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Elephant Whisperer

The Elephant Whisperer

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When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of 'rogue' elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, his common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd's last chance of survival — dangerous and unpredictable, they would be killed if Lawrence wouldn't take them in.

As Lawrence risked his life to create a bond with the troubled elephants and persuade them to stay on his reserve, he came to realize what a special family they were, from the wise matriarch Nana, who guided the herd, to her warrior sister Frankie, always ready to see off any threat, and their children who fought so hard to survive.

With unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife, this is an enthralling book that will appeal to animal lovers and adventurous souls everywhere.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2009

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Lawrence Anthony

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,231 reviews
Profile Image for Lisa.
14 reviews3 followers
September 22, 2012
If you are interested in animals, nature, true stories of incredible interactions between animals and humans and certain conservation issues that South Africa faces, this is a 10 star read. I read that the author of this book recently passed away and that the elephants he interacted with for many years instinctively traveled a very long way on foot over many, many miles to come and visit him at the place where he passed away.
Profile Image for Christina.
236 reviews
March 13, 2012
I'm starting to get bored with the various "whisperers." Especially since most of them don't do any actual whispering to the animals in question.

So I wish this book had a different title.

That aside, this is a fantastic book about some of nature's most beautiful and amazing animals. (I LOVE elephants!)

Lawrence Anthony runs a nature preserve in South Africa called Thula Thula. One day, he gets a call from someone offering him a herd of nine elephants for the preserve. The herd is apparently "rogue." They hate people. They've escaped several times from their current home. And the matriarch thinks nothing of grabbing an electric wire, and taking the 8,000 volts of electricity long enough to short the wire or tear it down to clear a path for escape. If Anthony refuses to take the elephants, they'll all be shot. So he says yes.

By the time the elephants arrive at Thula Thula, the herd is down to seven. Their previous owners shot the matriarch and her baby so they wouldn't "cause any more trouble." (You learn later that it's not the elephants who are the problem.) And the herd hates humans even more than it did before.

The elephants escape Thula Thula within 24 hours of their arrival. There's a struggle to recapture them, so that people in nearby villages won't kill them. And when they finally get back to Thula Thula, Anthony has to practically live with them to prevent them from escaping again. He needs to teach them to like (or at least tolerate) people without domesticating them - a difficult balance, but he succeeds.

Anthony is then offered another troubled elephant - one who is all alone because the rest of her herd has been shot or sold, and who fears humans. He has to start the process all over again.

It's amazing how the elephants change - and how quickly they do.

I fell in love with the elephants. I fell in love with Max, Anthony's Staffordshire terrier who has no problem taking on a wild boar or a cobra (he kills the cobra). And I really respect Anthony for his knowledge of the wildlife and his general goodness.

If there's anything seriously wrong with this book, I can't find it.
Profile Image for Jonathan K (Max Outlier).
614 reviews117 followers
July 26, 2022
In some ways this story reads more like a novel than non-fiction due to its pace, twists and engagement. Following the prologue, the reader is launched into an African storyworld revealing insights, danger and revelation.

Lawrence Anthony is a South African conservationist whose dream to acquire and develop an animal preserve in the heart of Zulu land came to fruition in Thula Thula, Africa. Over 5000 acres, it's abundant wildlife included the usual, without elephants or rhinos. Lawrence soon learns of a troublesome elephant herd and begrudgingly agrees to take them on.

Its matriarch had raided nearby neighborhoods and was put to her death prior to transport of the herd. In her place was a monstrous female Lawrence named Nana along with six others of various ages. Like her predecessor Nana was anything but amiable.

While Anthony and his loving French partner, Francois were accustomed to a wide variety of African wildlife, they'd never encountered elephants nor had any of the local Zulu tribes. Once the herd arrived, the pace of the story escalates making the book read like a fast paced mystery. Lawrence relied on his trusty sidekick David and together they made attempts to accommodate the herd and in the process experienced challenges. As the herd slowly adapted all were illuminated by an animal consciousness never before experienced. Put simply, elephants extra sensory perception goes far beyond humans.

Over a span of 13 years, Anthony's family and crew of Zulu workers, rangers and friends had experiences never thought possible. Among them, learning the value elephants place on family, loyalty and compassion and their willingness to go the extra mile. Once he developed a closeness with Nana, she became a protector and friend as did the rest. But like most great stories, problems surface when least expected.

To say this has an impact on how we view life, and Nature is an understatement of epic proportion. Reading this book provides food for thought in every chapter, though some will stop the reader cold. We learn in the final chapter that Lawrence passed away at 61, which in today's world is unusual. A model citizen, husband and friend to both animal and humans, this is a must read if care about humanity.
Profile Image for Bharath.
590 reviews446 followers
August 16, 2018
I chanced upon a reference to the book “The Elephant Whisperer” by Lawrence Anthony (with Graham Spence) while reading an article on the internet. I found the summary interesting and later got the book. It has been a very fascinating and highly recommended read.

The story is about Lawrence Anthony and his experience with a herd of wild elephants. Lawrence owns the Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa. He gets a call one day asking if he is interested in having a herd of wild elephants. These elephants are notorious in breaking away from their sanctuaries and have been so far unmanageable. If he declines, the elephants would be shot. Keen to save the elephants, he accepts to receive them.

In preparation for receiving the elephants, an electrified fence is erected including inspection by forest authorities. The day the elephants arrive, they break out from the fence at night. A search was launched, and they were brought back to the reserve sedated. They make another attempt to escape, but Lawrence comes in front of them, talking to them in a soft tone. The matriarch Nana then backed off from the fence with the rest of the herd following her.

The story from then on is how he gradually wins the trust of the herd. Once the matriarch Nana trusts him, the rest of the herd follows. Over time, the herd multiplies and grows to double the number. There are also challenges from poachers in the vicinity.

There are also stories of their extraordinary intuition. Every time Lawrence returned from a visit somewhere, the elephants used to visit his house to welcome him back without fail. There is also one instance where his return was delayed, and the elephants went back and returned at the exact time he came back! As the elephants settle into their habitat, Lawrence gradually reduces his contact with them, allowing them to be in the wild. They also are at peace and do not mind visitors to the game reserve watching them.

The Elephant Whisperer is a touching story of the amazing capabilities of elephants and the story of how humans can reach out to them. As you read the book, you are drawn to the identity and personality of each of the elephants. Lawrence notes that most of us are under the false belief that effective communication is the sole monopoly of humans. As also the belief that only we are capable of a wide range of emotions. Nothing is far from the truth. He also goes on to say how important preservation is, and not in cages. The best cage is an empty one!

Once I finished reading the book I searched the internet to see if there are more books by the author. I did find a couple and plan to read them including one on how he tries his best to save the animals in the Baghdad zoo during the gulf war.

I also found sadly that Lawrence expired of a heart attack in 2012. However read this and many other similar news items on the internet -> http://www.thefeaturedcreature.com/20.... When Lawrence passed away, the elephants he rescued and nurtured came visting to his house to pay their last respects. They travelled several miles and came in two separate herds, and stayed there for two days solemnly in mourning. According to Anthony’s son, Dylan, both herds arrived at the Anthony family compound shortly after his death (their last visit was several months back).
Profile Image for Monty.
847 reviews14 followers
October 26, 2012
I just had to give this book five stars, though four may fit as well. When I read that, after the author died recently, the herd of elephants he befriended traveled many miles to stand near his body, without there being any means of informing them of his death, I was inspired to read this book he published in 2009. I was hooked by the first chapter and wanted more after the last chapter. There is so much to say about how each chapter had its own adventure, some complete with puzzles, tension and excitement. The entire book was informative, not only about elephants, but about other animals, including snakes, vultures, baboons, insects, dogs and more. There was also much to learn about the Zulu culture. The author was remarkable because he would follow his intuition about situations rather than standard advice, often while fearing his actions could bring about his demise. The way he earned the trust of the elephants was amazing. Blah, blah--so read the book already!
Profile Image for Michael Perkins.
Author 6 books354 followers
January 17, 2022
“An elephant is faithful 100 percent.”

-Dr. Seuss


Africa, there’s no place like it on earth. The translucent orange and lavender skies. The thrum of life beneath your feet. The fingers of wind that caress. The giraffes, the lions, the leopards, the cheetahs, the hyenas, the wild dogs, the black rhinos and, of course, the magisterial elephants.

Our first stop was Cape Town. The drive from the airport takes you past Cape Flats, a remnant of apartheid that displays small, boxed dwellings that stretch as far as the eye can see, housing the poorest of the poor. In Cape Town, on the water, I think of San Francisco—magnificent gardens, quaint architecture—but with huge Table Mountain looming as the backdrop, instead of the Golden Gate Bridge.

South of Cape Town, down the peninsula, takes you to Cape Point, populated by aggressive baboons that just as soon steal your food as look at you. Around the Cape and back north is Boulder Beach, home of Jackass Penguins. Farther north, still, you can see the famous, flying Great Whites that haunt Seal Island.

But, most of all, we had come to this land, “beautiful beyond the singing of it” (Alan Paton), to go on safari. This meant a flight north of Cape Town in a small plane to a private game reserve. As the plane touched down on the narrow airstrip and the storks scattered, we felt at once relief and excitement. Upon embarking from the plane, we were greeted by our amiable ranger-guide, Hermann Loubser.

After a lovely dinner and then drinks by the fireplace, in the twilight Hermann escorted us, rifle a-ready, to our cabins. For animals in Africa, you see, are most active at dusk and dawn. Tomorrow would be an early day.

A startling voice announcing breakfast called from out of the dark. It was the time of day that the Zulus term uvivi, literally meaning “darkest before the dawn.” We struggled out of bed, hair askew, and put on our jeans. We smelled hot coffee and spiced tea as Hermann led us to the food hut. Over rolls and fresh fruit, we could hear Africa begin to stir. The game was afoot. We had a couple minutes to brush our teeth before meeting at the vehicle; showers would have to wait.

Our family of four, along with a Dutch family of four from Rotterdam, scrambled on to the large Toyota land rover. The mother and daughter were dressed as if they were going to a dinner party. Hermann drove and was accompanied by a local tracker, who could read any footprint or pile of scat on the trail. Amazingly, she told us that she had never seen the ocean.

As the rover rumbled through the bush, we first encountered a pride of lions lying about, obviously full after a recent kill. They looked at us languidly, but it was hard not to feel startled at being so close to these predators out in the open. Hermann explained that we were perceived as being part of one large creature that included the rover, but warned that someday the predators might finally make the distinction between machine and man. I would not want to be around for that moment.

Farther into the bush, we saw huge, galloping giraffes that would stop and munch from the tops of trees and, now fortified, bang necks with each other in combat. There were also magnificent martial eagles, with their 7-foot wingspans, on the look out for vervet monkeys they might pluck from tree branches. But it was at a muddy waterhole where we hit the jackpot----a herd of elephants cooling themselves in the shade, a mother elephant constantly pouring the darkened water over her mischievous baby.

Elephant herds are matriarchal, led by an alpha female, assisted by a bull male whose job it is to mentor the young males into the social structure. Sadly, poaching and indiscriminate culling often disrupts the structure of herds. Without a matriarch or a bull mentor, the young males can easily turn into rogues that rampage through villages or attack every animal in sight.

A later encounter with elephants came in Kruger National Park, northeast of Johannesburg, along the border of Mozambique. In Kruger, we saw hippos (in and out of water), hyenas, cheetahs, and crocodiles. Yet, it was when we were driving down the paved road of Kruger, in another rover, that to our right and left we saw elephants knocking over trees----crack, crack---and then, with amazing dexterity, pick up the fallen fruit and put it into their mouths. Herds of elephants like this can flatten entire forests.

But it was the encounter with a massive bull elephant coming straight at us that had even our veteran guide alarmed. This pachyderm was in musth, meaning his testosterone had spiked 60% and he was looking to mate. The ranger pointed out the tell-tale streams of the hormone running from the eyes down each side of the monster’s face. The driver found the first avenue he could use to pull us away from the main road and into the cover of the bush.

But elephants are more than muscle machines. They are tremendously intelligent creatures. Our Kruger guide told us the story of coming upon a herd and stopping to watch. Sitting in an elevated seat at the back of the rover was a 10-year old boy with Down’s Syndrome. One of the female ellies, sensing something was different about this child, approached the rover. The guide commanded the passengers to stay perfectly still. The female began to gently pat the boy on the head and then caressed his cheeks and the back of his neck, as if to comfort and heal him, as she might one of her own babies. This went on for about ten minutes, before the female returned to the herd.

Elephants are only one of three mammals, other than humans, that can recognize themselves in a mirror. The other two are chimpanzees and dolphins. This mark of intelligence sets them apart from all other animals. Two biologists, Joyce Pool and Petter Granli, who have spent more than 37 years with elephants in the wild, discovered that these creatures have sophisticated communication ability. Through low rumblings in the stomach they not only communicate with the immediate herd, but the sounds can also travel through their feet into the ground and send signals to other herds, up to 10 kilometers away, telling them where a watering hole is located, for example.

A curl of the trunk, a step backward, or a fold of the ear are other means to communicate with the herd; and the holding of the trunk periscope-style, to sniff the wind, is a way of detecting approaching danger. Ninety percent of the time these biologists could detect what an elephant would do next. The spreading of the ears, fully, meant an elephant was angry and might charge. There were also humorous mock charges, where elephants would charge the research vehicle, but pretend to trip to stop the charge.

Elephants also have palpable emotional intelligence, as shown with the Down’s Syndrome child. If a baby elephant is injured, for example, the whole herd will take care of it. And if one of the herd dies, the elephants will gather around it, mourning, and will return to that spot every year to mourn again.

But this sense was taken to an even more extraordinary and inexplicable level in the case of the author of "The Elephant Whisperer" and owner of the Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa. In his book, Lawrence Anthony, recounts the story of how he took in a rogue herd that otherwise was going to be shot. Through a very brave and painstaking process, he befriended the matriarch, Nana, and from there the entire herd, except for one male rogue. Eventually, the elephants morphed into two herds and returned to the wild.

But right after Anthony’s death, of a heart attack, an extraordinary thing happened. The herds of elephants, sensing that they had lost a beloved human friend, moved in a solemn, almost funereal procession for 12 hours through the Zululand bush in order to pay homage at the deceased man’s home on Thula Thula. The surviving human family was more than a little astonished.

The herds remained there for 24 hours.
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,412 followers
July 26, 2016
Anthony does a magnificent job of sharing his story of settling a herd of seven wild elephants on his 5,000 acres of bush in Zululand, South Africa. I respect his decision to try to extend the reserve to include the neighboring tribal land so that a greater number of wild animals might live comfortably without interference. The elephants get the credit they deserve for being remarkably intelligent and resilient, despite extremely harsh treatment and bad memories early on. It is a source of great happiness that there are such people working tirelessly to create an environment of inclusion in a world that increasingly seems focused on self-aggrandizement.

Nana becomes the troubled herd’s defacto matriarch after the herd’s real matriarch is shot and killed just prior to the herd’s transfer to Thula Thula, Anthony’s game reserve, in 1999. Nana had learned many tricks about escaping from electrified enclosures from her earlier mentor and the herd often worked in concert to outwit their captors. Happily, Anthony seemed to understand that a calming presence and personal connection with the lead elephant could make a difference to the herd’s peace of mind. Slowly, over a period of weeks, he managed to make Nana understand that their new home could be a place of comfort and peace. They stayed and thrived, becoming important members of the reserve’s wildlife bounty.

Anthony shares his experiences in words and photos, and tells of difficulties with poachers, local tribal courts, unruly bushrangers, and with the wild elephants themselves. When money gets tight, he is forced to open a tourist lodge to host foreign guests, but does it with customary goodwill and bonhomie.

Late in the book, Anthony tells us he and one of his rangers went to Baghdad during the early part of the Iraq War to help save the zoo animals, and wrote a book about the experience called Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo. His ranger then went on to Kabul, Afghanistan, to do the same thing there. The experience of living in the bush with these resourceful folks and animals over the period of time it takes to read the book is wonderfully energizing and one hates to leave their company at the end. One feels quite as though one is losing a friend. Anthony is not simply an elephant whisperer, but fortunately a man who spoke to us, too.

Lawrence Anthony died March 2, 2012 at the age of sixty-one. His obituary in The Telegraph of Britain is here. Graham Spence is a journalist and native Zimbabwean who co-wrote three books with Lawrence Anthony. He also writes fiction. A short bio is here.
Profile Image for Anne ✨ Finds Joy.
277 reviews66 followers
June 30, 2019
(4.5) A touching memoir of a South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony and his wildlife game reserve in Zululand. The book focuses on his taking in a herd of "rogue" wild elephants, the adventures that ensued, and the incredible connections Lawrence formed with them as they learned to trust him.

More than just feel-good animal rescue story, Lawrence also includes insight on the challenges of running a wildlife reserve and the ever-present danger of poachers. So don't let the "whisperer" title make you think it's just another of those "sappy animal lover reads".

I found Lawrence Anthony a charismatic, strong storyteller, who appreciates the humor in situations, so this is an entertaining, enjoyable story.

The audio narration by Simon Vance is wonderful, and earned a Audie Award for Biography/Memoir in 2014.
Profile Image for Cheryl.
966 reviews100 followers
October 11, 2020
Many years ago I read Lawrence Anthony’s outstanding book entitled Babylon’s Ark which told the story of his rescue of the surviving animals of the Baghdad Zoo after America’s “shock and awe” attack. The respect and admiration I felt for this amazing conservationist inspired me to read more of his books. The Elephant Whisperer had been on my TBR list for quite awhile, and I was happy when my book club chose to read it.

Lawrence Anthony was born and raised in Africa. He had an immense respect for the indigenous people and the many species of animals that are native to the African continent.

After many years working as a businessman, he was able to buy Thula Thula, a large animal reserve where he could preserve and protect the many native species. He became a well respected conservationist. Several years after purchasing the reserve, he received a call asking if he could take a herd of elephants onto the reserve. It was their last chance for survival. They were a rogue herd, and if Anthony did not offer them sanctuary, they would be killed. Other reserves had given up on them. He accepted the herd and, by doing so, his life was changed forever.

This is a beautifully written story of perseverance, patience, understanding, loyalty, and love that is hard to put down. The amazing bond between animals and humans is perfectly portrayed. Profoundly inspiring and heartfelt, this outstanding book is well worth reading.

NOTE: When Lawrence Anthony died suddenly in 2012, the original animal herd written about in this book, walked over 200 miles to Thula Thula to honor their rescuer. They remained there for two days, never eating or drinking, and then quietly left. Lawrence Anthony’s widow said that these magnificent elephants have returned every year since then on the anniversary of his death.
Profile Image for Jim Kristofic.
Author 8 books45 followers
January 21, 2010
I cried openly the day I found out Steve Irwin died. I’ve always been a naturalist at heart, and I have great respect for those who passionately strive to conserve the animals and plant life of this Earth.

After reading Laurence Anthony’s “The Elephant Whisperer,” I was glad to see a kindred spirit to Irwin, alive and daring, working in his native Africa with local Zulus, game rangers, and international conservationists to preserve the powerful – yet fragile – existence of a herd of “rogue” African elephants.

After a boyhood in the African bush, Antony sets up his game reserve of Thula Thula. Here, he celebrates the plant and animals in vivid descriptions of their color, form, and raw tenacity to survive. Antony has a similar struggle to keep Thula Thula running. Make no mistake: this book is not just a Walden-esque existential meander with elephants on the side. Anthony is never without his firearm as he and his tough-as-nails and tender-hearted rangers battle poachers, evade lions and leopards in the African night, avoid potential assassinations by land-grabbers, and string and restring and restring hundreds of miles of electric fence to protect the animals from the outside world.

By the book’s end, Thula Thula was a sacred place for me. And it was all the more sacred because the will of a dedicated, passionate group of people poured their love into the place.

The characters are real. The place is real. The elephants are larger than life.

And there are cool dogs. Who couldn’t love that?
Profile Image for Gary.
2,614 reviews368 followers
December 9, 2018
This book is completely out of my normal selection but so glad I chose to read it. I have always had a fascination and fondness of elephants and it was mainly the reason I started reading it.
This book is a real treat, written by South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony who tells of his
exploits when he accepted a herd of 'rogue' elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa. Against all advice he took on the herd and told that it was their last chance of survival, as they were to be killed if he didn't take them. Before the move was complete the elephants broke out again and the matriarch and her baby were shot, the remaining elephants were traumatised, dangerous, and very angry. As soon as they arrived at Thula Thula they started planning their escape making life for Lawrence even harder and more difficult for him to create a bond with the elephants and save them from execution. This book is full of joy and sadness but will not only appeal to animal lovers but also others who just like a good read.
For me it one of those books that as soon as I had finished reading it I wanted to learn more about it and tell others about it.
Profile Image for Karen.
71 reviews61 followers
July 22, 2019
This memoir about a herd of 'rogue' elephants and conservationist Lawrence on his reserve in Africa is feel-good and informative at the same time. The audiobook won an Audie and it is well deserved as it is a great listen. I thoroughly enjoyed this and would definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Leo.
4,298 reviews384 followers
May 19, 2022
I don't read memoirs that revolves around someone life around animals that much and efter reading this book, I feel like that need to change. It was a different kind of memoir and I definitely enjoyed it. Glad I picked it up and continued reading even if the copy I got hold of was very very batterd and not in the "cozy cute "way
Profile Image for ♥ Sandi ❣	.
1,268 reviews9 followers
February 10, 2022
4 stars

A game reserve, Thula Thula, in Southern Africa and a man with a big heart, Lawrence Anthony, take on the welfare of seven rogue elephants. Over the years throughout the birth of new babies and the death of friends Anthony learned to love and care for this family of pachyderms - at the same time that they learned to trust him and adapt Thula Thula as their sacred homeland.

As was true of Anthony, I knew little about elephants, only what I learned from zoos and documentaries. This book gave me a more in depth look at their family structure, their intelligence and how they conducted themselves in many situations, while also detailing the issues that Anthony faced on a daily basis with the care of these strong wild mammoth creatures.

March 2, 2012 was a sad day. A man with a heart the size of his achievements passed from not only this life, but the life of the many animals he dedicated his love to. The reminder of his original seven elephants still come to the Thula Thula lodge nightly, to honor their loss.
Profile Image for Joy D.
1,889 reviews218 followers
September 12, 2019
“In 1999, I was asked to accept a herd of troubled wild elephants on my game reserve. I had no inkling of the escapades and adventures I was about to embark upon. I had no idea how challenging it would be or how much my life would be enriched. The adventure has been both physical and spiritual. Physical in the sense that it was action from the word go, as you will see in the following pages; spiritual because these giants of the planet took me deep into their world.” – Lawrence Anthony, The Elephant Whisperer

Fascinating memoir of the adventurous life of wildlife conservationist Lawrence Anthony, head of Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand, Kwa-Zulu Natal province, South Africa. In the early years of his custodianship of Thula Thula, he took in a herd of troubled elephants who were about to be destroyed. This is the story of how he developed a special relationship with these animals to help them get over their belligerent dealings with humans. He lived in the bush next to them as they adapted to life in the wilds of the reserve. It shows how humans and animals can form close bonds and how animals communicate in ways we do not always understand.

This book is so much more than a “book about elephants,” though they play a starring role. It covers interactions with a wide range of other wildlife, including the leopard, hyena, kudu, lion, rhino, cape buffalo, crocodile, and more. His pet dogs are featured, and human interactions are not neglected. It was particularly interesting to read of his dealings with poachers, rangers, officials, and Zulu leaders. In fact, it includes a great deal of history, culture, traditions, spiritual beliefs of the neighboring Zulu tribes, as well as the impact of the former apartheid policies.

This book contains story after story of wild adventures that take place over an undefined number of years, which are well-chosen for their level of significance, adventure, danger, or comedic effect. For example, there are stories of trying to herd a mfezi (Mozambican spitting cobra) out of his and his wife’s bedroom and an escaping cape buffalo that chases one of the reserve staff around a vehicle. The book flows in a “never-a-dull-moment” style, though the writing is choppy at times and the book is really more a series of short episodes rather than single a cohesive story. The elephants are the “characters,” and each has a distinct personality. The author employs humor but does not shy away from the gut-wrenching and sad parts of the life in the African wilderness.

I was so enthralled that I kept telling my friends and family about these anecdotes and was inspired to do further research. This book will appeal to anyone with a passion for animals, concern about wildlife conservation, or desire to find out what it is like to operate a game preserve in Africa.

“But perhaps the most important lesson I learned is that there are no walls between humans and the elephants except those we put up ourselves, and that until we allow not only elephants, but all living creatures their place in the sun, we can never be whole ourselves.” – Lawrence Anthony
Profile Image for Kathleen.
1,330 reviews29 followers
March 19, 2017
Wow. Animal lovers, listen up! Awesome narration by Simon Vance. This narration won the Audie Award 2014. I could listen to him forever. Utterly captivating and heartwarming animal story / memoir.

This "true" account is absolute joy, even though there are some anxious and sad times. Deeply profound. I felt so good while reading it — never wanted it to end. I cried a bit, too. The book comes with photos. Some are posted at the author's website: http://www.lawrenceanthony.co.za/gallery

(Be advised, invented spelling -- I've no clue how to spell Zulu names, given the audio format).

While the main focus is on the supposedly rogue elephant herd, there is much more to this book: fearless family dogs, deadly crocs and snakes, several rhinos, Zulu traditions, uniting five tribal lands, post-Apartheid ravages, assassins and poachers, flooding rivers, raging fires, etc. Never a dull moment.

Hoorah for Lawrence Anthony (referred to in the Zulu tongue by a title that sounded like In-koo-loo). He's the inspired owner of Thula Thula Wild Animal Reserve, in Zulu-land, South Africa. I feel like I know him now. He seemed grateful for his good fortune and honest about his mistakes. I felt his joy, frustration, anger, and pain. There's some preaching or soap-boxing, but it's minimal and bothered me not at all.

Lots of love to Nana, the wise old matriarch elephant, and to her fiercely protective sister Frankie. Love to Nanzham the adolescent orphaned bull, and to baby Thula, wrong-footed but right-hearted. Highest regards to my poor traumatized orphaned adolescent girl, ET. Huzzah for all the brave dogs, especially Max and Penny.

Kudos to the local Zulu chieftain / king and his equally noble son: Oonkosee Bielah and his son Thee-why-Oonkosee-Bielah (no clue how to spell Zulu names).

Hats off to Françoise, and to the rangers David, Brendan, Bekkah, etc.

What a book! What a fabulous narrator!
Profile Image for JanB .
1,143 reviews2,490 followers
September 20, 2015

Edited May 2015: I first read this book in May 2014 and just finished a re-read. The following review stands. I loved it just as much if not more than the first time I read it. Wonderful book!

This just won an Audie Award for best audio book in the bio/memoir category and in my opinion it was well-deserved. It will definitely be among my all-time favorites. I have a soft spot in my heart for elephants and this book reinforced those feelings. I ran the gamut of emotions as I read this book: I laughed, I cried, I was amazed, sometimes shocked, and ultimately, I fell in love with the elephants and their human rescuer.

Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa because he was known as being amazingly good with animals. The elephants would be killed if he wouldn't take them in, so he agreed. When the elephants arrived they were angry, scared, and distrustful of humans. What follows is a fascinating tale of how he not only saved the herd, but also developed an unusual bond with them. The story is interspersed with tales of Anthony's French wife, Francoise, their dogs, the staff, and the Zulu culture.

Sadly, Mr. Anthony passed away suddenly of a heart attack in 2012. By then, the herd had been released back into the wild and had not visited Mr. Anthony’s home in a year and a half. But on his death, the herd inexplicably trudged for miles in a solemn funereal procession to pay their respects at his house. They stayed for 2 days before moving back into the bush. What a beautiful story that teaches us so much about the capability of animals to show deep love and concern, and the bonds they can form with humans.

Profile Image for Jessaka.
887 reviews120 followers
May 12, 2022
I did not know what to expect from this book. It is certainly a winner, a 5 star read. And for all I know it may be the best book I Will read this year

After having said all that, I will never visit a game reserve. They are just too dangerous.
The author has a lot of Action packed in this book, but of course it is 12 years of his living and owning a game reserve in Africa.

He buys a heard of 7 elephants and before they arrive He puts up an electric fence. Well, they oget out Of the fence and head for home, but why they wanted to go home I'll never know since they were abused there. But, I admit, I enjoyed the chase.

Okay, part of this book with learning about the intelligence of the elephants And how much they cared for they're own. This and all the dangerous incidents in this book made it hard to put down. Like I said I will never go to a game reserve and I don't wanna live in Africa ever.
The same goes for Australia and any other country where you can get eaten or killed by poisonous things. Oh, or turn you into something indescribable.
Profile Image for Lisa Hagan.
110 reviews13 followers
March 15, 2012
I had the honor and privilege of working with conservationist Lawrence Anthony and co-author Graham Spence on this incredibly moving book. It was our second book together, the previous BABYLON'S ARK: THE INCREDIBLE WAR TIME RESCUE OF THE BAGHDAD ZOO also an amazing book.

Lawence was called upon to rescue a rogue herd of elephants, which he did with very little hesitation.
It is an touching story about tough man's love and deep connection with these fascinating huge animals. You cannot put this book down and yet you don't want it to end. I loved it.

Lawrence left us on March 1, 2012, 62 years old, too young. He will be greatly missed by us and the animals he saved. He was a remarkable man with a terrific sense of humor and joi de vire. I will miss him.
Profile Image for Gary.
941 reviews205 followers
March 8, 2016
Lawrence Anthony He left an amazing legacy at the Thula Thula reserve in KwaZulu, Natal, South Africa, , and his work with conservation, and wild animals. This is party recounted in this book. The author's love of the animals here is felt palpably in the pages of the book. It is a memoir that will keep you captivated. We learn of how the elephants would come out in a herd to greet Lawrence, and would actually start their procession when he was on the way back to the reserve. How when his flight was canceled at one point, the elephants actually reversed their procession to greet him. The mourning of the animals for young ones in their herd, the way that elephants herd guided a angry and half-demented bull away from the author and his colleagues, when it was about to charge. also how the author actually used inflections and changes of tone etc to communicate with the elephants, stopping the poised charge of a young female in the herd by saying 'Dont charge-its me"
Most amazing is the elephant's communication system through telepathy that stretches from herd to her across the continent

Also insights in to Zulu culture and spirituality, through the connections the author built up with the Zulu people on Thula Thula, who helped him run the reserve, and fight off poachers.
Interesting people such as Lawrence's French wife, Fracoise and the intrepid game ranger, David.

The accounts you can read of the mourning by the elephants after the passing of Lawrence Anthony, show us how animals have feelings often as deep as that of humans, and their attachments to both other animals and their human friends. And how they grieve the loss of their loved ones.
Profile Image for Brooke W.
124 reviews200 followers
February 24, 2021
I highly recommend this book to everyone! It's heartfelt, eye-opening, and it doesn't feel like a long non-fiction book.

Because this book was told by someone who had real experience and interaction with elephants, there was emotion in this book that no one else could write. If someone who hasn't taken in elephants wrote this book, I wouldn't have been able to make it through. This book is truly special.

I recently learned that Laurence Anthony, the author, passed away a few years ago, and while I am sad, I love looking back on his work and seeing that he is still making a difference in the world even though he has left it.

The Elephant Whisperer is a true story about Anothy's time running the Thula Thula Reserve in Africa. This book is all of his wild(no pun intended) experiences there. This book felt like an experienced author created this drawing plot with an expert writing style! This book gave me all the feels: Joy, worry, fear, happiness, accomplishment, anger, anticipation, and everything in between.

This book is absolutely beautiful and I am very much in debt to the friend of mine who recommended this book to me and lent me her copy!
Profile Image for Tasha .
1,024 reviews37 followers
September 15, 2015
I loved this book. The compassion by Anthony towards these elephants was amazing. I will miss reading about the herd and the people involved in their care. This book was full of compasison, love, mystery and adventure. It brings awareness of what amazing creatures elephants are and how it's so important to respect and honor them. What a lucky herd to have been given the chance to live at Thula Thula and to have an advocate on their side when no one else wanted them.
Profile Image for Una Tiers.
Author 6 books376 followers
October 17, 2016
A story like...no, I won't spoil it. Very interesting reports on the smarts elephants have although the story leaves things out that I wanted to know about. The business of side of safaris would have been a plus.
It would have been nice to see photos of the animals.
Profile Image for Vasudhendra Vasudhendra.
Author 33 books312 followers
May 24, 2021
This book is a treat for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts.

Lawrence Anthony (1950-2012) is a conservationist of South Africa. He had more than 5000 acres of forest reserve in Zululand, by name Thula Thula. Unexpectedly he gets a request to take care of 7 wild elephants, all belonging to same herd. If he refuses the request, all the elephants will be killed as they are causing lot of damages to the owner. Lawrence accepts them with a wary mind. However it turns out to be a life changing experience for him.

Lawrence has detailed his encounter with these wild pachyderms in this book. These elephants in turn teaches him a lot about life, loyalty, and freedom. These details are heart-warming, hilarious and at times breathtaking. He becomes so close to this herd that he almost talks and listens to them with full comprehension. They understand his intentions, mood, and feelings.

The book is not just about Elephants. Lawrence describes various other wildlife like crocodiles, vultures, rhinos, cobras, buffalos, cheetahs etc. Not many of us get an opportunity to interact with wildlife so closely. At least this book shows the taste of it.

Lawrence also talks about African tribal community and their culture. He is very empathetic to their situation and hates apartheid governance. He describes and respects the superstitions followed by the tribal community. This enhances our respect to him.

At times I felt the author is exaggerating some of the incidents. As Indians, we are not unfamiliar with elephants. I was wondering why we have not heard such stories in India. But it could be purely my ignorance and I would like to believe Lawrence.

This book is a feast for those who love nature, and a full meal for others.
Profile Image for Jean.
1,707 reviews742 followers
February 27, 2016
Lawrence Anthony (17 September 1950-2 March 2012) was a conservationist with the Thula Game Reserve in Zululand, South Africa. He was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” elephants otherwise they would be killed. The elephants had been badly traumatized and would require special care. Apparently he wanted to refuse because of the problems of adding another herd of elephants, but he just could not say no.

The story tells of the bonding with the elephants and becoming part of the herd. Anthony tells interesting anecdotes: some funny, some sad but all educational. He tells how he learned to communicate with the elephants. I send a big thank you to the Zulu people for creating and maintaining this magnificent wild game refuge.

The book is well written and is a highly readable memoir of his life among the exotic animals. The book also provides information about the life and culture of the Zulu people. I read in the newspaper that when Anthony died, the elephants suddenly appeared at his home on the Reserve and spent two days around the house in mourning. I keep wondering how they knew he died. I read this as an audiobook downloaded from Audible. Simon Vance is one of my favorite narrators and of course he does his usual excellent job narrating the book.
Profile Image for Tania.
1,198 reviews269 followers
March 28, 2022
"Such is Africa, the flawed, beautiful, magnificent, beguiling, mystical, unique, life-changing continent... it's seductive charm and charisma, its ancient wisdom so often stained bby unfathomable spasms of blood."

What an amazing life, to live your passion, and to really make an impact on the world. Elephants are my favorite animal, and this book just confirmed why that is. I was especially intrigued by the research showing how these animals can communicate across the whole continent.
Profile Image for L.G. Cullens.
Author 2 books74 followers
August 22, 2020
The Elephant Whisper by Lawrence Anthony

First off, understand that the title of this book is highly misleading. This story is actually a balance of wondrous and woeful perspective of the reality of physical life, especially in the latter chapters, depicted through fascinating experiences. There is a powerful, elemental message threaded through this writing about all life forms journeying together, connected, and dependent on each other for existence, which includes humans. If strong emotions aren't aroused, then I suspect the reader may be blinded by their human bubble and/or have a heart of stone.

"In our noisy cities we tend to forget the things our ancestors knew on a gut level: that the wilderness is alive, that its whispers are there for all to hear – and to respond to."

"Living rough in the wilderness is a salve for the soul. Ancient instincts awaken; forgotten skills are relearned, consciousness is sharpened and life thrums at a richer tempo."

"Under the microscope, living organisms are just a soup of chemicals and minerals. But what about what the microscope doesn’t see? That life force, the vital ingredient of existence – from an acacia to an elephant – can it be quantified?

"My herd showed me that it can. That understanding and generosity of spirit is alive and well in the pachyderm kingdom; that elephants are emotional, caring and extremely intelligent; and that they value good relations with humans.

"This is their story. They taught me that all life forms are important to each other in our common quest for happiness and survival. That there is more to life than just yourself, your own family, or your own kind."

The story can be seen in one vein as the age old struggle between the primal savagery of trigger happy men killing for the thrill of it, and wiser minds trying to protect wildlife, knowing humankind's future is at stake. It perplexes me how our blinkered cognitive processes exhibit such vagaries, even though knowing of the fickleness of evolution's trials and the influences of subjective experiences.

"It was something I simply couldn’t fathom … what type of person would shoot a terrified teenage elephant, and a female at that? For a tawdry fireside trophy? For the pleasure of the kill? And what kind of reserve owner would hawk a vulnerable young animal for such a reason?"

The message comes through loud and clear, that to truly protect any life form is to protect all by living in respectful coexistence with all life forms in the natural world model of life fueled by life. In such, death and the recycling of essential elements is a necessary precursor to new life in Earth's closed system of physical life.

"Death is an integral part of life. This is the dominant bush reality and I like it that way. It’s natural, uncluttered by materialism or artificial ethics and it helps me to maintain a wholesome perspective of my own existence and that of my friends and family."

Yet, in this book I was also amazed by the cognitive processes of the wildlife, especially the elephants. Whatever the explanations, it is beyond doubt that these creatures have senses far superior to ours, and more acute life forces. What have we lost in our human bubble?

"We also have to understand that there are things we cannot understand. Elephants possess qualities and abilities well beyond the means of science to decipher. Elephants cannot repair a computer, but they do have communication, physical and metaphysical, that would make Bill Gates’s mouth drop open. In some very important ways they are ahead of us."

Lest one get the wrong idea, reading this story is definitely not wading through didactical musings. It is for the most part presented as an engrossing adventure in an edge of the seat manner. Could you retain your cool with a charging bull elephant bearing down on you, or for that manner on finding yourself face to face with a black mamba, or even confront poachers that would happily shoot you? What is depicted are varying mesmerizing situations the author has experienced that the reader may glean the relevance of. The occasional opining is hardly noticed as such.

"Every wild thing is in tune with its surroundings, awake to its fate and in absolute harmony with the planet. Their attention is focused totally outwards. Humans, on the other hand, tend to focus introspectively on their own lives too often, brooding and magnifying problems that the animal kingdom would not waste a millisecond of energy upon. To most people, the magnificent order of the natural world where life and death actually mean something has become unrecognizable."

In closing I should note that in March of 2012 the author Lawrence Anthony passed away. As reported by the CBC on July 25, 2012, "After his death, although they were not alerted to the event, a group of wild elephants Anthony helped to rescue and rehabilitate travelled to his house in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. They stood around the house in an apparent vigil for two days, and then dispersed. Today, the elephants are 'completely wild and doing fine' according to Graham Spence, Anthony's brother-in-law and co-author of three books."

The imaginative concoctions of too much of storytelling these days don't elicit anyway near the real life emotional swings and metaphysical aspects inherent in this book.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” ― Henry David Thoreau
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