Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us about Humanity

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Drawing on accounts from India to Africa and from California to Tennessee, as well as on research in neuroscience, psychology, and animal behavior, G. A. Bradshaw explores the minds, emotions, and lives of elephants. Wars, starvation, mass culls, poaching, and habitat loss have reduced elephant numbers from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand, leaving orphans bereft of the elders who would normally mentor them. As a consequence, traumatized elephants have become aggressive toward people, other animals, and even one another; their behavior is comparable to that of humans who have experienced genocide, other types of violence, and social collapse. By exploring the elephant mind and experience in the wild and in captivity, Bradshaw bears witness to the breakdown of ancient elephant cultures.

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Editorial Reviews

New York Review of Books

“A remarkable study of elephant–human interactions."--Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books

— Tim Flannery

Reader's Digest

"Bradshaw offers heartwarming case studies of how rehabilitation programmes round the world are starting to get the once-noble species back on track."—Reader''s Digest

Publishers Weekly
This thoughtful book by animal trauma specialist Bradshaw draws analogies between human and animal culture to illustrate the profound “breakdown” occurring in elephant societies. Extraordinarily sensitive and social, elephants' survival has long depended on their matriarchal lineage—now sundered by culling the herds, which disrupts the hierarchy—and their psyches have been broken by prolonged isolation and separation, painful hooks used as training tools and general cruelty. Captured elephants meet the criteria of the psychiatirc handbook DSM for suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Drawing on research on animal trauma, concentration camp survivors and Konrad Lorenz–type ethology, Bradshaw makes a multidisciplinary condemnation of elephant abuse and celebrates those working on rehabilitating and healing the animals—including an elephant massage therapist and the owners of an elephant sanctuary in the Tennessee hills. In the end, anthropomorphizing isn't the issue; Bradshaw says that instead of giving animals human feelings, we should observe that they have feelings that correlate with what we may feel in similar circumstances. With its heartbreaking findings and irrefutable conclusions, this book bears careful reading and consideration. (Oct.)
Library Journal
This volume by an animal trauma specialist and director of the Kerulos Center (www.kerulos.org), an animal welfare organization, mixes science and poetry in urging us to rethink our attitudes toward elephant suffering. In the first half, Bradshaw draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and animal behavior to present an excellent portrait of elephant psychology and personality, revealing how elephant trauma is very similar to the human experience. But she undercuts her argument in the second half with a polemical attack on all institutional human contact with elephants: zoos, circuses, theme parks, and ecotourist preserves. She carefully details worst-case abuses, comparing the system to the Nazi annihilation of Jews and the U.S. destruction of American Indians. The key question is: Does Bradshaw's proof of elephant sentience and "personhood" force us to the conclusion of total animal-human separation? Her ideal model is the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where visitors are prohibited, and elephants roam freely with very little human contact. VERDICT While Bradshaw offers perceptive and solid science, she unfortunately draws some dubious practical conclusions.—John M. Kistler, Washington, PA
Atlantic Monthly
"An existentialist’s tract wrapped in a naturalist’s treatise, this unusual volume explores a mighty species from the inside out. . . . A reasoned appeal to morality that’s as heartwarming as it is heartbreaking."—The Atlantic Monthly
"This achingly lovely book will resonate with anyone endowed with compassion and curiosity about the workings of animal minds." —Seed Magazine
ForeWord Magazine

Winner of the Gold Medal for the 2009 Book of the Year Award in Psychology category, presented by ForeWord magazine

— Book of the Year Award

Conservation Biology

“Bradshaw suggests we have completely underestimated elephants'' emotional capacities. . . . The evidence that human and elephant behaviors are similar is compelling. . . . This book is engrossing and will appeal to a general audience."--Paula Kuhumbu, Conservation Biology

— Paula Kuhumbu

Wildlife Activist
"Bradshaw has shown that science has now provided us with the knowledge we need to chnage the way we treat other animals, especially those like elephants and cetaceans with complex societies. It is time for humanity to catch up."—Wildlife Activist
Lori Marino
“A poignant presentation of the eradication of elephant societies. . . The arguments transcend the subject matter of elephants and herald a new cultural stance on human-animal relationships.”—Lori Marino, Emory University
Peter Singer
“At times sad and at times heartwarming, Elephants on the Edge successfully bridges the gap between species. Bradshaw helps us to understand not only elephants, but all animals, including ourselves.”—Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation
Cynthia Moss
“Revolutionary and very exciting, this book is important both in terms of elephant biology and elephant welfare.”—Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust for Elephants
Temple Grandin
“This book opens the door into the soul of the elephant. It will really make you think about our relationship with other animals.”—Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
Elizabeth Marshall Thomas
Elephants on the Edge is very thoroughly researched and beautifully presented—a devastating, scientific chronicle of the ignorance, cruelty, and mismanagement that placed these magnificent creatures in their present dire situation. Among Bradshaw’s many virtues is that she exposes the cowardice of scientists who are well aware of the damage now in progress but are unwilling to support animal rights or to condemn animal holocausts. We cannot possibly understand the world we live in unless we acknowledge the role we play in its destruction. Should we continue our Nazi-like behavior toward elephants, and indeed, toward any living creatures? Those who read this book won’t want to.”—Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs and of The Old Way: A Story of the First People
Robert M. May
"This book. . . is fascinating. . . [and] sheds light on disturbing phenomena relevant to the future not only of elephants, but also of humans subjected to similar disruption. Read it.”—Robert M. May, Professor Lord May of Oxford OM AC Kt FRS
Marc Bekoff
"Elephants on the Edge is a wide-ranging, passionate, well-researched, and urgent call to action. These magnificent, intelligent, and emotional giants are quintessential poster animals for the wounded world in which we live. Read this book, share it widely, and please do something to increase our compassion footprint before it's too late. Healing demands collective cross-cultural action now.”—Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, coauthor with Jessica Pierce of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals
J. M. Coetzee
"Bradshaw brings home to us forcefully what we should have realized long ago: that destroying the family life of highly social, intelligent animals leads inevitably to misery among individual survivors and pathological misbehaviour among the group."—J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate in Literature, 2003
John P. Gluck
“In Elephants on the Edge, G. A. Bradshaw helps us face our ethically flawed relationship with animals and nature and what is at stake for all of us.”—John P. Gluck, University of New Mexico; Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University
Allan N. Schore
“Gay Bradshaw clearly demonstrates in this fascinating book, which is a groundbreaking and remarkable feat of scholarship, that we cannot understand the tenuous relationship between man and elephant (or any other co-inhabitants of the natural world) without a self-reflective insight into the deeper psychological and ethical substrata of our own minds.”—Allan N. Schore, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine University of California at Los Angeles
ForeWord Magazine - Book of the Year Award
Winner of the Gold Medal for the 2009 Book of the Year Award in Psychology category, presented by ForeWord magazine
New York Review of Books - Tim Flannery
“A remarkable study of elephant–human interactions."—Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books
Conservation Biology - Paula Kuhumbu
“Bradshaw suggests we have completely underestimated elephants' emotional capacities. . . . The evidence that human and elephant behaviors are similar is compelling. . . . This book is engrossing and will appeal to a general audience."—Paula Kuhumbu, Conservation Biology

Desmond Tutu
"African peoples and wildlife have been bound together in a delicate network of interdependence since ancient times. The arrival of colonialism tore apart these bonds: human brother now fights against elephant brother, and mothers of both species mourn. Elephants on the Edge is an urgent call to end this strife and for humanity to embrace once more the traditions that kept the peace with our animal kin."—Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300167832
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 638,661
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

G. A. Bradshaw, who holds doctorates in ecology and psychology, is director of the Kerulos Center. Her work on elephants, chimpanzees, parrots, and other animals is frequently featured in the national media, including the New York Times, NPR, 20/20, Time magazine, the London Times, National Geo­graphic television, and National Geographic magazine. She lives in Jacksonville, OR.

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Table of Contents

Foreword Calvin Luther Martin Martin, Calvin Luther

A Note on Terminology and Sources

1 The Existential Elephant 1

2 A Delicate Network 17

3 A Strange Kind of Animal 34

4 Deposited in the Bones 52

5 Bad Boyz 70

6 Elephant on the Couch: Case Study, E. M. 95

11 The Sorrow of the Cooking Pot 115

8 The Biology of Forgiveness 129

9 Am I an Elephant? 147

10 Speaking in Tongues 174

11 Where Does the Soul Go? 188

12 Beyond Numbers 221

Epilogue: Quilt Making 248

Appendix Ten Things You Can Do to Help Elephants 253

Notes 257

Index 293

Illustrations follow page 114

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