Book review: Coming of Age With Elephants; a memoir. by Joyce Poole


I am a sucker for  any book by anyone who works in the field of animal behavior or ecology.  This book was published in 1996, and I found it at a book swap.

Dr. Poole’s father just happened to work for Peace Corps in Malawi, in the early days. After spending time ‘back home’ in the USA, she was committed to returning to Africa, and staying in Africa, and  became fascinated with observing animals, particularly elephants.
Due to  connections, she was able to work on Cynthia Moss’ team.  Cynthia Moss wrote the ground breaking book, Portraits in the Wild:  Behavior Studies of East African Mammals, published in 1975.

The book is very readable.  Poole is clear,  addresses  how friends, mentors, and  her location influenced her life.  She was very dedicated to learning about  how elephants communicated with each other, and what  influenced their social dynamics.  She really dedicated her life to  knowing elephants, and thus,  helping people to understand  them.

Probably most compelling, however,  is the fact that elephants are a huge tourist draw, and a major money maker for Kenya.   A serious problem  was  the  amount of poaching (for ivory) that was decimating herds.  In fact,  though this book was published in 1996, the herds have not recovered as poaching is still ongoing. The Kenya government, while desperate for foreign exchange, has not the political will to dedicate resources to protecting their main money  earners. How short sighted!  It is now estimated that all wild elephants will be  gone in 20 years, due to the demand for ivory in China!

In any case, if you are interested in animal behavior, or know of a young adult who might be, this book would be a fantastic gift.  If you can’t find it among the used books at a local independent bookstore, try Amazon.com

If you want to help African Wildlife, google the African Wildlife Foundation.  http://www.awf.org/

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