I’m thrilled to announce Ooligan’s winter 2020 title, Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd by Melissa Crandall. Scheduled for publication in March, this biography details the life of award-winning, nationally renowned elephant keeper Roger Henneous. A historical accounting of the world-famous Oregon Zoo elephants and the deep bond they developed over several decades with Roger, Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd illustrates the evolution of elephant captivity, care, and conservation over the last forty years, filtered through the perspective of a keeper who grew and matured alongside these beautiful giants.
Across Roger’s thirty-year career, he discovers the joys, pains, and dangers of life in a zoo, all the while maintaining an unwavering devotion to Belle, Packy, and the rest of the Asian elephants he cares for. As their friend, Roger faces many risks—but his willingness to learn their language and speak for the herd makes Roger unique among his contemporaries. In return, the elephants give Roger a rare level of trust and respect, reminding us how much we can learn when we choose to listen.
Elephant Speak: A Devoted Keeper’s Life Among the Herd takes place in a time when ethical conversations about animal comfort, safety, and enrichment in zoos are just beginning. More than an evolutionary history of zookeeping, this unique biography celebrates the extraordinary bonds between humans and elephants and asks what we owe elephants, where we have fallen short, and how we can move forward together.
In this time of drastic changes to our planet, we must take a moment to step outside ourselves and learn from the creatures who inhabit it, few of which are more intelligent and majestic than the elephant. In many ways, this book is a love letter to this incredible animal. At the same time, it shows future generations what we can learn from these creatures and how we can better ourselves in the process.
As the first project manager for Elephant Speak, I had the great privilege of beginning the production of this book, moving it swiftly through its developmental stages of editing, marketing, and design. I learned an immense amount about elephants in the process. It’s been one heck of a ride so far, and we’re not done yet. We must set our eyes on finishing the editorial process and getting the book into the hands of reviewers.
But just as we began to hit a critical time in our efforts, I had to hand over the reins. Just like every manager at Ooligan, my time came to move on to (hopefully) greener pastures. In June, Julie Collins became the new project manager for Elephant Speak, taking the lead on every aspect of production. She’s been with the project since the very beginning, and we’ve been extremely lucky to have her on board. She’s got a clear eye for what she wants now as well as ten months down the line, and she’s just as passionate as I am, if not more so, about the book’s essential messages of community and conservation.
My departure was inevitable, but it pains me just the same.
And with that, here I go. Signing off.