Title: An African Love Story
Author: Daphne Sheldrick
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Biographies, Conservation, Non-fiction, True stories
Publisher: Penguin books
5th sentence, 74th page: Water, more precious than gold, had to be rationed, every drop carted from base.
Challenge: 2017 Bookworm Bitches Catch-Up Challenge
Daphne Sheldrick, whose family arrived in Africa from Scotland in the 1820s, is the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared newborn elephants. Her deep empathy and understanding, her years of observing Kenya’s rich variety of wildlife, and her pioneering work in perfecting the right husbandry and milk formula have saved countless elephants, rhinos, and other baby animals from certain death.
In this heartwarming and poignant memoir, Daphne shares her amazing relationships with a host of orphans, including her first love, Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope; Rickey-Tickey-Tavey, the little dwarf mongoose; Gregory Peck, the busy buffalo weaver bird; Huppety, the mischievous zebra; and the majestic elephant Eleanor, with whom Daphne has shared more than forty years of great friendship.
But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.
Encompassing not only David and Daphne’s tireless campaign for an end to poaching and for conserving Kenya’s wildlife, but also their ability to engage with the human side of animals and their rearing of the orphans expressly so they can return to the wild, Love, Life, and Elephants is alive with compassion and humor, providing a rare insight into the life of one of the world’s most remarkable women.
There are not enough words in the English language to describe how inspiring and touching this story was. At least to someone who is animal obsessed as I am… Daphne’s life was filled with tragedies and triumphs, mirroring the lives of some of her orphaned charges, and the reflective and honest way in which she looks back at these moments in her life is sweet and endearing, yet eye-opening to the plight of elephants.
Admittedly, I am a large fan of books around conservation efforts, but, where many of them focus on the sometimes incredibly negative impacts of the difficulty in this, the entirety of An African Love Story was positive. Even when talking about the immense slaughters that were carried out in Tsavo National Park, Sheldrick managed to still promote the love she felt for both her family and the land around her. It helped to beautifully offset such a tragic point in the Parks’ history, a horrifying act that is still being carried out today. Introducing us to her orphaned elephants, the many successes and even failures that passed through her hands helped to give a face to such a potent issue in the conservation world. The pictures throughout her story helped to further the emotional connection that all but those of the hardest heart will melt for.
That’s not to say that the only orphans featured in this story are the victims of the ivory trade – buffaloes, mongooses, antelope and warthogs all make their own special appearances on the page and in Sheldrick’s heart. Each of these short tales of mischievous and mayhem help to instil a love for Kenya and it’s animals that left a yearning in my heart to travel to this astonishing countryside.
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