SOCIAL SCIENCES

The Last Giants: The Rise and Fall of the African Elephant

Black Cat: Grove. Nov. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9780802158475. pap. $17. TRAV
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Adventurer Wood (Incredible Journeys: Discovery, Adventure, Danger, Endurance) followed elephants on a 650-mile migration across Botswana for a British television program. This fascinating companion volume to that series examines the past, present, and future of the African elephant. Wood considers the animal’s evolution, biology, psychology, and social lives. Elephant populations have decreased by a third in the last ten years, and Botswana now has one-sixth of the world’s elephants. These creatures have been revered, worshiped, and feared. Elephants are a keystone species, one that has a disproportionate effect on the ecosystem they inhabit. The introduction to the use of automatic weapons in wars and conflicts had devastating effects on wildlife. (According to the author, the last use of elephants in war was 1987, when Iraq used them to transport weapons during the Iran-Iraq war.) Yet the work is not all forecasting doom—the author suggests solutions to save this “charismatic megafauna,” including education, ending poaching and the ivory trade, erecting bee fences and chili fences, and counteracting civil conflict and habitat loss.
VERDICT Expect interest from a range of readers, from young adults to environmentalists to animal lovers.

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