Elephant Dawn: The Inspirational Story of Thirteen Years Living with Elephants in the African Wilderness – Review
PoachingFacts rating: 3 of 5 stars
Undoubtedly the goal of this book is to leave the reader deeply affected by not only the plight of the wildlife, particularly the eponymously named presidential elephants, but of all conservationists working in Zimbabwe and Africa. Author Sharon Pincott achieves this goal through sharing her personal struggles and thoughts. She also highlights the way that black and white Zimbabweans are separately impacted by the disastrous land reform policies of the Mugabe regime which is still in power as of early 2017.
While the writing is good and the topic is of vital importance to the future safety of elephants in Zimbabwe (even now the country is shipping wild elephant calves to China), the story feels disjointed as Pincott works to present snapshots of her life interspersed with the tumults of living in Hwange, the political and social changes happening around her, and the challenges of conservation in Zimbabwe. The book itself, just shy of 350 pages, covers roughly 13 years of anecdotes, with multiple chapters dedicated to each year, beginning in 2001. This creates a less cohesive story than what some readers might expect from a typical memoir, but expands significantly on her earlier book Battle for the President’s Elephants (see our review). Readers deeply interested in the modern treatment of African elephants by humans, as well as the way they are studied, would enjoy Love, Life, and Elephants as a casual introduction to those topics. Elephant Dawn also provides anecdotal evidence of remarkable elephant behavior also described by Lawrence Anthony, author of The Elephant Whisperer.
Elephant Dawn shares some of the same experiences as Battle for the President’s Elephants: Life, Lunacy and Elation in the African Bush, even having sections that are identical to one another. It has a similar writing style and the same dark humor. Battle for the President’s Elephants is also much shorter, so readers should consider delving into Elephant Dawn’s comprehensive account instead.
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.
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.