Elephas Maximus

A Portrait of the Indian Elephant

Elephants have always captured human imagination, especially in India, where they have been celebrated in myth, literature, religious practice and art. This book recounts journeys to wildlife sanctuaries, where elephants live in their natural habitat, as well as to temples and cities where they live in captivity. It is a natural history of elephants but also an account of the cultural associations that human beings have established with this remarkable species. Stephen Alter delves into the stories of elephants, as depicted in Buddhist cave paintings and sculpture, as well as Bollywood films. He also argues passionately for their conservation.


A history more splendid than any maharaja’s golden howdah.

Kirkus Reviews

Magical and fascinating.

Boston Globe

Alter pays homage to Elephas maximus and weaves such facts into lyrical text of travel and adventure.

Science News

Having observed my fair share of elephants, I’ve found them to be almost ineffably heart-wrenching.  So I salute Stephen Alter for persisting, prevailing in the task.  These radiant, galumphing, expressive animals are vanishing in the wild.  But Alter has been to see them and telepathize.

Edward Hoagland