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Coming of Age with Elephants: A Memoir
     

Coming of Age with Elephants: A Memoir

by Joyce Poole
 

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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

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.

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780786881918
Publisher:
Hachette Books
Publication date:
03/28/1997
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.87(d)

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