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The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence: Book Review Essay Part 6: Elephant Speak


It was magical, a “positive gentle communication” from Lawrence Anthony to his elephants. Sometimes The Elephant Whisperer would even sing. Yet part of that communication was non-verbal, “just being there doing nothing, saying nothing, (…purposefully ignoring them…) showing I was comfortable whether they were close by or not.”(ch. 6) “I had no idea if she (Nandi the elephant) understood anything, but intonation and intention can communicate far better than words.” (p. 317)

  • “Don’t do it Nana. Please don’t do it, girl.” “This is your home now. Please don’t do it, girl”   “They will kill you all if you break out. This is your home now. You don’t have to run any more.”   “You will all die if you go. Stay here, I will be here with you and it’s a good place.”(ch. 6)

 “This is your home now, Nana, It’s a good home and I will always be here with you.” (ch. 8)

“Clever girl! You found the cleanest water on the reserve – and managed to scare the hell out of everyone in the process.” (speaking to Nana “with just a touch of discipline in my voice” following the elephant herds’ unexpected visit to the guest lodge & swimming pool.)    “But you are really frightening the hell out of the guests and you really do need to leave now.”  (ch. 23)


Image: CC Flickr: fyre mael: Majestic Thula Thula elephant  in profile: The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants


Stop, stop, it’s me, it’s me!” to Frankie (ch. 14)


No! Mnumzane, no!  to the adult bull elephant (ch. 16)

“Hello, big boy. What is up today?” A Woodland Meeting With Mnumzane in the Landy “in the presence of an old friend”

Image: The Daily Mail: Mumzame the bull elephant; Thula Thula Elephants : The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants


Thank you , Mnumzame. See you tomorrow, my friend.“(ch. 19)


  • “Coooome, Nana! Coooome my babbas… Coooome babbas.”  (babbas, Zulu for babies) calling to Nana when she was out in the bush.

“In this case I didn’t realize how prophetic my call” would be. (ch. 21) “Standing next to her was a perfectly formed miniature elephant, about two-an-a-half feet high – perhaps a few days old. As I had suspected, she had just given birth. I was looking at the first elephant to be born in our area in over a hundred years.” (ch. 21) “Nana ambled up to my window and stood towering above the Land Rover, dominating the skyline. Below her was her baby. Incredibly she had brought her newborn to me. I held my breath as her trunk reached into the Land Rover and touched me on the chest; the sandpapery hide somehow as sensitive as silk, then it swivelled back, dropped and touched the little one, a pachyderm introduction. I sat still, stunned by the privilege she was bestowing on me.

‘You clever girl. What a magnificent baby.’… I don’t know what you call him. But he was born during the first spring showers so I will call him Mvula’ (…Zulu word for rain, synonymous with life for those who live with the land) She seemed to agree and the name stuck.”


Image: CC Flickr: fyre mael: cute elephant, Thula Thula elephant: The Elephant Whisperer, Lawrence Anthony’s elephants


“Two weeks later…I made another trek to Zulu Graves… This time it was Frankie with a perfect new baby…eventually she too came to me, herd in tow. However, she didn’t stop like Nana had, just doing a cursory walk past to show off her infant.” (p. 169)

‘Well done, my beautiful girl‘…she slowly came level with the window, maternal pride in full bloom. ‘We will call him Ilanga – the sun.‘”   A week later Frankie, along with the herd and her “little one,” had made the 4 mile trek up to the house. “This time Frankie stood in front of the others right at the wire facing me. ‘Hello, girl. Your baby is so beautiful. She really is.'”


ET, if you don’t mess with me we can be friends.” to teenage newcomer of the elephant herd, the “unruly adopted child”. (ch. 28)

You are a mamba. You are surely now a real Mnumzane – a real boss.” Having grown up without “a mother or father figure the bull elephant had at last secured a role within the elephant herd. ” I just loved this magnificent creature and was so pleased to see his insecurities and fears gone.”   (p. 287)

Mnumzane! …Have you any idea of what you have done, you bloody fool? This is a big problem for you, for me, and for everyone. What the hell got into you?”  (p. 298, 299)


Come baba, I called gently, “come beautiful girl, come on. You’re hot; you haven’t had anything to eat and drink for twenty-four hours. Come to me.” To Nandi after she had given birth to Thula. (p. 317) “Unless I take your baby she’s going to die. You know that and I know that. So when you get back she won’t be there, but if we save her, I will bring her back to you. That I promise.”

Come Thula, come my girl” to baby elephant Thula (p. 323)

p. 325 After talking with the elephant herd regarding baby elephant Thula’s health: “I have long since lost my self-consciousness at chatting away to elephants like some eccentric. As I spoke I looked for signs that something of what I meant was getting across. I needn’t have worried. We had come a long hard road, this herd and I, and talking to them had been a crucial part of that process. And why not? Who am I to judge what elephants understand or otherwise? Besides I personally find the communication most satisfying. They evidently liked it too, responding with their deep stomach rumblings.”

“Goodbye, great one.” p. 353


To be continued: The Elephant Whisperer:  My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence: Book Review Essay Part 7: Afterward

Purchase The Elephant Whisperer: My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence through The Lawrence Anthony Earth Organization   “Purchasing the book from us, LAEO, helps forward the work we are doing to achieve the goals that Lawrence envisioned.” See Lawrence Anthony’s Elephants


Image: CC Flickr : book    The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence



The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony & Graham Spence wiki  

The Elephant Whisperer book cover (baby elephant)  CC Flickr

CC Flickr Fyre Mael Elephants Thula Thula

The Daily Mail Mnumzame the elephant


Image: Wikipedia. book: The Elephant Whisperer My Life With the Herd in the African Wild by Lawrence Anthony with Graham Spence

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