Set mainly in Zimbabwe, this story is about Sharon’s fight to save the Presidential Elephants. She variously confronts, cajoles and complains to the Zimbabwean authorities about the treatment of the elephants. She successfully opposed powerful local politicians and their families who were trying to take over conservation lands, undaunted by threats and intimidation.
She develops a close personal bond with several elephant matriarchs and is introduced to the extended elephant families. Question: How do you develop a relationship with an enormous but gentle elephant? Answer : Very carefully through the sun roof of your Toyota.
The elephants are variously shot, poisoned or snared despite being in an extension of a National Park and protected by Presidential decree. Needless to say corrupt politicians use any political weapon against her including, threats, intimidation and racism. Due to Zimbabwe’s colonial history, the independence party which is now the ruling party ZANU PF is able to control the local population.
Ex pats who take on the cause of saving the local wildlife have more success, because they are able to generate a higher profile with international organisations and the Media. However, the pressure from thoughtless ex-pats is also the cause of most of the elephant killing for ivory or trophy hunting.
Relationships are something we read about daily in regard to people, however, stories of the relationships which develop between people and their animal friends are much less common. These relationships can be much more personal and intuitive, even instinctive. Animals learn to relate to humans by the way they are treated (i.e. experience). In contrast humans learn to judge others by their actions but we are also familiar with greed and the effect of intangibles such as money.
The causes of the elephants predicament include; increasing human population combined with greed, ignorance and desperation. This results in a constant battle by conservationists to save what remains. Sharon lost a friend living in Africa and in reflection decided to leave a legacy in the form of helping the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe. Her motivation, after a successful career in IT, was partly provided by an interview she read. The 90 year olds interviewed wished they had left more of a legacy. Sharon has achieved that legacy with international recognition, a movie and real on ground changes for the elephants.
Voluntary Nature Conservation can be lonely, stressful and unappreciated. Examples of personal impacts abound from Dian Fossey in Africa to John Muir in California to Milo Dunphy locally. However, the people who make these personal sacrifices leave a legacy that lasts long after they have gone.
In summary, a good read with high points, sadness and gritty determination. The book reveals insights into Sharon’s character, family and values. We need more Sharon Pincotts’ to fight for nature from global warming to elephants, they are all connected.
Note: John Asquith has had extensive experience over nearly 50 years in natural resource
management, environmental advocacy and wildlife habitat conservation