Battle for the President’s Elephants: Life, Lunacy & Elation in the African Bush – Review

Battle for the President's Elephants: Life, Lunacy & Elation in the African BushPoachingFacts rating: 2 of 5 stars

Battle for the President’s Elephants is as much an explanation of the effort involved in providing continuous care for the elephants as it is a cautionary tale of working in a field that few people truly care about and is easily co-opted by individuals and organizations seeking to profit from the work of a few. This is underscored repeatedly throughout her memoirs where she makes it clear that the country’s incredibly lucrative photo-safari industry is more interested in profit maximization than wildlife conservation with only a few safari lodges truly taking care of their wildlife and land. This is consistent with the experiences of the PoachingFacts’ team as well.

Unlike the other memoirs by Sharon Pincott, this book focuses exclusively on her work observing the presidential elephants and petitioning Zimbabwean ministers for continuing support of both the elephants and the land they live on. As Pincott observes they cannot have one without the other. It is easy to sympathize with her struggle to protect a species from the very politics that are supposed to be protecting them. However corruption, greed, and changing environmental policies add even more complexities to the situation.

Although the book covers a worthy cause and raises awareness for an important group of elephants, the scatter-shot presentation of her anecdotes from living in the field and her dark humor may not make for the easiest reading. Readers deeply interested in Pincott’s story would do best to pick up her latest book, Elephant Dawn: The Inspirational Story of Thirteen Years Living with Elephants in the African, published in 2016, which at nearly 350 pages is a much more complete story of both her work in Zimbabwe and the lives of the elephants she observes. (See our review here.)

Readers interested in a more comprehensive look at living in the wild with wildlife, and many of the challenges that come with it, would be much better off by starting with books by Gareth Patterson, Daphne Sheldrick, Mark and Delia Owens (authors of Cry of the Kalahari), and Kobie Krüger. The Owenses, Patterson, and Dame Sheldrick in particular give much deeper insight into front-line conservation roles from both the perspective of qualified academics doing field research and passionate citizens doing real wildlife conservation and rehabilitation.

Although Pincott is no longer directly involved in front-line elephant conservation in Zimbabwe, she has promised that she has plans to continue helping raise awareness for the plight of elephants. Concerned citizens that want to keep up-to-date with the challenges of conservation in southern Africa should follow Pincott on social media and also subscribe to freelance writer Jamie Joseph’s blog and social media as she investigates the depths of the poaching crisis.

Further Reading:

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, are also stellar memoirs that are both fascinating and insightful. Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s masterfully written memoir Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story recounts a significant portion of her life and work dedicated to conserving and rehabilitating elephants in Kenya and makes excellent reading.

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.

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