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Elephants: Birth, Death and Family in the Lives of the Giants

Hannah Mumby

Elephants are as unique as people. They can be clever and curious or headstrong and impulsive, shy or sociable. Learn to know them as individuals as well as a species in this evocative account of years spent studying elephant behaviour in the wild.

Watching a family out for a swim on a hot day, Dr Hannah Mumby notes grandmothers, mothers, sisters and children exchanging noisy greetings, a consistent stream of close-range vocalisations, intermittent touching, co-operative herding of babies and frequent stopping for snacks. A close and interconnected family. But in this family, the adults weigh several tons each and the babies wave trunks playfully at one another. This is a herd of elephants.

That elephants are intelligent, sentient beings is common knowledge, but so much about their day-to-day lives and abilities remains unknown. How do they communicate with one another over seemingly impossible distances? How do males spend their lives once they have left their mothers’ herds? And how much do they really remember?

In this lyrically written and deeply personal account of several years of field research, Mumby reverently describes her own elephant encounters, alongside an exploration of the most up-to-date discoveries about the lives of these gentle giants. Learn how elephants live, travel, mate, raise children and relate to one another, and reflect on how they think and feel. Understanding elephants as individuals closes the gap between human and animal and has powerful applications in the critical field of elephant conservation.


Dr Hannah Mumby is a behavioural and evolutionary ecologist with a passion for applying ideas from her work to conservation. Hannah is currently a Fellow at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge and at the College for Life Sciences at the Wissenschaftskolleg, Berlin. She leads the Bull Elephant Network Project and conducts fieldwork with the NGO Elephants Alive in South Africa and Mozambique. She is also actively involved with conservation efforts and assists with collaring operations, translocating elephants and outreach work with local communities. Hannah recently completed a Fulbright Scholarship at Colorado State University, where she reconnected with Samburu, Kenya, the site of her first interactions with wild elephants. Hannah talks about elephants on TV and on the radio, as well as in schools and universities. She lives between Cambridge, Berlin and South Africa, which means she spends too much time on aeroplanes. This is her first book.

Category:  Popular Science
ISBN:  9781776190591
Publisher:  Jonathan Ball Publishers
On sale:  June 2020
Format:  Paperback
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