The Elephant Whisperer
by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence
256 pages; ages 10-14
Henry Holt & Co, 2017
I love nonfiction that reads like an adventure novel! Lawrence Anthony ran the Thula Thula reserve - 5,000 acres of undeveloped bush in the heart of Zululand, South Africa. It was home to white rhinos, cape buffalo, giraffes, zebras, lynx, antelope, and other animals, but no elephants. Anthony never thought to have elephants, until he hears of a small group of elephants being given away.
They're "troublesome", he's warned. But he decides to take a chance on them and reinforces the fencing. They get out - many times - and Anthony decides he'll have to sleep with them to let them know that they are safe and this is their home.
In between the adventures of tracking down escaped elephants and capturing poachers, Anthony tells about elephant social groups. He describes each of the animals in the herd, their personalities, and a whole lot about animal behavior. One thing he emphasizes: elephants are smart. They are tenacious problem-solvers.
Eventually the herd starts visiting his house - especially after he's been away and is returning to the reserve. When they have babies, the females bring them to the house and "introduce" the babies to the human who is now an adopted member of the herd. Woven throughout the book is Anthony's life on the reserve - including some tips for gardening in elephant territory.
"These elephants taught me that all life-forms are imporant to one another in our common quests for survival and happiness," writes Anthony. "... there is more to life than just yourself, your own family, or your own kind."
Check out this video of the elephants at Thula Thula.