Dame Daphne Sheldrick welcomes us into a world filled with plenty of life, love, and elephants. A master storyteller, she draws her audience in to see Africa as she does. Mrs. Sheldrick wants the plight of orphaned elephants, and all other manners of orphaned wildlife, to become worldwide knowledge, and that the way to peace is awareness.
Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story will appeal to those who love a good story, and one that comes with a good cause. Dame Daphne has spent her entire life working with elephants, developing intimate and lifelong friendships, tirelessly working to garner interest in the cause while providing hands-on aid. This book is aimed at anyone who has an interest in the history of poaching and conservation within the Kenyan National Parks. Researchers can take away several tidbits, and the casual reader can gain a vast and insightful understanding of what life is like for those working in the national parks.
This tale begins in the early 1900s, before Daphne was born, to set the stage in British East Africa which would later become a formal part of the British Empire. Inevitably, the family would face hurdles but ultimately would survive the trials of starting from scratch in a foreign land. Daphne’s parents and grandparents etch a living, learning to coexist with the wild kingdom, as well as the native tribes that live around them. This prologue of sorts gives us an appreciation for Daphne’s family background and an understanding of what drives her for decades.
However, the key location in this story is Tsavo National Park in southern Kenya, where Dame Daphne was co-warden from 1955-1976. As the years pass, we learn of the work that David, her husband, puts in to keep the park a safe haven for elephants and other orphans. It is clear that there is an appreciation on the part of matured elephants that grew up with David, Daphne, and the others who helped raise them. Those same orphan elephants, now grown and wild, will return to welcome the newer additions to the orphanage, sometimes taking them into their herds when the younger elephant comes of age. Some eventually find their place in a different herd, or even find their own missing herd, and do not return.
Daphne also pioneered the correct regimen for raising newborn elephants, who too often were guaranteed to perish. After many of her own heart wrenching failures, formula suitable for a baby elephant’s diet was found in coconut milk, replacing the cow’s milk with a digestible alternative.
Poaching waxes and wanes over the years, spurred on by the ivory trade. The hunting is especially threatening to elephants, though they are hardly the only animals affected. Rhinos, dik-diks, mongooses and several other species are lovingly welcomed into the reserve’s orphan family.
Mostly lighthearted, Love, Life, and Elephants does not neglect life’s hardships, traumas, trials, and tribulations, either. We see the other side of working in conservation, the side that reminds us not all battles are won. Through losses, both sudden and foreseen, Daphne helps the reader understand that we may lose loved ones, but they are never forgotten.
For those who wish to help or donate, they can visit the official website for the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. There, you can select and adopt an orphan and receive information and updates on their progress. The money goes towards the upkeep and care for orphans, as well as their programs to combat poaching.
Readers who enjoy the topics of wildlife behavior and African wildlife conservation will also be interested in Gareth Patterson‘s several books on lion conservation, rehabilitation, and rewilding including: To Walk with Lions, Last of the Free, and My Lion’s Heart: A Life for the Lions of Africa. Lawrence Anthony’s books about his own conservation experiences, among them The Elephant Whisperer and The Last Rhinos: My Battle to Save One of the World’s Greatest Creatures, are also stellar memoirs that are both fascinating and insightful.
Kobie Krüger‘s The Wilderness Family is also highly recommended and depicts a warm and vibrant reality of the South African Lowveld as experienced by her game warden husband and their family living inside the world famous Kruger National Park in South Africa.