Elephants on the Edge, G.A. Bradshaw, Yale University Press, October, 2009. Drawing on accounts from India to Africa and California to Tennessee, and on research in neuroscience, psychology, and animal behavior, G. A. Bradshaw explores the minds, emotions, and lives of elephants. Wars, starvation, mass culls, poaching, and habitat loss have reduced elephant numbers from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand, leaving orphans bereft of the elders who would normally mentor them.
As a consequence, traumatized elephants have become aggressive against people, other animals, and even one another; their behavior is comparable to that of humans who have experienced genocide, other types of violence, and social collapse. By exploring the elephant mind and experience in the wild and in captivity, Bradshaw bears witness to the breakdown of ancient elephant cultures.
All is not lost. People are working to save elephants by rescuing orphaned infants and rehabilitating adult zoo and circus elephants, using the same principles psychologists apply in treating humans who have survived trauma. Bradshaw urges us to support these and other models of elephant recovery and to solve pressing social and environmental crises affecting all animals, human or not. Read an excerpt from the book.
Favorite Science Books of 2009, Scientific American
Honorable mention in the Psychology category of the 2009 PROSE Award, presented by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers.
"An existentialist’s tract wrapped in a naturalist’s treatise, this unusual volume explores a mighty species from the inside out."-The Atlantic Monthly
"African peoples and wildlife have been bound together in a delicate network of interdependence since ancient times. The arrival of colonialism tore apart these bonds: human brother now fights against elephant brother, and mothers of both species mourn. Elephants on the Edge is an urgent call to end this strife and for humanity to embrace once more the traditions that kept the peace with our animal kin." -Archbishop Emeritus Desmond M. Tutu, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
"This book opens the door into the soul of the elephant. It will really make you think about our relationship with other animals."- Temple Grandin, author of Animals in Translation
"Bradshaw constructs a remarkable account of trans-species psychology that shows humans are not the only highly intelligent, social animals on this planet. This achingly lovely book will resonate with anyone endowed with compassion and curiosity about the workings of animal minds." —Seed Magazine
"This thoughtful book by animal trauma specialist Bradshaw draws analogies between human and animal culture to illustrate the profound “breakdown” occurring in elephant societies. Extraordinarily sensitive and social, elephants' survival has long depended on their matriarchal lineage—now sundered by culling the herds, which disrupts the hierarchy—and their psyches have been broken by prolonged isolation and separation, painful hooks used as training tools and general cruelty. Captured elephants meet the criteria of the psychiatirc handbook DSM for suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Drawing on research on animal trauma, concentration camp survivors and Konrad Lorenz–type ethology, Bradshaw makes a multidisciplinary condemnation of elephant abuse and celebrates those working on rehabilitating and healing the animals—including an elephant massage therapist and the owners of an elephant sanctuary in the Tennessee hills. In the end, anthropomorphizing isn't the issue; Bradshaw says that instead of giving animals human feelings, we should observe that they have feelings that correlate with what we may feel in similar circumstances. With its heartbreaking findings and irrefutable conclusions, this book bears careful reading and consideration." - Publishers Weekly
"Bradshaw brings home to us forcefully what we should have realized long ago: that destroying the family life of highly social, intelligent animals leads inevitably to misery among individual survivors and pathological misbehaviour among the group."- J. M. Coetzee, Nobel Laureate in Literature, 2003
"[I]n allowing ourselves to imagine the inner life of the elephant, to allow that they have one and that it can be scarred by the way it is treated in a way analogous to human trauma, we can develop both a deeper understanding of the quality of our relations to them and a deeper understanding of ourselves. - John Appleby, writer,
"Elephants on the Edge is very thoroughly researched and beautifully presented-a devastating, scientific chronicle of the ignorance, cruelty, and mismanagement that placed these magnificent creatures in their present dire situation. Among Bradshaw's many virtues is that she exposes the cowardice of scientists who are well aware of the damage now in progress but are unwilling to support animal rights or to condemn animal holocausts. We cannot possibly understand the world we live in unless we acknowledge the role we play in its destruction. Should we continue our Nazi-like behavior toward elephants, and indeed, toward any living creatures? Those who read this book won't want to." -Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, author of The Hidden Life of Dogs and of The Old Way: A Story of the First People
"Revolutionary and very exciting, this book is important both in terms of elephant biology and elephant welfare."- Cynthia Moss, Amboseli Trust for Elephants
"At times sad and at times heartwarming, Elephants on the Edge successfully bridges the gap between species. Bradshaw helps us to understand not only elephants, but all animals, including ourselves."- Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation
"Elephants on the Edge is a wide-ranging, passionate, well-researched, and urgent call to action. These magnificent, intelligent, and emotional giants are quintessential poster animals for the wounded world in which we live. Read this book, share it widely, and please do something to increase our compassion footprint before it''s too late. Healing demands collective cross-cultural action now."- Marc Bekoff, University of Colorado, coauthor with Jessica Pierce of Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals "In Elephants on the Edge, G. A. Bradshaw helps us face our ethically flawed relationship with animals and nature and what is at stake for all of us." - John P. Gluck, University of New Mexico; Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Georgetown University "This book. . . is fascinating. . . [and] sheds light on disturbing phenomena relevant to the future not only of elephants, but also of humans subjected to similar disruption. Read it." - Robert M. May, Professor Lord May of Oxford