Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd

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Roger Henneous would be the first to caution that elephants are wild animals, not to be viewed as oversize pets. But as chief keeper of the largest captive elephant herd in the US for thirty years, he offers plenty of positive tributes. Author Melissa Crandall shares a wealth of information and tales drawn from her recorded interviews with him.

The demanding job at the center that became Oregon Zoo was not merely a career for Henneous; it was a life. He affectionately respected the different personalities and behaviors of the elephants on the family tree. He had a soft spot always for Belle, to whom the book is dedicated. Belle is the undeclared matriarch who kept watch on her peers, even stepping in to console Hanako, who was frantic when her baby got stuck in the bars of the enclosure.

Although generally serene in public appearances, keepers are all too aware of temperamental differences between elephants and, therefore, can better avoid life-threatening skirmishes. Crandall describes the ecology of Henneous’ charges by detailing such characteristics as their gender differences, the outstanding memory displayed when their intelligence is tested, health issues with medication and the special care needed for their feet, and mortality. The effort required to bury members of the herd is especially poignant.

Elephant Speak wins acclaim for the author’s deference to Henneous and his accomplishments, flawless organization, and clear writing. To readers whose knowledge of elephants was previously limited to circus performances, Babar’s adventures, and Kipling’s unwisely curious baby elephant, the book will be a revelation.


Reviewed By:

Author Melissa Crandall
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 300 pages
Publisher Ooligan Press
Publish Date 2020-03-03
ISBN 9781947845107
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue March 2020
Category Biographies & Memoirs
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