What an Enchanting Life Among Our Elephants
If you have ever wondered what it is truly like to be one with elephants then you need only explore this book. For few of us will ever be able to experience the life of Dame Daphne Sheldrick despite our unending love of elephants. From her birth in Kenya, Africa on 4 June 1934, until now we can see what a special and unique life she has led and continues to lead in this, her 83rd year. And we couldn’t ever thank Dame Daphne Sheldrick enough, for her and her family’s devotion to saving the lives of our elephants. Or for that matter, writing this book: Love, Life, and Elephants, which Elephant Spoken Here highly recommends.
In Love, Life, and Elephants we go back and journey along with Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s ancestors as they make the decision to leave their native England and land in the then “British Colony of Kenya” (p. 1). And my, what a task that was considering the number of possessions that they chose to take! We experience Daphne‘s (nee Jenkins) marriage to David Sheldrick on 20 October 1960 and the birth of her two daughters; first Jill on 26 January 1955 with her first husband Bill Woodley then Angela on 30 June 1963. (David Sheldrick was born on 23 November 1919)
Experience a magical night under a starry sky in an Ithuma blind (perilously close, yet just beyond an elephant trunk’s reach, as Daphne pointed out) where the “cast of characters” presenting themselves in the “theatre of David’s dreams” (p. 115) included a family of “50 or so elephants and their young.” It was quite tranquil until a couple of rhino came up “puffing and snorting” (p. 116) to that same area of watering holes.
Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s Love, Life, and Elephants : An African Love Story is also a tribute to Daphne’s soul mate, David Sheldrick; his life and his untimely death . It is a tribute to his foresight in shaping Kenya’s National Parks as a wildlife warden and his tireless efforts at combating poachers and saving wildlife, including the conservation of elephants, especially when a corrupt system (i.e. government) became a constant setback and when it seemed there were few men on his side.
Now, scattered amongst precious orphaned baby elephants’ stories Dame Daphne documents David Sheldrick’s undying efforts to combat the rampant poaching of elephants. And it is especially disheartening to experience the wayward & cruel tactics of poachers themselves. The poachers’ choice of weapon, sinister acokanthera poisoned arrows (p. 76-78), would always lead to a cruel, cruel death. It was only through David’s decision to humanely put them down (p.222) that the dying elephants’ “excruciating pain” (p.225) and suffering would end. (It was also with a “heavy heart” that David and Daphne endured the “great elephant betrayal”. p.172)
And the elephants knew the humans that cared about them, in their life and when facing death. The elephants knew when they were being helped. For even in the numerous times when David would assist a trapped elephant out of a mudhole they would respond and lie still (p.221) for the cables to be positioned around their bodies so that the tractor driver could “tow them to firmer ground”.
But we also feel the joy of David Sheldrick’s victories. A crowning moment of David’s was when an elephant played a part in bringing a group of poachers down (their capture).
And who would that elephant be but… (read p.195 and find out!) …along with a Field Force Ranger, Ali, followed by a “column” of other orphans including “elephants, two rhinos, about six young buffaloes, a zebra and three ostriches walking behind”! (p.195)
Oh how sweet is that!
To be continued: Love, Life, and Elephants : An African Love Story by Dame Daphne Sheldrick: Book Review Essay Part 2 : What an Enchanting Life!