Synopses & Reviews
Drawing on accounts from India to Africa and California to Tennessee, and 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 against 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.
All is not lost. People are working to save elephants by rescuing orphaned infants and rehabilitating adult zoo and circus elephants, using the same principles psychologists apply in treating humans who have survived trauma. Bradshaw urges us to support these and other models of elephant recovery and to solve pressing social and environmental crises affecting all animals, human or not.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Q: How did you become interested in elephants and their welfare?
A: Often, when people who work with elephants are asked this question, they answer, and#147;The elephants chose me.and#8221; And I have to say that has been my case. From a more rational perspective, my decision to study elephants was compelled by their obvious suffering.and#160; The stress has been so extreme that it has led to such un-elephant-like behaviorand#151;what the media refers to as and#147;elephant violence.and#8221; Changes in behavior from what is considered normal don't just happen out of the blue; there are reasons for them. I wanted to understand the nature of elephant trauma, the causes of their psychological anguish, and how to help the elephants.
Q: What is it about elephants that inspires you?
A: They are honest and straightforward, and prize relationships above all. Elephants embody so many qualities that we humans admire, and offer a model and inspiration for what we can become.
Q: What hopes do you have for the future of elephants?
A: We have to be concerned about the present. It is not just the future, but the conditions under which elephants live today that are so dire. We need to pay attention to the great suffering of individual elephants and other wildlife, and urgently remedy these situations. If we can fix the present, we can fix the future.