All you need to know and more about the status quo of the threatened pachyderm—in an exhaustive survey by biologist-writer Chadwick (A Beast the Color of Winter, 1983). Traveling from Malaysia to Zimbabwe, and the Central African Republic to Japan, Chadwick offers a passionate brief for the elephant. Able to communicate in a language of subsonic sounds, to help its wounded, and to understand more than a score of instructions when working or performing, the elephant is eminently worth preserving. But valued for its ivory, much sought after in the Orient, the animal has been destroyed by poachers and hunters at an alarming rate in recent years. The 1989 international ban on ivory sales, subsequently renewed, may help, but—as Chadwick notes in visits to Japan, Thailand, and Hong Kong—the mass-carving of ivory status-objects is a booming business, exceeding the modest needs of genuine artists who carve exquisite ivory netsukes or fine sculptures. Between visits to preserves like Amboseli in Kenya and Theppakadu in India, Chadwick meets with scientists, veterinarians, mahouts, and trainers, as well as those who carve and sell ivory. And to give balance to the argument that divides the experts- -whether or not to cull herds and thereby allow a controlled amount of ivory to be sold—he visits Zimbabwe, which has an aggressive animal-management system. Elephants make vital contributions as seed-dispensers and habitat-modifiers to the biosystem, but the fundamental problem of their continued survival, Chadwick admits, is the question of coexistence: How, in a world of rapidly increasing human population, to preserve a suitable habitat for an animal that in one night can eat between 440 and 660 pounds of millet from a farmer's small holding? Chadwick has done his homework, but with nuggets of elephant lore and legend scattered indiscriminately throughout, the text is no smooth ride.
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