Book review: "The African Elephant" by Martin Meredith

Elephants - too few or too many? Martin Meredith has a clear answer.I get involved in elephant discussions over and over again.

During all those discussions one party insists that there are too many elephants while the other party laments the grey giants’ extinction.

The British journalist and Africa-expert Martin Meredith collects all those arguments very well in his book, "The African Elephant".

He describes the co-existence of man and elephant through the centuries. This is a history governed by the human’s greed for ivory.

It started with the Romans and Carthaginians, continuing through history to the Belgian King Leopold who plundered the Central African forest elephants’ population.

Meredith describes how hunters used to go elephant hunting during the past centuries. Everywhere they came across elephant herds with hundreds of animals – be it East- or South Africa.

Those elephants were then all shot on the way to the inland.

The biggest herds I ever saw in the “elephant rich” Krüger- and Tsavo Nationalparks consisted of about 20 animals. In my opinion this brings the elephants’ situation into the right perspective.

And it shows that not too many elephants are a problem to humans – it is rather the other way round.

It is simple nonsense to declare the African steppe as too small for large herds of elephants. Early Africa visitors’ reports give clear evidence of that fact.

As humans, it is our task to find the necessary space for those animals – instead of finding dubious ecological arguments for further elimination of the elephant.

Those arguments do inflict the idea that – once again – man wants to gain ivory in order to make money.

Because of all this we are working on convincing the Federal Government to show a clear and consequent attitude concerning the protection of elephants – and to push this also in the EU.

An intergroup Act of Parliament would be the correct course of action.

Martin Meredith’s book has been very good and interesting reading for me.

It provided me with a lot of new information on elephants and it motivated me once again to stand up for elephants.

--RS

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Experts

Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Dr. Cynthia Moss, IFAW Elephant Expert
IFAW Elephant Expert
Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
James Isiche, Regional Director, East Africa
Regional Director, East Africa
Jason Bell, Program Director, Elephants Regional Director, South Africa
Program Director, Elephants, Regional Director, South Africa
Peter Pueschel, Director, International Environmental Agreements
Director, International Environmental Agreements
Vivek Menon, Director of IFAW partner, Wildlife Trust of India
Regional Director, South Asia