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Arts & Culture

Great Read: Elephant Company

Steve Slater/flickr creative commons

A man named Billy Williams became a legend during World War II, but not only for his heroic actions; Williams, stationed in Burma, became an elephant "whisperer." The book Elephant Company describes the man's exceptional ability to understand the elephants around him, and the stunning ability of the elephants to understand and communicate with him, in return.

According to Elephant Company author Vicki Constantine Croke, elephants "have extraordinary brains built for memory and insight, and they use them to negotiate one of the most advanced and complex societies of all mammals. To those who have spent time with them, elephants often seem philosophical and perceptive, and appear to have deep feelings […] Their behavior suggests they have an understanding of death, something believed to be rare among nonhuman animals."

Later in the book's fascinating stories, we learn about how the elephants are able to "joke" with their human handlers, and how one in particular, Bandoola, became extraordinarily close to Williams, saving his life and becoming a much-loved "friend." It was Williams who said no human taught him more than the elephants he relied on.

Elephant Company is a can't-put-it-down read, combining the fascinating worlds of elephants, history, and the real meaning of humanity.

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  • Vicki Constantine Croke is the author of Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II.


  • “Gne Gne,” Montefiori Cocktail
  • “November 99,” Manu Katché
  • “Number One,” Manu Katché
  • “Modul 44,” Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin

Lori MackJonathan McNicol, and Marian Roy contributed to this show.

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