Elephant Destiny: Biography Of An Endangered Species In Africa

Elephant Destiny: Biography Of An Endangered Species In Africa

by Martin Meredith

For thousands of years, the majestic elephant has roamed the African continent, as beloved by man as it has been preyed upon.

As the elephant's future looms ever darker, Martin Meredith's concise and richly illustrated biography traces the elephant's history from the first ivory expeditions of the Egyptian pharaohs 2500 years ago to today, exploring along the way the indelible imprint the African elephant has made in art, literature, culture, and society.

He shares recent extraordinary discoveries about the elephant's sophisticated family and community structure and reveals the remarkable ways in which elephants show compassion and loyalty to each other.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Nonfiction
  • Rating: 3.78
  • Pages: 256
  • Publish Date: June 30th 2004 by PublicAffairs
  • Isbn10: 1586482335
  • Isbn13: 9781586482336

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This book really ought to have been titled, "Elephant History". Even today, elephants are slain for their ivory. In the end, I feel Elephant Destiny was a very worthwhile read.

Roughly two-thirds of the book is an account of human interaction with this species, what impact it has had on art, culture, and its uses in human warfare, its role in providing an impetus to the exploration of Africa and most importantly of all the ivory trade. As early as 3000 BC the Egyptians had developed different hieroglyphs to distinguish between wild elephants and trained ones, and when elephants disappeared from Egypt they organized a number of expeditions southwards to Nubia and beyond (the land they called Punt) in large part to acquire ivory, which was used in everything from combs to gaming boards to especially goods to fill the graves of the pharaohs. To help fill the insistent Greek demand for ivory local specialized Ethiopian elephant fighters known as Elephantomachoi arose. Much of the human history portions of the book are accounts of the discovery of new elephant herds in different parts of Africa, of how perhaps the natives did not know the value in overseas markets of the ivory in their vast elephant herds, and the "ivory rushes" that occurred as European and Arab hunters, traders, and others flooded in to take advantage of the new resource, be it the veldt of southern Africa, the jungles of Central Africa, or the game plains of East Africa. Though well-written and one cannot discount the bravery of many of the ivory hunters (Meredith provided many contemporary, first-hand accounts of the great difficulty in hunting elephants, often on foot as horses could not survive in much of Africa), it was somewhat depressing to see such magnificent animals suffer (even some of the hunters seem to realize this, if only for a moment) as well as to see the many associated unsavory aspects of the ivory trade.

Martin Meredith takes the reader back through time to when artists craved ivory for its pliability and Kings, including Alexander the Great, sought elephants to use in battles. Meredith's narration is a bit slow at the beginning but brutal and graphic in its details of how elephants and people were killed over the centuries. In a single decade over half a million elephants were slaughtered for ivory that inevitably financed the armed weapons used in the killing of thousands of people in Africa.

The book really covers three important sections - history, science, public policy. Since the book came out on September 6, 2001, just five days before the famous terrorist attacks, a lot has transpired in the world of African Elephant preservation, especially with the rise of China as a dominant economic force (and major demand center for ivory) and the impact of terrorism and how groups like Al-Shabab and Boko Haram have used illegal ivory poaching as a means for raising funds for their activities.

But seriously from chapter 6 to chapter 13 was about hunting elephants through out time for their ivory.

Meredith first worked as a foreign correspondent in Africa for the Observer and Sunday Times, then as a research fellow at St Antonys College, Oxford.