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It's no longer news that animals are being driven to extinction at an astonishing rate, with some scientists now estimating that 1,000 species disappear each year. What is news is that the species are increasingly familiar to us: lions, grizzly bears, gorillas, whales, black terns--and elephants. In the 19th century, writes Douglas Chadwick in this superb journalistic study, Africa boasted more than 10 million of the giant pachyderms; there are fewer than half a million today, a situation mirrored in Asia. The slaughter is largely the result of the illegal ivory trade, conducted through such nations as Japan and Singapore, which ignore international conventions to keep the barbarous supply rolling. Sanctions on those nations are needed, says Chadwick--but so is much more. This sobering book offers an encyclopedic look at the life history of the African and Asian elephants, which, unless something is done now, may not be long for the world. On assignment for National Geographic magazine, Chadwick (A Beast the Color of Winter) spent most of two years observing elephants in American zoos and throughout Africa, India and southeast Asia. He also followed the ivory trade, visiting carvers and shops in Tokyo, Delhi, Hong Kong and Bangkok. His marvelous account depicts elephants at work and at play, profiles the people who work with them and sadly notes that their habitat is in decline.