Coming of Age with Elephants: A Memoir

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The subject of numerous television features (including a popular National Geographic special), Coming of Age with Elephants passionately documents renowned animal behaviorist Joyce Poole's groundbreaking work with 800 elephants at Kenya's Amboseli National Park, discovering the intricacies of elephant social structure, sex cycles, and communication, and their intelligence and remarakble empathy.

The subject of numerous television features (including a popular ...

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Overview

The subject of numerous television features (including a popular National Geographic special), Coming of Age with Elephants passionately documents renowned animal behaviorist Joyce Poole's groundbreaking work with 800 elephants at Kenya's Amboseli National Park, discovering the intricacies of elephant social structure, sex cycles, and communication, and their intelligence and remarakble empathy.

The subject of numerous television features (including a popular National Geographic special), Coming of Age with Elephants passionately documents renowned animal behaviorist Joyce Poole's groundbreaking work with 800 elephants at Kenya's Amboseli National Park, discovering the intricacies of elephant social structure, sex cycles, and communication, and their intelligence and remarakble empathy.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Poole spent much of her childhood in Africa and found it a place of enchantment. As a young woman, she returned to Kenya's Ambosili National Park to study elephants with Cynthia Moss. Poole gives an engrossing account of her work and her turbulent personal life. She coped with danger from both elephants and poachers, loneliness, sexism, rape by a gang of men and a devastating love affair. Increasingly impressed with elephants' intelligence, Poole embarked on a study of their vocalization in 1985. Later she was active in the fight for a ban on ivory. She became the director of elephant conservation and management for the Kenya Wildlife Service, training young scientists and making tough decisions on killing elephants. Readers who have followed the story of the African elephant will find Poole's tale especially appealing. Photos not seen by PW. (Mar.)
Kirkus Reviews
Poole has bitten off more than she can chew in this disappointing memoir cum ethological study of her days amid Kenya's elephant population.

As an ethological study, this runs out of gas about a third of the way through. Poole's particular research niche is musth (a period of heightened sexual and aggressive behavior in male elephants), with its dribbling green penises and suppurating temporal glands. Outside a technical paper, such an arcane topic can only have appeal if situated within a broader look at elephant behavior, à la Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall and their primates. But the big picture never forms, nor do Poole's elephants emerge as fellow creatures to whom readers might relate on some level; these elephants are raw data, forever gray (rendering suspect Poole's claim to be able to "describe the meaning of each interaction, posture and vocalization"). Nor does Poole's tedious writing style help: "In other words in order to be self-aware or have a sense of self, a being must possess conscious thinking"; bad enough, but then the next sentence further clarifies "self-awareness" as "being aware of one's own thoughts and feelings." As a memoirist, Poole is exasperatingly coy. Lover Paul appears (we learn he's a Harvard man), then disappears; lover Melomyiet appears (he who "had what so many of us have lost"), then disappears with her Land Rover; she gets raped in the Ngong Hills but treats the abomination as a biteless atmospheric; she has a child, though whether via artificial insemination, a friend, or a quickie—whoa, she ain't tellin'. Poole isn't poet enough to make the obliqueness evocative; it's just confusing.

Poole's African experiences would make an adventurous book. What she needs is a biographer.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786881918
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 3/28/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Prologue: A Flight to Lake Natron 1
Pt. I Early Days Among the Elephants 1962-1978
1 An African Childhood 7
2 A Return to Africa 16
3 The Elephant Camp 22
4 The Five Males 28
5 Naming an Elephant 36
6 The Green Penis Syndrome 43
7 The Lasting Sorrow 50
Pt. II Field Biologist 1979-1984
8 Designing My Study 57
9 Male Watching 65
10 Dangerous Encounters 74
11 My Amboseli Home 81
12 Births and Deaths 92
13 A Sojourn in Cambridge 100
14 A Maasai Named Meloimyiet 108
Pt. III Reflections on Elephants
15 Elephant ESP 119
16 Trunks, Tusks, and Tool Use 136
17 Elephant Thinking 142
18 The Games Elephants Play 149
19 An Elephant's Empathy 159
20 Amboseli Seasons 166
Pt. IV A Removal of Veils 1984-1989
21 The Incident on the Ngongs 177
22 Fear and Loathing in Amboseli 182
23 The Elephants' Graveyard 192
24 Dire Predictions 204
25 A Poacher's Story 215
26 Tsavo Survival 220
27 Burnt-to-Blue Ivory 228
Pt. V A New Life 1990-1993
28 A Voice for Elephants 237
29 A Cache of Ivory 243
30 The Elephant Menace 249
31 A View Over the Rift 257
32 The Birth of Selengei 267
33 A Family Reunion 273
Epilogue 276
Index 279
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