thank you for sharing. Very much Looking forward to your next book and your continued effort to maintain life and dignity amongst wildlife that need our help in survival.
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on December 25, 2016
This is a wonderful book about Africa - its wild beauty, the rhythms of nature, and more specifically about the author's building of a trusting relationship with a small herd of elephants he acquired for his conservation reserve. Lawrence Anthony, who has since passed away, shows his love and dedication to create a natural reserve in which animals can live as close to their natural wild state as possible, free from the hunters and poachers who see them only as wild game objects. While he cannot completely reach perfection in that regard, he makes tremendous progress to make "Thula Thula" a conservationist model. He and his French wife love the land and their life, and his staff echoes those feelings. The book is much broader than the elephants, although they are a consistent and common them throughout the book. It's about life in Africa, and the challenges he faces in achieving his dream against oftentimes formidable odds and opposition. You will learn much about elephants, which are wonderful animals, While I thoroughly enjoyed the narrative and his growing relationship with his herd, I have to say if you are really interested in learning about elephants in a more intimate way, read "Elephant Company", the true story of a young British man who moved to Burma in the late 1930's to work for a Teak company, in which the majority of raw labor consisted of Indian elephants, their handlers, and the British managers who oversaw the operations. The book encompasses the period from his arrival in Burma through the war in the Pacific, the Japanese invasion of Burma, and his continued life in Burma and travels back to England where his expertise in elephants was in demand. The stunning and remarkable insight and ability to communicate with the elephants is fascinating, and I'd recommend as a must read if you have any interest in learning more about these remarkable, in may ways human-like, creatures. Apologies for including another book's review in this one, but I figure if you're considering this one, you probably have an interest in wanting to learn more about elephants and the remarkable relationships that special men (and women) have been able to establish with them.
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