Elephant House

By (author) Nigel Rothfels By (photographer) Dick Blau

Hardback - £23.95

Publication date:

21 October 2015

Length of book:

108 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271070858

In Elephant House, photographer Dick Blau and historian Nigel Rothfels offer a thought-provoking study of the Oregon Zoo’s Asian Elephant Building and the daily routines of its residents—human and pachyderm alike. Without an agenda beyond a desire to build a deeper understanding of this enigmatic environment, Elephant House is the result of the authors’ unique creative collaboration and explores the relationships between captive elephants and their human caregivers.

Blau’s evocative photographs are complex and challenging, while Rothfels’s text offers a scholarly and personal response to the questions that surround elephants and captivity. Elephant House does not take sides in the debate over zoos but focuses instead on the bonds of attentiveness between the animals and their keepers. Accompanied by a foreword from retired elephant keeper Mike Keele, Elephant House is a frank, fascinating look at the evolving world of elephant husbandry.

“You think you know all there is to know about elephants in captivity? Think again. Setting aside the familiar screeds and sentiments, Dick Blau and Nigel Rothfels offer a deep, multidimensional, and nuanced understanding of our relationship to zoo elephants, one that will challenge the animal rights critic and zoo advocate alike. The wonder and sadness evoked by the checkered history of elephant exhibition, the difference and commonality that bind these majestic animals to the people who care for them—it’s all here. You may not change your mind about the keeping of elephants in captivity after reading this book, but you’ll see the fuller picture. And it will be impossible to come away from Elephant House unmoved.”

—Ben A. Minteer, Arizona State University