Joyce Poole was lucky enough to experience the beauty of Africa from an early age, and as soon as she had the opportunity she decided to make Africa - and more importantly elephants - her life. Aged just 19, she was living alone in the bush in Kenya studying elephants. There - as well as the very real dangers of living in the wild - she faced the challenge of trying to unravel the behavioural patterns and communication of this extraordinary species. She spent 14 years living in a tented camp in Amboseli National Park in order to carry out her research. Her scientific discoveries are renowned throughout the world and have made a significant contribution to our understanding of elephants.
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Poole has bitten off more than she can chew in this disappointing memoir cum ethological study of her days amid Kenya's elephant population. As an ethological study, this runs out of gas about a third of the way through. Poole's particular research niche is musth (a period of heightened sexual and aggressive behavior in male elephants), with its dribbling green penises and suppurating temporal glands. Outside a technical paper, such an arcane topic can only have appeal if situated within a broader look at elephant behavior, ... la Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall and their primates. But the big picture never forms, nor do Poole's elephants emerge as fellow creatures to whom readers might relate on some level; these elephants are raw data, forever gray (rendering suspect Poole's claim to be able to ``describe the meaning of each interaction, posture and vocalization''). Nor does Poole's tedious writing style help: ``In other words in order to be self-aware or have a sense of self, a being must possess conscious thinking''; bad enough, but then the next sentence further clarifies ``self-awareness'' as ``being aware of one's own thoughts and feelings.'' As a memoirist, Poole is exasperatingly coy. Lover Paul appears (we learn he's a Harvard man), then disappears; lover Melomyiet appears (he who ``had what so many of us have lost''), then disappears with her Land Rover; she gets raped in the Ngong Hills but treats the abomination as a biteless atmospheric; she has a child, though whether via artificial insemination, a friend, or a quickie--whoa, she ain't tellin'. Poole isn't poet enough to make the obliqueness evocative; it's just confusing. Poole's African experiences would make an adventurous book. What she needs is a biographer. (b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.From Booklist:
Poole is an animal behaviorist who has devoted her life to the study of the African elephant in spite of adversity and tragedy. An American raised in Kenya, Poole is versed in several cultures: American, Masai, and elephant. Her Americanism is obvious in her independence and ambition; the Masai taught her how to live in the bush; and the elephants convinced her of their great intelligence. Her intensive involvement with these majestic creatures revealed that they are self-aware, startlingly empathic beings. Poole describes her pioneering work in establishing that, like their Asian cousins, African male elephants experience musth, and that elephants communicate in low-level vibrations that humans cannot hear. Those discoveries are fascinating, and Poole's accounts of her adventures with the elephants are spellbinding; but there's a dark side to this story--the hard truth about the barbarity of poaching, the cruel, sexist politics of science, and the very real danger of being a woman alone in this land of hunters. Poole's profound commitment to the endangered elephants of Kenya has cost her dearly in personal terms, but her contributions to science are legion. Donna Seaman
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Book Description Trafalgar Square. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. 034059179X New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW7.1813640
Book Description Trafalgar Square, 1996. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. Never used!. Bookseller Inventory # P11034059179X