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 icography 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.
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) and Toxic Belonging?: Identity and Ecology in Southern Africa (forthcoming, 2008).
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Natural History: Animal & Wildlife
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66 black & white illustrations, 33 colour illustrations