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Meet Greg. He's a stocky guy with an outsized swagger. He's been the intimidating yet sociable don of his posse of friends--including Abe, Keith, Mike, Kevin, Torn Trunk, and Willie. But one arid summer the tide begins to shift and the third-ranking Kevin starts to get ambitious, seeking a higher position within this social club. But this is no ordinary tale of gangland betrayal--Greg and his entourage are bull elephants in Etosha National Park, Namibia, where, for the last twenty-three years, Caitlin O'Connell has been a keen observer of their complicated friendships. In Elephant Don, O'Connell, one of the leading experts on elephant communication and social behavior, offers a rare inside look at the social world of African male elephants. Elephant Don tracks Greg and his group of bulls as O'Connell tries to understand the vicissitudes of male friendship, power struggles, and play. A frequently heart-wrenching portrayal of commitment, loyalty, and affection between individuals yearning for companionship, it vividly captures an incredible repertoire of elephant behavior and communication. Greg, O'Connell shows, is sometimes a tyrant and other times a benevolent dictator as he attempts to hold onto his position at the top. Though Elephant Don is Greg's story, it is also the story of O'Connell and the challenges and triumphs of field research in environs more hospitable to lions and snakes than scientists. Readers will be drawn into dramatic tales of an elephant society at once exotic and surprisingly familiar, as O'Connell's decades of close research reveal extraordinary discoveries about a male society not wholly unlike our own. Surely we've all known a Greg or two, and through this book we may come to know them in a whole new light.
In the sprawling African scrub desert of Etosha National Park, they call her "the mother of all elephants." Camouflaged and peering through binoculars, Caitlin O'Connell--the American scientist who traveled to Namibia to study African elephants in their natural habitat--could not believe what she was seeing. As the mighty matriarch scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, stopping midstride and standing as still as statues. The observation would be one of many to guide O'Connell to a groundbreaking discovery!<P><P> Winner of the Sibert Medal
While observing a family group of elephants in the wild, Caitlin O'Connell, a young field scientist, noticed a peculiar listening behavior. A matriarch she had been watching for months turned her massive head and lifted her foot off the ground. As she scanned the horizon, the other elephants followed suit, all facing the same direction. O'Connell soon made a groundbreaking discovery: the elephants were "listening through limbs," feeling the ripples of the earth's surface for approaching friends and enemies. Through their feet, toenails, trunks, and other, subtler modes of communication, these enormous animals were communicating to one another, demonstrating the vital importance of social relationships in their lives. Yet this grand revelation about the intelligence of wild animals is also a story of the relationship between humans and elephants as neighbors, vying for the same resources of an increasingly crowded continent. For when O'Connell was first contracted by the Namibian government to develop new methods to deter elephants from raiding villagers' crops, she was unprepared for what she would encounter -- political upheaval, tribal disputes, inhumane poachers, and a fundamentally ineffective approach to wildlife conservation. Despite these setbacks, she came to know and love each of the fascinating, unique elephants under her watchful eye, while at the same time witnessing a change in attitude and policy, providing hope for the elephant's future. An unforgettable journey of scientific discovery, The Elephant's Secret Sense takes you deep into the wilds of Namibia, from the tops of isolated, desert observation towers to the jaws and claws of ravenous lions to aerial expeditions and dusty highways, where the naturalists do their difficult work in a troubled land threatened by expanding human populations and unstable politics. Resonant with the powerful calls of the mysterious elephant, this is a story about the resilience of nature and the inspiring, astonishing, and often heartbreaking places where humans and wild animals come together.
"The scientist that Caitlin O'Connell is shines through her first work of fiction, a thriller set against the illegal ivory poaching trade in Africa. With descriptions and dialect so real you feel as if you might be turning pages while sitting deep in the bush, and a skillful narrative that teaches while it thrills, this novel is a win for any animal lover or reader with a conservationist's heart."--Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving TimeIn a blockbuster debut thriller brimming with majestic wildlife, village politics, and international intrigue, a chilling quadruple homicide raises the stakes in the battle to save Africa's elephants. Still grieving over the tragic death of her fiancé, American wildlife biologist Catherine Sohon leaves South Africa and drives to a remote outpost in northeast Namibia, where she plans to face off against the shadowy forces of corruption and relentless human greed in the fight against elephant poaching. Undercover as a census pilot tracking the local elephant population, she'll really be collecting evidence on the ruthless ivory traffickers. But before she even reaches her destination, Catherine stumbles onto a scene of horrifying carnage: three people shot dead in their car, and a fourth nearby--with his brain removed. The slaughter appears to be the handiwork of a Zambian smuggler known as "the witchdoctor," a figure reviled by activists and poachers alike. Forced to play nice with local officials, Catherine finds herself drawn to the prickly but charismatic Jon Baggs, head of the Ministry of Conservation, whose blustery exterior belies his deep investment in the poaching wars. Torn between her developing feelings and her unofficial investigation, she takes to the air, only to be grounded by a vicious turf war between competing factions of a black-market operation that reaches far beyond the borders of Africa. With the mortality rate--both human and animal--skyrocketing, Catherine races to intercept a valuable shipment. Now she's flying blind, and a cunning killer is on the move.Praise for Ivory Ghosts "A truly fascinating thriller that beautifully conveys the story of those magnificent creatures, the elephants, and the poachers who try to destroy them. Bravo!"--Mary Higgins Clark, #1 New York Times bestselling author of I've Got You Under My Skin