Comfortably Numb

Sheila Kumar's Storehouse

Published on: 12/7/18 5:27 AM

Book review: The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony

I did this the wrong way around.

I read An Elephant in my Kitchen by Françoise Malby-Anthony first. Less than a quarter of the way into that book, we read about the death of Francoise’s amazing husband, the south African conservationists legend Lawrence Anthony.

Françoise tells us how the herd of elephants  Lawrence had saved and brought to his game reserve Thula Thula, came on the day of his funeral and stood milling about outside the compound, mourning the man they had loved and interacted with.

What is even more amazing is that the herd did this for the next three years running, coming to the fence outside Lawrence Anthony`s house and standing  there for hours on end, on the exact anniversary of his demise.

After reading this, how could I not track down The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony`s own account of how he brought this troubled and troublesome herd of elephants to Thula Thula, how they broke out of the place almost within hours of arriving there and then went underground for a worrying while, how he got them back to the reserve at great personal risk and set about making himself an indispensable presence in the lives of these wild African giants.

That gamble paid off  eventually, and how! The Elephant Whisperer,  written four years before Anthony`s sudden passing, outlines just how deep and enduring the bond between the herd and Anthony was.

How, when the younger bull elephants try to charge Anthony, the herd matriarchs come up and block them.

How, when the two matriarchs have their babies, they bring the little ones to Anthony, effecting a most moving introduction, touching Anthony`s chest, then touching the baby elephant.

How the matriarch Nana, all of ten feet high and weighing five tonnes, brings the herd over to Anthony`s house mainly to hang with him, in the process destroying Francoise’s carefully tended garden!

And I had to choke back a sob when Anthony tells us his bond with the elephants was turning `just a bit spooky,`  that every time he returned from a trip away from the reserve, the herd would come to his house to say hello.

And that once, when his flight was cancelled in Durban, the rangers reported that the herd started to move towards the house, then abruptly stopped, turned back and melted into the bush.

RIP, Lawrence Anthony. After reading of the elemental bond you forged with the elephants, how can one be surprised that the herd kept mourning you, years after you were gone?

If An Elephant in my Kitchen was a most entertaining read, The Elephant Whisperer is a must-read.

African elephantsbonding with elephantsbook reviewelephantsLawrence AnthonySouth African game reserveThe Elephant WhispererThula Thula

Sheila Kumar • December 7, 2018

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