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Publisher's Summary

Audie Award Winner, Biography/Memoir, 2014

When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of "rogue" wild 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: they would be killed if he wouldn't take them. In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed he became a part of their family. And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him about life, loyalty, and freedom.

The Elephant Whisperer is a heartwarming, exciting, funny, and sometimes sad account of Anthony's experiences with these huge yet sympathetic creatures. Set against the background of life on an African game reserve, with unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife, it is a delightful book that will appeal to animal lovers and adventurous souls everywhere.

©2009, 2012 Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence (P)2012 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"An inspiring, multifaceted account, Anthony's book offers fascinating insights into the lives of wild elephants in the broader context of Zulu culture in post-Apartheid South Africa." (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4.7 out of 5.0
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Story

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  • Krista
  • San Antonio, Texas USA
  • 03-17-14

Thoroughly enjoyable

If you could sum up The Elephant Whisperer in three words, what would they be?

Animals are intelligent!

What other book might you compare The Elephant Whisperer to and why?

This book reminded me a bit of the Born Free story in subject, as well as the hurdles the author has to face.

What does Simon Vance bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I thought his voices were wonderful.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

If you think elephants are not intelligent, sentient beings, you'll change your mind after reading this.

Any additional comments?

I couldn't stop listening. The author obviously has a deep respect for animals, from the stately elephants, all the way down to a little spider. The love and caring that is shown by the author needs to be more prevalent in this world. Well-written, well-read and had me hooked from the beginning.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Heart of Africa

The Elephant Whisperer is the true story of a Conservationist who started a wildlife preserve in South Africa. Early in the story he is asked to take a herd of dangerous elephants who will otherwise be killed. This is at the heart of the story, although by no means the entire story.


This wildlife preserve, Thula Thula, is a place the author refers to numerous times as “Paradise”. By the end of the book we really feel like it is his own little version of Heaven, replete with glorious sunsets, stretches of untamed earth, and the noble creatures that roam there upon. Nevertheless, it is a paradise without God.

Throughout this entire narrative, we see a man who has made his life’s work that of preserving and protecting the wilds of Africa. Here is a man who so reveres wildlife in all its forms, that he abstains from killing a very dangerous snake, even when it slithers into his bedroom. He would rather walk than move his car, because a spider had created a beautiful web on it that morning. Here also is a man who writes tender accounts of his connection with elephants; this connection is tangible in his rehabilitation of them to accept conditioned human contact.

Lawrence Anthony and Graham Spence are gifted storytellers with a Passionate love for Life. Yet, for all of the splendor, and for all of the reverence for creatures great and small, God was the only thing I felt was truly absent in this book. It felt like something was missing, and that was it. To witness all of the beauty and majesty of Africa as detailed in this sincere autobiography, and still not see God, was heartbreaking (if not the turning of a blind eye).


Another stellar performance by Simon Vance.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Can Elephants Really Do That?

Very good story. If one is to believe the author, elephants have an uncanny sixth sense to know what is happening half a continent away and to know when people are returning from distant travel even though they are unexpected by their family. The elephants become your friends. My wife, who loves animal stories would rate this a strong five stars.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Vira
  • Pretoria, South Africa
  • 11-12-14

Animals Know

Nkosi Sikelele uAnthony. (Zulu for May God Bless Mr Anthony) and others like him. When the majority of humanity is out to hunt, capture, kill and destroy animals, these people bring the gift of life.

Lawrence Anthony’s game reserve was aptly named Thula Thula. This Zulu and Xhosa word means ‘be calm, be still, be quiet’. An African mother will comfort a crying child with “Thula baba”, don’t fret. All will be well. You are protected and cared for. “Thula, thula”. This is how the animals are treated on the reserve. He writes about the silence of the bush, without city noises, so that the multitudinous sounds of nature can be heard. The “Whisperer”.

Yesterday, my cat brought me the cutest bush baby. It scampered up a curtain, and I spoke it calm, until it went to sleep on the curtain rail. Thula baba. Anthony does this with elephants.

I have the greatest respect and admiration for his incredible courage, patience, perseverance, compassion, understanding, wisdom, and the unconditional love he has for all creatures, as also the sacrifices he makes for them. He gives so much, and knows how to receive. His interaction with the elephants is so beautiful and special. Death, which is very much a part of life in Africa, is described with heartfelt poignancy, particularly the tragic demise of Mnumzaan, the young “rogue” elephant.

For me, the way animals “know” is deeply touching, and is sensitively portrayed in the book . I remembered the time we made a short pit-stop in a reserve. When I turned around my 6 year old child was gone. About to panic, I saw her blithely standing in between the front legs of an enormously tall giraffe. Instinct told me not to go near, but softly call her. Eventually, she ambled towards us, totally unharmed.

Anthony’s life with the elephants is quite extraordinary and forms the core of a wonderful and well-written book. I also loved hearing his other anecdotes, which are so close to home, a normal part of life in the bush. The dogs, veldfires, neighbours, snakes… I’ve visited with the westernised Sangomas with their leather jackets and cell phones, but also those in traditional skins with stuffed lions in their huts. It’s all so warmly familiar. We knew there was a problem with snakes on my son-in-law’s game farm, when a large Kudu bull lay dead in the grass, spiral horns intact. On our next game drive, he suddenly slammed on brakes of his 4x4, and jumped out running with his firearm. After a while, he returned saying “Black Mamba”. Whilst driving, he had seen it sliding down a tree and hoped to shoot it before it disappeared in the long grass.

This brings me to the only parts of the book I found difficult to believe or accept. Nobody I know would walk about unarmed in the bush. Yet, time and again Anthony has no weapon with him. That seems plain foolhardy, with so much to protect and so much unforeseen danger.

I have one more gripe. I think Simon Vance is a brilliant narrator, and I always enjoy listening to him read audiobooks. BUT, the British accent (which tends to go Australian when he tries to sound South African) sounds most colonial. Not a good thing here. It keeps reminding me how awful it was in the past, when those very colonials used hollowed out elephant feet as ashtrays. Horrific. I remember this all too well. I understand that the author’s background was very likely colonial, coming gradually further south from Kenya. But he’d clearly become far more Afrikanised. Surely, Audible, you could find a South African reader? Someone with a plausible accent who can pronounce the English, Afrikaans and Zulu words correctly? That takes my 5 Star rating down to 4.

Just a final word about the reviews, which were interesting to read before I bought the audiobook. A “preserve” involves a jar, food, and eating. A “reserve” is where wild animals are kept in a protected environment. No eating them! But thanks for your lovely comments.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Elephants Humble a Man

Lawrence Anthony is the proprietor of a game reserve in Zululand, Africa. The name of the game reserve is Thula Thula. He is asked to take a herd of wild elephants who have been causing numerous problems at another reserve. What determines his decision is the fact that if he doesn't "rescue" them, they will all be put down. He also likes the thought of a challenge.

Lawrence had a way with all animals and he was counting on this to save the elephants from certain death. He knew he had to give it a try.

This is the memoir of a man who loved all animals and was taught by the elephants to become a listener. Lawrence worked long and gently with the elephants and was rewarded with a shared kindness.

This memoir is a good and gentle read. I thought the narrator, Simon Vance, did a great job and made the story flow. The characters were well developed and that included some of the animals. There is humor, warmth and sadness. Listening to the book was a pleasant one. I don't think you would be disappointed if you were to purchase this memoir.

The listener is also provided with some education about Africa, its people and its land. I think the words, do unto others as you would have others do unto you would explain Lawrence Anthony's memoir. Enjoy a great listen.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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A step away from anthropocentrism

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes. The story is captivating, suspenseful, and a world away from America. The narration is outstanding. I fell in love with the people and the animals and their collective wisdom, intelligence and ability to communicate.

What did you like best about this story?

It honors non-human life.

Have you listened to any of Simon Vance’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

At the beginning, my heart broke for the tragic loss of the original matriarch of the herd. There were many other equally moving moments throughout the story.

Any additional comments?

I highly recommend this!

11 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Sad and Lovely

The authors' description of their efforts to save these wonderful creatures is a heartening break in the painful story that has been coming out of Africa for generations.

It has been nearly a year since I listened to this book, but it lingers in my memory. I have thought many times of the young male with the infected tusk whose misery was misinterpreted by all.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant and touching

This book helps us understand the wonder of Africa and its animals anyone going on safari or interested in man and our relations to animals must read this book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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One of the very best.

It was an unbelievable experience to listen to this audiobook! Thank you for the privilege to share this wonderful African bush life adventure. I was born in Africa and lived there for most of my life and although I don't live there anymore, this book brought it all back very vividly.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Entertaining and informative. Excellent narrator.

I was surprised by how exciting a story this was. (I believe that Graham Spence did most of the actual writing.) Lawrence Anthony was selflessly devoted to the welfare of all wildlife and especially to the native African elephants and rhinos. He was also devoted to having the native Zulu tribes involved in the conservation of African wildlife, and he treated all people and animals with great respect. At times, he sounds a bit preachy but it is obviously his passion speaking and is forgivable.

I have difficulty believing some of his tales of communication between him and elephants, especially over long distances. Some of the Zulu spiritualism seemed to influence his interpretation of coincidental events. These remarks should not be misinterpreted; he was a great leader. It's a great pity that he died in 2012 at a relatively young age. His amazing wife has carried his vision forward at Tula Tula.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful