A Touching Memoir About Finding Love, and Saving Animals, in Africa
Being at home in nature has never been a problem for Dame Daphne Sheldrick. In her new book, Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), she recounts her life in Kenya surrounded by the African wilderness and its creatures.
Central to the memoir is Sheldrick’s role in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, as well as her rehabilitation efforts for orphaned animals, especially elephants. At the time that the park was created, over 1,000 elephants were poached every year for their ivory tusks. The pursuit of ivory, as well as rhinoceros horn, left thousands of baby elephants and rhinos without parents or a food source. For the majority of her life, Sheldrick took care of these animals in Tsavo, from Higglety the mongoose, to Rufus the rhino, to Eleanor the elephant. Throughout the book, readers are given the historical context surrounding critical moments in the author’s life, such as the Mau Mau Uprising and Kenya’s independence.
Sheldrick’s love affair with the wild began early. “Something within the forest stirred my soul, and the background music of the river enhanced an almost spiritual experience for me,” she writes.
That sense of joy and passion for the animals of Kenya never left. Sheldrick continues working towards helping the country’s animals, especially her beloved orphaned elephants who need help before they can live once more in the wild. Her work began when she met and married her late husband, David Sheldrick, the founder and warden of Tsavo National Park. But she is a celebrated animal expert in her own right–and the first person to develop the specific milk formula needed to rehabilitate elephants and rhinos. Among her many honors, Queen Elizabeth II appointed Sheldrick Dame Commander of the British Empire, the first knighthood awarded in Kenya since the country received its independence in 1963. She continues to live in Nairobi National Park, where she has hand-reared over 130 newborn orphaned elephants.
Many of the animals that Sheldrick has taken care of eventually go back into the wild. “The call of the wild is strong. Each orphan answers that call in its own time, dependent upon how well the elephant can remember being part of a wild family,” she writes. This memoir, published May 15, gives the reader a sense of her true passion for Kenya and the animals that live there. For those who are interested in animal welfare, and extraordinary lives, this book is an engaging summer read.