Best Animal Lover’s Call to (Ideological) Arms

Elephant Reflections by Karl Ammann and Dale Peterson

Swiss-born Genesis Award-winning wildlife photographer Karl Ammann
began his career by snapping African cheetahs, then great apes. His
admiration for the latter — and his horror at how many are
slaughtered and sold for food — inspired Ammann to join
forces with celebrated conservation writer Dale Peterson.
Berkeley-based UC Press published their harrowing 2003 book Eating
Apes
as well as their latest collaboration, Elephant
Reflections
, which is hands down one of this year’s most moving and
beautiful volumes. Ammann’s bold photographs of African elephants in
the wild — tusks, trunks, tails, and those all-knowing eyes
— accompany Peterson’s impassioned, eloquent text about this
“creature who quietly mocks our puny size and frantic chatter … and
who should, indeed, caution us, tell us to be careful, keep still, have
respect.” For zoophiles and conservationists it’s a hefty, handsome
coffee-table confection, but it’s also much more than that. Ammann’s
pictures serve as what-we-might-lose elegies alongside Peterson’s
revelations about poaching and politics: Smoked elephant meat is a key
part of the Central African Republic’s economy, for instance;
Zimbabwe’s government regularly slaughters hundreds of elephants for
feasts — and exchanges planeloads of ivory for Chinese guns
and ammunition.

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