The best books about elephants to get acquainted with the largest mammal on earth.
Elephants are memorable giants. They have great memories and are incredibly intelligent. Contrastingly, they can be incredibly gentle with their young, yet are one of the fiercest wild animals out there.
Those that have observed elephants in the wild and sanctuaries can’t help fall in love with them. I know I did when observing elephants in Sri Lanka and at Tembe Elephant Park in South Africa.
These books about elephants are a testament to that and will help you feel connected to them, even if you can’t be with them in person.
Lawrence Anthony devoted his life to animal conservation, protecting the world’s endangered species. Then he was asked to accept a herd of “rogue” wild elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in Zululand.
His common sense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival. They would be killed if he wouldn’t take them.
In order to save their lives, Anthony took them in. In the years that followed, he became a part of their family.
And as he battled to create a bond with the elephants, he came to realize that they had a great deal to teach him. About life, loyalty, and freedom.
The Elephant Whisperer is a heartwarming, exciting, funny, and sometimes sad memoir of Anthony’s experiences.
Set against the background of life on an African game reserve, with unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife. Anthony’s unrelenting efforts at animal protection and his remarkable connection with nature will inspire animal lovers and adventurous souls everywhere. This is an iconic book about elephants.
In 2001, Sharon Pincott traded in her privileged life as a high-flying corporate executive. She started a new one with the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe. She was unpaid, untrained, self-funded, and arrived with the starry-eyed idealism of most foreigners.
For 13 years – the worst in Zimbabwe’s volatile history – this intrepid Australian woman lived in the Hwange bush. Fighting for the lives of these elephants. Forming an extraordinary and life-changing bond with them.
Now remote from Robert Mugabe’s rule, Sharon writes without restraint sequentially through the years. Taking us on a truly unforgettable ride of hope and heartbreak, profound love and loss, adversity and new beginnings. This is the haunting, all-encompassing story we’ve been waiting for.
Lizzie and Karl’s mother is a zookeeper. The family has become attached to an orphaned elephant named Marlene. Marlene will be destroyed as a precautionary measure so she and the other animals don’t run wild should the zoo be hit by bombs.
The family persuades the zoo director to let Marlene stay in their garden instead. When the city is bombed, the family flees with thousands of others. But how can they walk the same route when they have an elephant in tow, and keep themselves safe?
Along the way, they meet Peter, a Canadian navigator who risks his own capture to save the family.
Related Reading: The Torre Argentina Roman Cat Sanctuary: Why It’s Worth A Visit
Because elephants are pachyderms, a combination of two Greek roots meaning “thick skin,” one might think that nothing bothers them and that they lead quiet, safe lives. Nothing could be further from the truth. Elephants have been hunted and killed for their ivory tusks since antiquity.
And people often ignore the calves left behind, who must now live out their lives as traumatized and fearful orphans. Wildlife photographer Joachim Schmeisser made it his mission to document the story of these abandoned baby elephants.
Through his sponsorship of elephants, he came into contact with the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. The world’s largest and most successful rescue and rehabilitation operation for orphaned elephants, headquartered in Nairobi. Professional veterinary technicians bottle feed the elephant calves until they are old enough to locate their own food. By living together with older elephant calves, they also learn the social rules governing elephant herds.
After this phase is complete, the elephants are taken to one of the Trust’s rehabilitation stockades. They are then released back into the wild. Joachim Schmeisser followed numerous elephants through the entire process. He captured fascinating pictures from their arrival at the nursery all the way to their release back into the wild.
Elephants in Heaven provides a visual record of how these traumatized elephants are raised in a place that is truly heavenly for them. He offers a compelling behind-the-scenes look inside an elephant nursery. The touching animal portraits also convey the devastating consequences of poaching. For Joachim Schmeisser, it’s about “beauty, fragility, transience, mindfulness, and about dignity and the equal standing of each individual.”
Spanning seven decades and three continents, Modoc is one of the most amazing true animal stories ever told. Raised together in a small German circus town, a boy and an elephant formed a bond that would last their entire lives and would be tested time and again.
Through a near-fatal shipwreck in the Indian Ocean, an apprenticeship with the legendary Mahout elephant trainers in the Indian teak forests, and their eventual rise to circus stardom in 1940s New York City, Modoc is a captivating true story of loyalty, friendship, and high adventure, to be treasured by animal lovers everywhere.
Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
The remarkable story of James Howard “Billy” Williams. His uncanny rapport with the world’s largest land animals transformed him from a carefree young man into the charismatic war hero known as Elephant Bill
In 1920, Billy Williams came to colonial Burma as a “forest man” for a British teak company. Mesmerized by the intelligence and character of the great animals who hauled logs through the jungle, he became a gifted “elephant wallah.” In Elephant Company, Vicki Constantine Croke chronicles Williams’s growing love for elephants as the animals provide him lessons in courage, trust, and gratitude.
Elephant Company is also a tale of war and daring. When Japanese forces invaded Burma in 1942, Williams joined the elite British Force 136 and operated behind enemy lines. His war elephants carried supplies, helped build bridges, and transported the sick and elderly over treacherous mountain terrain.
As the occupying authorities put a price on his head, Williams and his elephants faced their most perilous test. Elephant Company, cornered by the enemy, attempted a desperate escape. A risky trek over the mountainous border to India, with a bedraggled group of refugees in tow. This is a great book about elephants.
Recommended Reading: Wildlife Books That Animal Lovers Will Enjoy
From early childhood, Dr. Hannah Mumby has loved wildlife, especially elephants. Her first wild elephant sighting at twenty-four changed the course of her life. Since then, she has devoted herself to studying these incredible animals and educating humanity about them.
Hannahs fieldwork has taken her around the world. She has studied many elephant groups, including both orphaned elephants and the solitary elephant males. She explains how elephants communicate with one another. And she demonstrates the connection between memory and trauma. How it affects individual elephants and their interactions with others in their herd.
Elephants and humans, Mumby makes clear, are not very different. From emotional bonding to communication, human and elephant experience similarly nuanced lives, and the commonalities she uncovers are both surprising and heartwarming.
Intelligent, majestic, and loyal, with lifespans matching our own. Elephants are among the greatest of the wonders gracing the African wilds. Yet, in the 1970s and 1980s, about a thousand of these captivating creatures were slaughtered in Zambia each year. They were killed for their valuable ivory tusks. When biologists Mark and Delia Owens, residing in Africa to study lions, found themselves in the middle of a poaching fray, they took the only side they morally could. That of the elephants.
The Eye of the Elephant recounts the Owens’ struggle to save these innocent animals from decimation. A journey not only to supply the natives with ways of supporting their villages. But to cultivate support around the globe for the protection of elephants.
Filled with daring exploits among disgruntled hunters, arduous labour on the African plains, and vivid depictions of various wildlife. This remarkable tale is at once an adventure story, a travelogue, and a preservationist call to action. It’s a fascinating examination of both human and animal nature. It is one of the best books about elephants you will read.
Françoise never expected to find herself responsible for a herd of elephants with a troubled past. A chic Parisienne, her life changed forever when she fell in love with South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony.
Together they founded a game reserve. But after Lawrence’s death, Françoise faced the daunting responsibility of running Thula Thula without him. Poachers attacked their rhinos. Their security team wouldn’t take orders from a woman. And the authorities were threatening to cull their beloved elephant family. On top of that, the herd’s feisty new matriarch Frankie didn’t like her.
In this heart-warming and moving book, Françoise describes how she fought to protect the herd. And how to make her dream of building a wildlife rescue centre a reality. She found herself caring for a lost baby elephant who turned up at her house. And she offers refuge to traumatized orphaned rhinos, and a hippo called Charlie who was scared of water. This is an enlightening book about elephants.
In these stories, a man sees his favourite elephant vanish into thin air. A newlywed couple suffers attacks of hunger that drive them to hold up a McDonald’s in the middle of the night. And a young woman discovers that she has become irresistible to a little green monster who burrows up through her backyard.
By turns haunting and hilarious. The Elephant Vanishes Murakami crosses the border between separate realities — and comes back bearing remarkable treasures.
A middle-aged American professor and his wife decide to add spice to their lives. They purchase a remote South African bush house. Sitting with Elephants shares the couple’s adventures and insights after they buy the house online. They move in and find themselves encountering lions and leopards in front of the house. The couple finds zebras in the garage and baboons hiding in the loft. Not to mention hyenas stealing and eating their flashlights.
They also encounter poachers looking for rhinos. And a herd of wild elephants that regularly appear at the thin wire fence separating the house from Kruger National Park. These elephants become the centrepiece of the narrative. The couple learns how to humbly approach, sit down, and communicate with the elephants. This is an exciting book about elephants.
A natural history rich in observation of the animal world and how humans participate in it, Silent Thunder is also a passionate story of scientist Katy Payne’s spiritual quest as she turns a keen eye on her role in this world.
Starting with the story of her revolutionary discovery that elephants use infrasonic sounds – sounds below the range of human hearing – to communicate, Payne shares what she learned from her fascinating field research in Africa. Research that reveals new insights into elephants’ social lives. When five of the elephant families she studies are the victims of culling, Payne’s approach to her research changes. She fights valiantly to protect the elephants.
The result of her research gives a vivid impression of Payne’s view from the front lines of the natural preservation effort. Like Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard and the writings of Jane Goodall, Silent Thunder demonstrates how a commitment to all life can bring one’s own into a new focus. This is one of the best books about elephants.
Elephant Books for Children
An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can’t remember what happened before a tornado swept her away when she was a toddler. All she knows is that it landed her near an enclosure in a Nebraska zoo. And there an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm.
With no trace of her birth family, Lex grew up at the zoo with Nyah and her elephant family; her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.
Now that she’s twelve, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephants. But during their first training session, Nyah sends her a telepathic image of the woods outside the zoo. Despite the wind’s protests, Lex decides to investigate Nyah’s message. She gets wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family.
As she hunts for answers, Lex must summon the courage to leave the secure borders of her zoo. To discover who she really is and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago. This is one of the best books about elephants for older kids.
The Elephant and the Bad Baby is the classic story from Elfrida Vipont and Raymond Briggs. In this story the Elephant takes the Bad Baby for a ride and they go ‘rumpeta, rumpeta, rumpeta down the road.
They help themselves to ice creams, pies, buns, crisps, biscuits, lollipops and apples. And the shopkeepers follow them down the road shouting and waving. All ends well as the Bad Baby learns to say ‘Please’ and his mother makes pancakes for everyone. This is a memorable book about elephants that kids will love.
Recommended Reading: Gifts for the Animal Lover in Your Life
Jean de Brunhoff’s tales of Babar have charmed readers around the world for 80 years. One of those most iconic series of animal books in history, Babar has become a household name both as a character in children’s books and on TV.
Beautifully illustrated, this edition is an ideal gift for children aged 3 and up. This slipcase includes the following titles: The Story of Babar, Babar the King, Babar at Home, and Babar’s Travels.
After a parrot makes fun of Sooki’s big ears, long nose, and wrinkled skin, the “saggy baggy” elephant isn’t too sure of himself. But once he meets some beautiful creatures who look just like him, Sooki celebrates with a joyful “one-two-three-kick.” For over 50 years, parents and children have treasured this tale, with gorgeous art by Gustaf Tenggren, the illustrator of The Poky Little Puppy.
When a storm BURSTS in the rainforest, Little Elephant can’t find his mother anywhere. And now a tiger is coming his way… Run, Little Elephant, run! An exciting adventure set in the Indonesian rainforest, with 35 rainforest creatures to spot along the way.
Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.
A collection of five of Elmer’s best-loved tales. They are bound together in a beautiful hardback with stunning gold and green foiled cover. The perfect gift for fans of Elmer and his colourful adventures, and an ideal introduction for the very youngest readers. This treasury contains: “Elmer“, “Elmer and the Rainbow“, “Elmer and the Lost Teddy“, “Elmer in the Snow” and “Elmer’s Special Day“. This is a brilliant book about elephants for children.
Recommended Reading: 14 of the Best Eco-Friendly Gifts for Travellers That Give Back
Mo Willems, a #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator, celebrates ten years of Elephant & Piggie in this special bind-up collection: Today I Will Fly!; Watch Me Throw the Ball!; Can I Play Too?; the award-winning Let’s Go For a Drive!; and I Really Like Slop!
From award-winning, best-selling author and illustrator Mo Willems comes a bind-up of five Elephant & Piggie adventures to spark early-readers’ imaginations. Titles include:
- I Am Going
- We Are in a Book
- I Broke My Trunk
- Listen to My Trumpet
- I’m a Frog
From award-winning, best-selling author and illustrator Mo Willems comes a bind-up of five Elephant & Piggie adventures to help foster early readers’ problem-solving skills. Titles include:
- There is a Bird on Your Head!
- Are You Ready to Play Outside?
- Elephants Cannot Dance!
- Should I Share My Ice Cream?
- I Will Take a Nap!