The Elephant's Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa
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The Elephant's Secret Sense: The Hidden Life of the Wild Herds of Africa

3.45 of 5 stars 3.45  ·  rating details  ·  92 ratings  ·  18 reviews
While observing a family group of elephants in the wild, Caitlin O'Connell, a young field scientist, noticed a peculiar listening behavior. A matriarch she had been watching for months turned her massive head and lifted her foot off the ground. As she scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, all facing the same direction. O'Connell soon made a groundbreaking...more
ebook, 240 pages
Published March 20th 2007 by Atria Books (first published 2007)
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This book was not all I hoped for. Although the description of the author's life and how she studies the animals is quite interesting, the manner in which she told the story lost me. I thought in the beginning it was going to be a clear goal - discovering new information about the communication of the animals that would contribute to keeping them out of farmers' fields so that the animals weren't poached and the people didn't starve. Somewhere in the middle of the book, though, that purpose got...more
Elephants use their toenails to sense the seismic activity created by approaching animals. They also walk on tip-toes when quietly leaving an area of danger!
If you're looking for a basic account of what it's like to do field research in Namibia and the Caprivi region of Zambia without being hit over the head constantly with conservation appeals, this book will do. This work encompasses two areas of research. One is devoted to elephant vocalizations and the other is related to the study of seismic communications between elephants.

The benefits of studying elephant vocalizations have an immediate impact on elephants interactions with humans, particula...more
Caitlin O'Connell went to Namibia at the request of the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism to study elephant behavior, movement, and interactions. The study in Etosha led to a study in the Caprivi working with farmers trying to find ways to prevent destruction of crops by the elephants. It was during the Etosha study that O'Connell wondered if the elephants were communicating by picking up signals sent through the ground. Much of her research in subsequent summers was to prove her the...more
While observing a family group of elephants in the wild, Caitlin O'Connell, a young field scientist, noticed a peculiar listening behavior. A matriarch she had been watching for months turned her massive head and lifted her foot off the ground. As she scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, all facing the same direction. O'Connell soon made a groundbreaking discovery: the elephants were "listening through limbs," feeling the ripples of the earth's surface for approaching friends...more
The Smithsonian Channel featured The Elephant King (air date 3.06.2013)
Presented by Catlin O'Connell. Caitlin spent 40 days studying an elephant herd visiting a water hole. The king of the herd - Greg - has not been seen for four months. A new leader will need to take his place. The film/documentary's focus is on the male elephant behaviors.
By 2013, Caitlin has been studying the herds for 20 years. The documentary is really - the book - on film, that I had hoped to read in 2007. The pho...more
O’Connell and her husband, Tim Rodwell, spent many years in the Etosha National Park and the Caprivi Game Park in Namibia studying elephants. Early in their stay, Caitlin noticed how the elephants placed their feet with their toenails to the ground as they alerted to something going on around them, and she formed the hypothesis that the elephants were “hearing” through vibrations in the ground felt by their feet. Here she recounts her successful attempts to prove that this is true. I was intere...more
Another fascinating book about elephants. O'Connell spent 14 years studying Namibian elephants and their methods of communication. She became fascinated when observing a group of elephants, noticing that the matriarch would raise her foot and check the surrounding area, and all the others in the group would do the same thing. This led to experiments which showed how elephants use their feet to pick up vibrations in the ground (seismic communication), standing on their toes when stressed, increas...more
Delyse Richards
Fascinating research and experiences amongst the elephant herds in Etosha and Okavango written by a woman with great passion for these animals and the subsistence farmers whose crops are raided by them
The story of a white woman's work on elephant conservation in Namibia. Along the way she discovers a novel form of communication used by the elephants. I was starting grad school in the same program when the author was finishing and was only vaguely aware of her work. So it was cool to see her book on the shelf at the library and learn more about it. The story and subject matter are fascinating, but ultimately I was left unsatisfied by the writing, which came across as too detached. I felt like...more
If you love elephants this book is for you. It does have some very interesting facts in it. Now I know that elephants love acacia trees for instance. I also liked its discussion of sound through vibration not only in elephants but in us as well.( Apparently there are institutes for the hearing impaired that have special wooden dance floors so that the hearing impaired can dance to the beat.) However, the new and interesting knowledge was for me to few and far between.
Also picked up from the Strand's outdoor shelves. Recently read and quite enjoyed the proof copy. Don't know if things were tightened up in the final. I found the individual stories and to be super-interesting and well told, but the overall structure to be lacking. (There are pieces that feel missing and others that feel extra). Still, it was a great close-up view of the elephants and also fed my recent location/wilderness/mostly Africa reading urge.
An interesting premise but ultimately this book disappoints. The author's style and randomness detract and distract from the book's theme which was.....oh yes elephants and their secret sense. Even O'Connell seems to forget the purpose of her book throughout. With a little editing and perhaps a less misleading title this could have been a decent read but unfortunately I just didn't care by the last third of the book.
While studying elephants in the wild in Africa, Caitlin noticed that they seemed to be "listening" thru their feet. The book tells about her studies in Africa and some of what she's done in the US. A good read, I would have liked a few more of her excellent photos to be included. (She also had an article in the Smithsonian a couple months ago about bull elephants and the groups that the live in.)
The title sounds so intriguing--elephants seem so magical anyway but this was a wandering field journal with no real cohesion. By the end, I couldn't even tell if she proved her thesis and if she was able to help out the farmers whose crops were raided by the elephants. There is a few good descriptions of elephant behavior but not enough to wallow through this book for.
I've just started the book but watched a heartbreaking special on the same topic once before. The emotional capabilities of elephants is beyond incredible. I will surely edit this review as I finish the book.
This was a beautiful meandering narrative about elephants, Africa, people, and politics. Definitely recommend it.
Maria Garrera
Not as good as everyone said, but a nice book.
just not very interesting
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