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190 × 135 × 15 mm
208 pages
99 illustrations, 33 in colour
01 Oct 2008
  • £16.99

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Elephant Dan Wylie

Aristotle characterized the elephant as ‘the beast which passeth all others in wit and mind’, and the animal has long figured in cultural artefacts, even on continents it has never inhabited. The elephant’s countless manifestations in human history have made it one of the most charismatic animals, and Elephant provides a richly illustrated, engaging look at that legacy.

The image of the elephant can be found throughout world religions and cultures as a symbol of intelligence, strength and loyalty. Wylie draws on a rich array of cultural examples to document that symbolic power, ranging from religious iconography for the Hindu god of wisdom, Ganesh, to beloved children’s works such as Dumbo, Babar the Elephant and Horton Hears a Who!. Elephant also considers the recurrent role of the animal in myths, paintings and sculptures.

Turning to the elephant’s biological history, Wylie describes the three remaining species – the African Bush elephant, the African Forest elephant and the Asian elephant – and the controversial international efforts for elephant conservation. With ivory poaching and human encroachment into the animal’s natural habitats, Wylie argues that we face a uniquely poignant conservation crisis in which elephants and humans both consume limited natural resources unsustainably.

A compelling new entry in the Animal series, Elephant will be a necessary addition to every animal lover’s bookshelf.

‘Readers of Elephant may be surprised at the huge amount of fascinating history, biology, and generally little-known information that can be packed into such a small book. But this is not unusual for the Reaktion series of monographs on animals, many of which, including this one, are surely destined to become classics. Elephant excels in presenting a masterly combination of historical and literary knowledge about elephants with up-to-date facts and figures on the efforts of conservationists to prevent the decline and probable extinction of the living species in Africa and Asia.’ — Anthrozoös

‘Broken up into clear sections on taxonomy, physiology, representation of elephants, human use of elephants and conservation and illustrated throughout with 99 different plates, the book give a great overview for someone wanting to learn more about the worlds largest land mammal and how their history has been intertwined with our own.’ — Captive Animal Protection Society

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Dan Wylie is Associate Professor of English at Rhodes University in South Africa. He is the author of several books, including Myth of Iron: Shaka in History (2006), Toxic Belonging?: Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa (2008) and Elephant (Reaktion, 2008).

1. Proboscidae
2. An Astounding Physiology
3. Representing Elephants
4. Using Elephants
5. Conservation

Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements