Tag Archives: elephants

Review: 5 Elephants by Rob Laidlaw.

Publisher: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, June 2014. ISBN: 978 – 1 – 55455 – 316 – 7.  $20 (hard cover)

Shubhobroto Ghosh writes:

One of my most memorable zoo visits was to Toronto Zoo in 2012 with the Zoocheck Canada director, Rob Laidlaw. It was a great experience to see African Elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa before they travelled across Canada and USA to their new abode at the Performing Animal Welfare Sanctuary in San Andreas, California. In my opinion, the transfer of the three Toronto Zoo elephants marks the greatest achievement in the history of Zoocheck Canada, a wild animal protection charity established in 2012.

5 Elephants is Rob Laidlaw’s personal endeavour to help human beings relate to elephants as individuals, both in the wild and in captivity. Given that elephants are such gigantic creatures and are under enormous pressure both in their natural habitat and facing major problems in captivity, writing a book about them would have to take a wide range of factors into account. Rob succeeds and admirably so.

The book revolves around the lives of ‘5 Elephants’, covering their lives in the wild and in captivity. We get to know about:-

Echo, a wild elephant who thrived in her natural environment in Kenya, surrounded by her family.

Lucy, an Asian elephant imported to Canada from Sri Lanka, and now living alone in Edmonton Zoo in Alberta.

We hear of Tarra, an entertainment elephant now living her days out at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, USA.

The travails of Tusko, an elephant who was deemed as a threat during her days as an entertainer in Washington and eventually ended in Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

The remarkable transfer of Thandorra, from Bloemfontein Zoo to Gondwana Game Reserve is outlined movingly.

These stories develop empathy in the reader for elephants, both Asian and African, as sentient creatures who are capable of expressing the same emotions as humans do, love, fear, pain and attachment to family members.

Elephants have had a terrible time due to the human fascination for ivory, and hundreds and thousands have been slaughtered for this luxury product made from their teeth. Rob deals with this and pays a moving tribute to the more than one thousand rangers who have been killed across the wild saving elephants and other wild animals.

Elephants have also been tamed historically to serve as carriers of timber, circus animals, zoo exhibits and as instruments of war. The human elephant relationship has not always been a happy one, as this book trenchantly lays out. The author explains their biology and their ecology and suggests ways for children to get involved in elephant conservation and welfare.

With the Indian Central Zoo Authority having issued a circular prohibiting the exhibition of animals in zoos and several North American zoos relinquishing their elephants and sending these pachyderms to sanctuaries, the debate over elephants is more potent than ever before.

5 Elephants by Rob Laidlaw is an extremely commendable effort to raise awareness on the world’s largest living land animal that is so desperately in need of our help now than ever before.

I cannot recommend this book too highly.


~ Shubhobroto Ghosh is a former journalist for the Telegraph newspaper whose work has also been published in the Times of India, The New York Times, Statesman, Asian Age, Montreal Serai and the Hindu. Ghosh has been active in animal protection issues since the early nineties and has been a member and supporter of several animal protection organizations, among them Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Born Free Foundation, People For Animals, WWF and Beauty Without Cruelty. He currently works in the WWF India Headquarters in New Delhi.

World Elephant Day – August 12th 2014.


 “Bringing the world together to help elephants.”

Both African and Asian Elephants are facing threats from many sources: habitat loss, poaching, human – elephant conflict and mistreatment in captivity being some examples. Since the inaugural event in 2012, World Elephant Day aims to highlight these threats, and educate about the ways that captive and wild elephants alike can be provided with better care.

Better protection for wild elephants, improving enforcement policies to prevent the illegal poaching and trade of ivory, conserving elephant habitats, better treatment for captive elephants and, when appropriate, reintroducing captive elephants into natural, protected sanctuaries are the goals that numerous elephant conservation organizations are focusing on around the world.
Here are some ways that individuals can help the elephants, taken from the World Elephant Day web site:-
• Study elephants in their “keystone” role in the environment and interrelationships with plants and other animals because all of nature is interconnected.
• Learn about and support organizations that are working to protect habitat for wild elephants and finding solutions for human-elephant conflict.
• Support organizations that are working to stop the illegal poaching and trade of elephant ivory and other wildlife products.
• Support organizations that are protecting wild elephant habitat.
• Support organizations that are building natural sanctuaries and alternative habitat for domesticated elephants to live freely.
• Do not support organizations that exploit or abuse elephants and other animals for entertainment and profit.
• If you wish to experience elephants in their natural environment, choose eco-tourism operators who support local elephant conservation projects and who treat elephants with respect and dignity.
• Support healthy, alternative, sustainable livelihoods for people who have traditionally relied on elephants, wild animals and natural resources. Learn about indigenous cultures that have traditionally lived in harmony with elephants.
• Be an elephant aware consumer. Do not buy ivory or other wildlife products.
• Be aware of elephant habitat. Do not buy coffee that is not fair-trade or shade-grown, nor products with palm-oil. These commercial crops are grown in plantations that have decimated elephant habitats. Only buy wood products that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, which promotes responsible management of the world’s forests – the natural habitat for elephants and other wildlife.
• Talk about elephants at your school. Initiate an elephant study group to share knowledge and ideas about the plight of elephants and what can be done to ensure their survival into the future.
• What do you love about elephants? Their intelligence, empathy and caring for one another are just a few of their qualities. Embrace these qualities and live them in your own life.
• Use your love of elephants and World Elephant Day, August 12, to start a conversation with the next person you meet. Tie a string around your finger right now so, like an elephant, you don’t forget!

See the World Elephant day web site http://worldelephantday.org/ for more information and reports about lots of events that have been taking place around the world.

You can “like” World Elephant on Facebook and follow on Twitter @wrldelephantday


(Baby elephant image from Wiki Commons.)