Elephant Don: The Politics Of A Pachyderm Posse

Paperback | July 20, 2016

byCaitlin O'Connell

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Meet Greg. He’s a stocky guy with an outsized swagger. He’s been the intimidating yet sociable don of his posse of friends—including Abe, Keith, Mike, Kevin, Torn Trunk, and Willie. But one arid summer the tide begins to shift and the third-ranking Kevin starts to get ambitious, seeking a higher position within this social club. But this is no ordinary tale of gangland betrayal—Greg and his entourage are bull elephants in Etosha National Park, Namibia, where, for the last twenty-three years, Caitlin O’Connell has been a keen observer of their complicated friendships.

In Elephant Don, O’Connell, one of the leading experts on elephant communication and social behavior, offers a rare inside look at the social world of African male elephants. Elephant Don tracks Greg and his group of bulls as O’Connell tries to understand the vicissitudes of male friendship, power struggles, and play. A frequently heart-wrenching portrayal of commitment, loyalty, and affection between individuals yearning for companionship, it vividly captures an incredible repertoire of elephant behavior and communication.  Greg, O’Connell shows, is sometimes a tyrant and other times a benevolent dictator as he attempts to hold onto his position at the top. Though Elephant Don is Greg’s story, it is also the story of O’Connell and the challenges and triumphs of field research in environs more hospitable to lions and snakes than scientists.

Readers will be drawn into dramatic tales of an elephant society at once exotic and surprisingly familiar, as O’Connell’s decades of close research reveal extraordinary discoveries about a male society not wholly unlike our own. Surely we’ve all known a Greg or two, and through this book we may come to know them in a whole new light.

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From the Publisher

Meet Greg. He’s a stocky guy with an outsized swagger. He’s been the intimidating yet sociable don of his posse of friends—including Abe, Keith, Mike, Kevin, Torn Trunk, and Willie. But one arid summer the tide begins to shift and the third-ranking Kevin starts to get ambitious, seeking a higher position within this social club. But th...

Caitlin O’Connell is a faculty member at Stanford University School of Medicine. She is the author of the acclaimed science memoir The Elephant’s Secret Sense, also published by the University of Chicago Press, and the subject of the award-winning Smithsonian documentary Elephant King. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, ...

other books by Caitlin O'Connell

Elephant's Life: An Intimate Portrait from Africa
Elephant's Life: An Intimate Portrait from Africa

Kobo ebook|Nov 22 2011

$24.69 online$31.99list price(save 22%)
see all books by Caitlin O'Connell
Format:PaperbackDimensions:271 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:July 20, 2016Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022638005X

ISBN - 13:9780226380056

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Kissing of the Ring
Journey to Mushara
The Head That Wears the Crown
Introduction to the Boys’ Club
Dung Diaries
Teenage Wasteland
Coalitions and a Fall from Grace
Male Bonding
The Domino Effect
Capo di Tutti Capi
Of Musth and Other Demons
The Emotional Elephant
The Don Back in the Driver’s Seat
Closure
Sniffing Out Your Relatives
Where Are the Boys in Gray?
A Case for Dishonest Signaling
The Don under Fire
Black Mamba in Camp
Baying at a Testosterone-Filled Moon
Relentless Wind
A Deposed Don
The Don Returns
Scramble for Power
The Royal Family
Wee Hours
The Politics of Family
A New Beginning
Acknowledgments
Captions for Chapter-Opening Photos
Index

Editorial Reviews

“O’Connell’s book represents an uncommon story, the kind that can only unfold over time, with the help of meticulous observation. . . . O’Connell is aware that in Greg, she witnessed an exceptional leader. Encountering such an animal in fieldwork is a rare gift. He will open the door to another world, divulging nature’s secrets, letting us see our world—and ourselves—through his eyes.”