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Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  104 ratings  ·  26 reviews
Giants of the Monsoon Forest journeys deep into the mountainous rainforests of Burma and India to explore the world of teak logging elephants and their intriguing alliance with humans. Jacob Shell’s narrative vividly depicts elephants’ extraordinary intelligence, and the complicated bond with individual human riders, a partnership that can last for decades. Giants of the M ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published June 11th 2019 by W. W. Norton Company
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Giants of the Monsoon Forest: Living and Working with Elephants is about working elephants, just as the title indicates. It is about how men and elephants have worked together in the past, where and how they are working together today (particularly in Burma) and how the human / elephant relationship might best be developed in the future.

Elephants’ role/job in human society and thus their relationship to men has followed different trajectories in Africa and Asia. Neither do African and Asian ele
David Wineberg
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For those who appreciate elephants, Giants of the Monsoon Forest is stunning. Jacob Shell studied Asian elephants in the area between Burma, India and China. He has divided the stories into functional areas. So there are chapters on work elephants, fording elephants, war, transport and flooding.

The intelligence demonstrated by elephants is remarkable:

-An elephant carrying a huge log up a steep ramp found the log rolling up his tusks and over the top of his head. He thought about the problem, wen
Sharon Huether
Elephants were around since 400 B.C. A picture of combat elephants hangs in the Philadelphia museum of Art.
Elephants from Africa are much smaller than the Asian Elephants. They work well with their handlers,
(manhouts) and can respond to at least 4 different languages.

In the Asian forest,teak wood is carried in the tusks of the elephants, much like a forklift.
The elephants are especially helpful during the monsoon season; moving people and supplies.

This book gives a new perspective on their inte
Peter Tillman
Nov 03, 2019 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, travel
Tim Flannery's nice review, "Man’s Biggest Friend"
Excerpt: The author " argues that it was elephants, not humans, that initiated the associations, and that insights into the origins of the bond can be seen in the behavior of wild elephants like Pagli, who lived around fifty years ago in the border area between India and China. Her name means something like “the crazy one” because she left her family and approached a camp where working elephants and their m
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't think there was that much to learn about elephants, but this book did a supurb job. The author not only spent time with the elephants and those that handle them, but added a history of how poeple used elephants through the ages, from warfare, lumbering, tourism, travel and more.
Aneasy read and highly recommended.
Apr 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have to admit that I am hooked on elephants. A few years ago, I visited northern Thailand and attended an elephant show. It was fascinating. Admittedly it was put on for the tourists but it displayed the strength, tenacity and intelligence of these incredible animals in a way I had never expected. They stacked huge logs with precision and teamwork; they played soccer and, when one twice missed making his goal, he refused to leave the field until he was successful; they painted pictures with de ...more
Craig Adams
A well-researched history/travelogue of working elephants and their mahouts in Myanmar and greater Asia. If you’ve read the Stone of Heaven, or George Orwell’s books on Myanmar, then this book adds significant details on northern Myanmar’s reliance on working elephants.

The author provides a sobering assessment of wild and working elephants in Myanmar.

Would have rated this book more highly if the author’s last chapter on solutions for working elephants had been more detailed. The summary chapte
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Well researched and documented account of working elephants in Southeast Asia and their mahouts. Fascinating stories of elephant rescues during WWII and in times of natural disaster as well as interestimg comparisions between mahout and elephant teams in different areas. Although this is obviously a research work, the writing is accessible to the casual reader as well I now know more about elephants than I ever would have dreamed. Although this is not a book that I would have likely purchased, I ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tremendous research went into this book, and it is remarkable for its close look at the human relationships with Asian elephants, mostly in Burma and India. This is definitely for an academic audience, but the stories about the elephants and their work in logging, in transportation, and in war (did you know that the Viet Cong used elephants extensively during the Vietnam War?) were fascinating. Full review on my blog:

Katie Whitt
Jul 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was everything I enjoy in Non-fiction which is a story that highlights an interesting, little known facet of the world and preferably has animals in it. I thought Shell did a great job of balancing the sometimes not-so-pleasant realities of the life of the elephants and the mahouts, while still making a case for this way of life and how it actually protects the elephants in some ways. I thought this book was fascinating and well written.
Apr 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really great nonfiction book on the working elephants of the world. They have been used by man for centuries and are continuing to be used even today. The animals work intelligently along side man in a unique way. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book

I received this book as partof a Goodreads giveaway but the opinions expressed are solely my own.
Joseph A.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic read about an area of the world seldom heard from. Raises the alarm on the importance of the forest for the livelihood of the Asian Elephant. With numbers falling a response is needed to save these noble and intelligent giants.
Man must begin to help these animals or surely we will follow.
Susan Morris
Contains some interesting info about elephants & their uses in northern India & Burma, but a little dry or repetitive at times. Maybe it was the names of different ethnic groups repeated, and details about them that I couldn’t get into. For more in depth on WWII, read Elephant Company, which I really liked. (Library)
Beth Levant
If you're interested in elephants, this is for you particularly if you curious specifically about working Asian elephants. It's well researched, discusses historic and contemporary practices, and has a numerous photos. The writing isn't particularly compelling. ...more
Fascinating look at the life of working elephants in Southeast Asia. The author makes a compelling case for the advantages of this arrangement for both humans and the elephants, while acknowledging the challenges.
Jul 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've always loved books about elephants but until this book didn't realize just how little I knew about Asian elephants, their history, and how man has used them in that part of the world. Very eye-opening, and so while not neccesarily a fast read definitely felt it was worth my time. ...more
Susan Csoke
Apr 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the remote forest lands between India and Burma there are trails for working Elephants who can go where roads cannot. During a monsoon storm Elephants are essential to save lives. A remarkable read all about these amazing creatures. Thankyou Goodreads for this free book!!!!
Feb 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
Having read about this book ages ago, I finally got it and loved it! This non-fiction research about the Asian Elephant population, mostly centering in India, Burma and surrounding area discusses the plight of the Asian Elephants, their carers or
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good book with a modern update to my preferred book on the subject of these amazing elephants - “Elephant Company.”
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a beautiful book! The nobility and intelligence of these amazing creatures
are just amazing and make the reader wonder how anyone could possibly kill them...

Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great book. Totally enjoyed it.
Kimberly Brooks
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was fascinated by this book! I've always thought elephants were pretty neat, but had no idea how useful they could be for transportation purposes in monsoon-prone areas. I loved this book! ...more
Jun 03, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nature
Informative but dry.
Great start when it comes to the stories of the elephants and their capabilities. It became bogged down in the conversation around conservation.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very educational, a lot of material specific jargon which became confusing and slightly overwhelming at points. However, as a lover of elephants I enjoyed the read.
Daniel Weaver
Started off really slow and repetitive but I grew to like it a lot. I might recommend once you get bored of a chapter to skip to the next one- it’s largely more of the same, with extra examples. But I really liked the stories he told, they are fantastic and otherworldly, just a bit repetitive. Well researched and interesting perspective on a topic we all know far to little about: real conservation and what drives destruction of species
rated it really liked it
Dec 16, 2020
Rickey Ramseur
rated it liked it
Jul 09, 2019
Daniel Jackson
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Nov 02, 2019
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Jacob Shell is Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University.

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