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Africa's Elephant: A Biography [Hardcover]

Martin Meredith
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

6 Sep 2001
Yet elephant history has been dominated by periods of brutality and persecution, used in gladiatorial combat, as weapons of war (most notably by Hannibal) and for their ivory, prized since ancient times as a symbol of wealth and status. As the ivory trade continued there are now only five countries with sizeable elephant populations, where a few hundred years ago there were forty-six - before the European hunters arrived. Acclaimed African expert Martin Meredith has written the first full biography of the elephant - wide-ranging, moving and never less than fascinating in his travels through the history and present of 'Nature's great masterpiece' (John Donne).

Product details

  • Hardcover: 244 pages
  • Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd; First Edition edition (6 Sep 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340770813
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340770818
  • Product Dimensions: 22.4 x 14.7 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 623,505 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Martin Meredith is the author of many acclaimed books on Africa including lives of Robert Mugabe and Nelson Mandela and, most recently, The State of Africa (Free Press, 2005). He lives near Oxford.

Product Description


'AFRICA'S ELEPHANT is a stirring and graphic account of that heavily scarred continent's much abused and over-used warrior.' -- SX

'An engaging book' -- SX

'Good to read and give your brain a rest from egotistical, internal angst' -- This is Bristol

'His biography of the African elephant is affectionate, touching and timely' -- Newcastle Journal

'It's such an incredible story that I'm inclined to say it writes itself.' -- Spectator

About the Author

Martin Meredith has spent most of his working life writing about Africa, for fifteen years writing about Zimbabwe and Kenya for the Observer and the Sunday Times. From 1991-93 he co-ordinated a team of economists to advise governments in South Africa on prospects for establishing an economic community post-apartheid.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Sad story 8 Jan 2013
By Tess
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a well written book and one that should be read by anyone who cares about wildlife and elephants in particular. However it is a sad story of destruction and cruelty, and not just towards the animals. Whether for money or entertainment, this history shows how ignorant and heartless some people can be. I would like to think things have improved with more awareness but elephants are being slaughtered now and so this book is sadly still relevant. So a good book, interesting, easy to read (if you can get passed the grim descriptions at times) but be warned -don't read if you are already feeling down.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars PACHYDERMS ARE PRECIOUS... 4 Nov 2005
By Lawyeraau - Published on
This is a wonderful, well-written book about elephants and their role throughout history, as well as their present state in the world. I confess, I did not know much about elephants before reading this book. I now feel I know something about them, and what I have discovered is fascinating. I did not realize how complex and intelligent these magnificent creatures are, nor how dangerously close to extinction they have become. It would, indeed, be tragic were that to happen, for elephants are sociable, sentient, and intelligent.

The author takes the reader on a tour throughout history, describing the elephant's interaction with humanity and its role in the affairs of mankind and its impact on the environment. The book traces the influence of the elephant and the various uses to which mankind has put this great creature. From being used as a conveyance in times of war, to being paraded as an object of wonder and curiosity, to being hunted down mercilessly for its ivory tusks, the elephant has had a somewhat checkered history in terms of its interaction with human beings.

The author also carefully relates the elephant's own social structure, which is a sophisticated and complex one. Their mating rituals, their family life, and their handling of death are all addressed by the author, who paints a picture of a multi-faceted and remarkable society of elephants. It is only in the twentieth century that its complexity has begun to be understood by man. It is hoped that this is not a case of too little, too late.

Unfortunately for the elephant, however, its positive qualities have taken a backseat to its value as a commodity. Elephant tusks may eventually bring about the demise of the entire species, if the world does not take heed. A portion of this book is devoted to the ivory wars that have decimated the great elephant herds of Africa, turning elephants into an endangered species. Were elephants to be driven to extinction by pure, unadulterated greed, it truly would be tragic. This book effectively drives that point home.
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