Moss offers a scholarly but highly readable account of the complex social behavior of the elephants in Kenya's Amboseli Park.
In the most intriguing chapters, Moss presents evidence that these intelligent animals have a concept of death. They bury their dead and, unlike other animals, recognize skeletons of their own species. When elephants encounter another's bones, they caress them with their trunks, paying special attention to the skulls of relatives.
African elephants are finding those remains with alarming frequency: 80,000 elephants--almost 10% of the total population in Africa--are slaughtered each year for their ivory. As elephants produce one calf every three to five years, the species obviously can't sustain this decimation.
But Moss concludes that competition for space with a burgeoning human population may pose an even greater threat. The population of Kenya is expected to double by the end of the century, and much of the arable land in the country is prime elephant habitat. Although Moss argues eloquently for their protection, the extinction of the African elephant appears imminent.