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Monday, July 21, 2014

5 Elephants, by Rob Laidlaw. Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014. $19.95 ages 9 and up

"Elephants are extremely active animals. In the wild, they will walk, explore, forage, socialize, bathe and engage in a broad range of other activities up to 20 hours a day. Depending on where they live and what season it is, elephants may travel anywhere from a few kilometres to tens of kilometres every day. To behave naturally, elephants require a lot of space..."

I have read Rob Laidlaw's previous books and am always impressed with his ability to share his knowledge and love for animals and their safety without sounding as if he is giving a lecture. Instead, he brings that care and concern for their welfare, and his meticulous research and writing to his audience to inform and interest them in knowing more about them.

I don't know how you feel about elephants; I have always been intrigued by their gentle ways and their intelligence. They are so big and so singularly extraordinary with those huge ears, their active nature and their love for family. I have read other books about them, and have also watched numerous videos.

In his newest book, Rob Laidlaw lets his audience know that these gentle giants face some very serious challenges, no matter where they live, or how they live their lives. He presents some truly amazing information about them. Learning about five famous elephants helps to make their plight more personal to those who will share their stories.

Echo is one of the lucky ones, living in the wild, welcoming new babies and sharing their care with her extended elephant family:

"So much of what we know about the lives and relationships of elephants has come from studying Echo, the EB family and the other Amboseli elephants. They have provided us with a glimpse into the complex lives of elephants and forever changed the way we think about these astonishing animals."

Lucy spent far too much time living alone in a crowded space, with no stimulation, no room to wander and no reason to want a long and happy life. With company, she was more content. For the last seven years she has lived alone at the Valley Zoo in Edmonton.

"Some people say Lucy is an anti-social elephant, but leading elephant scientists say there is no such thing. Every female elephant should be in a family of in the company of other elephants. Lucy won't be replaced when she dies..."

Tusko was a travelling performance elephant in the early twentieth century, who didn't appreciate circus life and showed it by going on a rampage, leading to his being considered dangerous and moved from one show to the next. He was frustrated and constantly fought to be free of his chains:

"Tusko couldn't forage in the forest, swim in a river, or socialize with family or friends like a normal bull elephant."  

In the early 1980s, many people in the world knew, or had heard stories, about Tarra who performed at a theme park in California and was cared for by Carol Buckley. Carol's worry about Tarra's future led to her the purchase of property in Tennessee that served as an elephant sanctuary:

"When Tarra arrived, she quickly made herself at home exploring the fields and forests. She grazed on grass, pulled at the trees, and bathed in the ponds. Soon, Tarra was no longer alone as other elephants in need began to arrive at the sanctuary."

"Thandora was the only elephant left from her family during a culling operation in South Africa. Her life for many years was spent in a zoo, often alone. Conservation groups worked to have her returned to the wild on the Gondwana Game Reserve. 23 years of zoo living meant that much work had to be done to acclimate her to her new home:

"...her astonishing journey has shown that captive elephants can be successfully transitioned to the wild. Thandora is a pioneer who has helped pave the way for others to follow in her footsteps into the wild."

Lest you think that the stories of these five elephants is all there is, you should know that there is so much more! You will learn how elephants can be kept happy and thriving, learn about the challenges they face in captivity and in their shrinking and often dangerous environment, and learn that there is hope for their future. You can learn how to be an elephant guardian and help to ensure that happens. 

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