JOHN FREDERICK WALKER talks to me about the loss of African Elephants

May 5th, 2009

A couple of weeks ago 60 Minutes did a segment on what was happening to the Elephant population of Africa. John Frederick Walker has been warning us about this. Long before gold and gemstones held allure, humans were drawn to the “jewels of the elephant”—its great tusks—for their beauty, rarity, and ability to be finely carved. In Ivory’s Ghosts, John Frederick Walker tells the astonishing story of the human lust for ivory and its cataclysmic implications for elephants. Each age and each culture, from ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century America and modern Japan, found its own artistic, religious, and even industrial uses for the remarkable material that comes from the teeth of elephants and a handful of other mammals. Sensuous figurines, scientific instruments, pistol grips, and piano keys were all the result—as was human enslavement and the wholesale slaughter of elephants.