Elephants are most certainly the love of the author’s life. She has written two other books published in South Africa, and motivated by the death of a very close friend, she decided to devote her days to protecting and documenting the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe. Her work has been so comprehensive that it has been profiled in National Geographic, BBC Wildlife and African Geographic. She has done this as a labour of love, unfunded and alone, in a less than friendly country, where white people are easily dispensable, certainly according to Robert Mugabe.
Several hundred elephants roam a 140 square kilometre piece of land outside the Hwange National Park. In 1990 the president issued a “special protection decree, for the elephants that spent the majority of their time here. They were never to be hunted or culled and were supposed to represent Zimbabwe’s commitment to responsible wild life management”. A grand gesture; one that was impossible to police. The man who arranged for this decree to be formalised, had left the country and no one knows for certain just how many elephants there are. Maybe upward of 300 elephants call this area home.
To leave a very secure position as an IT expert and live with no possessions, no electricity, and no hot water, is a massive step for someone to take, but Sharon was quite sure this was what she wanted to do. Not quite sure where to start, she began documenting and naming family groups of elephants, easily distinguished by physical traits and holes in the ears. As Sharon’s knowledge grew, she began to photograph and document just how the elephants could be helped. She joined a team looking for elephants that had been snared. Wire was placed in bushes, and either trapped the elephant or, if they broke away, the wire left a festering wound which, if not treated, would kill them.
Poachers will always be a problem and there are those who wish to sell the ivory and those who wish to eat the meat. However, despite many setbacks and difficulties, the author has become a well-known name and a force to be reckoned with. She has produced wild life documentaries which have been lauded in China and Japan, countries which understand how desirable ivory is.
As time passes, Life becomes more difficult. Renewing her visa is a constant problem for Sharon, and although many promises are made, land that has been kept for the elephants is being earmarked for other projects. Minister after Minister promised things will be done, however, “Recently released reports reveal that over 100,000 African elephants were slaughtered for their ivory between 2010 and 2012”.
This story is much more than hardship and despair, though. We see the magnificent sights through Sharon’s eyes, sunsets, elephants in families, lions viewing people with disdain, especially when the author is caught by one when she was having a pee behind a truck! The lions just moved away with heads averted.
Other happy moments occur, when friends come by to share a G&T, and the joy of seeing animals they have been able to save and heal. These moments are so rewarding and the laughs are plenty. But the true message is always the protection of those beautiful creatures. If you are going on a safari in Africa, check that they are reputable and money from them goes towards wildlife protection.
|Publisher||Allen & Unwin|
|Distributor||Allen & Unwin|