The Elephant Whisperer

The pile of books I gathered over the summer months was a welcome respite recently when what looked like the start of Spring turned into a nasty week of rain and howling wind that ripped across the swimming pool like a mini tsunami.

Last weekend I didn’t budge from under the covers except to top up the hot chocolate, feed the dogs and ensure the pool wasn’t overflowing!

The Elephant Whisperer was an obvious choice with World Elephant Day in middle of August and although I had dabbled in a few pages of this book before, it was when my mother was terminal with bladder cancer and I absorbed nothing I read back then.

bigger cover

Set in rural KwaZulu Natal, it’s a moving, heart-warming story of South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony’s controversial decision to save a herd of rogue elephants from being shot by adopting them on his private game reserve, Thula Thula (meaning peace and tranquillity).

A further treat is that the book is co-authored by Anthony’s brother-in-law Graham Spence, a colleague from my days as a young journalist on the Daily News in the mid 1980’s.

From the very first chapter, it’s a tale of bravery and determination – Anthony’s on the one hand and the herd’s glorious matriarch Nana and her fiercely protective deputy Frankie on the other.  It’s about patience and earning trust, survival, instinct and going with your gut and about conservation triumphing over adversity and scepticism. Add to the mix the circle of life, seasons and cycles and the unlikely bonds that formed between Anthony and these fascinating giants as time gave way to trust.


This is also a story of extremes in this special part of Africa – sadness and joy and parched earth to torrential downpours.  And then there’s the Zulu people who have lived there for centuries and respecting the older ways of life and embracing the culture and traditions intertwined in their beliefs.

On a deeper level it speaks to the symbiosis between the land and her inhabitants and I can’t wait to read Anthony’s other books.


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