Daphne Sheldrick, whose family arrived in Africa from Scotland in the 1820s, is the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared newborn elephants. Her deep empathy and understanding, her years of observing Kenya’s rich variety of wildlife, and her pioneering work in perfecting the right husbandry and milk formula have saved countless elephants, rhinos, and other baby animals from certain death.
In this heartwarming and poignant memoir, Daphne shares her amazing relationships with a host of orphans, including her first love, Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope; Rickey-Tickey-Tavey, the little dwarf mongoose; Gregory Peck, the busy buffalo weaver bird; Huppety, the mischievous zebra; and the majestic elephant Eleanor, with whom Daphne has shared more than forty years of great friendship.
But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.
Encompassing not only David and Daphne’s tireless campaign for an end to poaching and for conserving Kenya’s wildlife, but also their ability to engage with the human side of animals and their rearing of the orphans expressly so they can return to the wild, Love, Life, and Elephants is alive with compassion and humor, providing a rare insight into the life of one of the world’s most remarkable women.
©2012 Dame Daphne Sheldrick (P)2012 Macmillan Audio
While Daphne Sheldrick undoubtedly led a fascinating life in Africa, this is not a fascinating book. It has the feel of a book that she started writing for her children, and then someone persuaded her to publish it for a general audience, but without eliminating the details that only a family member could find interesting. It is chock full of overly long, banal descriptions, repetitive observations and minor characters who come and go without contributing anything of significance. Every time a major life shift is going to happen, it is telegraphed so obviously that by the time it actually happens you're thinking, "just GET ON WITH IT, already!"
Dame Sheldrick also seems to lack any sense of perspective about things like colonialism and animal welfare. Her views are, understandably, rooted in her era, but several decades on she seems not to have gained any nuance in her point of view, or any sense of the larger societal issues that were at play and which contributed to the complexity of her situation. So she's really not contributing anything new to the literature of that time and place. She isn't one for enlightening analysis, favoring instead a worldview based on sentiment. For instance, she clearly thinks of herself as the "mother" of all these orphaned animals, and she frequently talks about how attached they are to her. But she seems to act primarily with her heart rather than her head, which makes her actions often seem capricious and poorly thought out, and perhaps not in the best interests of these animals she's so interested in protecting.
The narrator of the book contributes to the problem by reading the most sentimental lines in a tremulous whisper, which just emphasizes how amateurish and repetitive the writing is. In addition, she mispronounces words frequently. At first, I attributed this to differences between US and British pronunciation, but then she pronounced the word "geyser" first as "gazer" and then as "geezer" and I decided it was her, not me.
I should mention that the preface to the book is riveting -- if the rest of the book were like this, I would have been far more interested in it. As it is, with three more hours to slog through before my book club meeting, I'm seriously contemplating skipping the rest of it. I'd rate this one a complete waste of time.
I’m going to be real, I gave up on this book after dragging myself through 11 hours of the 14 hour long audiobook. My breaking point came when – shocker! – the millionth animal struggling to survive under Daphne’s care, or trying to survive in the wild after leaving her care, dies.
I love animals, and I want to love people’s heart-warming stories of living with animals. I like the idea of these stories. I like my own life, lived with two cats. I worked at the Humane Society and fell under the spell of fluffy unfortunates on the daily. But here’s the deal: I can’t get through these books. The quirky Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte, the kitschily titled book about the PTSD dude with a dog, this dame’s adventures interfering with wildlife after her people (she greatly regrets) fail to colonize Africa. I find these books sweet and mildly irritating and vaguely un-notable. I think Daphne’s descriptions and view of the jungle as enchanting and full of delight is beautifully expressed, and I’d love for her to write a fiction novel that focuses more on people and events in that sort of rare environment – I’d find that intriguing.
I also do find a bit of her cultural belief system the elephant (ha! obvious pun there) in the room. At one point she talks of how she fears a one vote per one person system for an independent Kenya, stating this would give Africans a majority vote over whites. The concept of someone publicly believing Africans should receive less of a vote than white settlers based on skin color is so offensive/racist it made me question if I should have purchased the book at all. On a more debatable thought level than every human being equal to one vote, her husband devotes himself to ending poaching in their area only to be confronted with ideas of overpopulation and arguments for culling. I wonder if this “we know best” attitude of cultural interference is healthy for anyone – the wildlife they have decided needs saving, the indigenous people whose ways of life they have decided to interfere with, etc.
As a final note, this was read by the author. This rarely works and always disappoints me. Daphne Sheldrick is now an older woman, telling the stories of a younger one. It was harder for me to get over the older voice – like I was being told a bedtime story of a yesteryear, the bygone days that I’m sure Sheldrick pines for. I think a younger narrator may have suited the story better.
Say something about yourself!
[THE PRINT AND KINDLE VERSIONS OF THIS BOOK HAVE MANY PAGES OF MAPS AND PHOTOGRAPHS. THE AUDIO VERSION DESERVES A PDF FILE OF THE SAME!]
This is the people and animal book I was looking for when I gave a disappointed review to Love at First Bark. This book is first a love story about the life of a very loving woman, two husbands -- both great loves, a daughter from each, and years of fascinating work with animals in Kenya. Daphne Sheldrick tells her own life story, weaving family events with animal friends, scientific discoveries, and world and Kenyan politics. She waxes quite poetic in spots, describing the romance and beauty of the scenery, the scent of ylang-ylang and animal sounds in the night. The story is balanced and consistent, although one chapter may be about high-level politics and the next may focus on an orphaned rhino or elephant they are raising. I found the joyful descriptions of the garden and the small creatures living nearby helps to compensate for the heart-breaking saga of poaching and general corruption.
Virginia McKenna, the narrator, is outstanding. She is a great actress, turning the words into a musical composition expressing fun, excitement and joy, slowing to a whisper for serious parts. She sounds like an old English lady wearing a ruffly blouse, face powder and a flowery scent, which may be just how the author herself would sound. Mrs. Sheldrick is only 78 now, living and working near Nairobi.
Predictably some people will be "turned off" by mention of culling and poaching -- all the wildlife systematically killed through greed, ignorance and bad politics. Well, folks, welcome to the real world! After all, what happened to our own buffalo! I do my own bit in wildlife rehabilitation in California. I cry hot tears when even one bear is disposed of unnecessarily. Too many people around the world still think animals don't matter, can't feel, etc. This is a valid part of "respect life," as a bear cub, eagle or river otter has a tremendous potential for life and joy. So I was actually helped, even comforted, by the way Mrs. Sheldrick handles these painful events in her own story.
As to animal communication, the author believes elephants communicate over wide areas by telepathy. She is not an animal psychic. However, David, her second husband, was an expert at reading the body language of the animals, and in that way they could discern feelings. She and David are not afraid to attribute human emotions to the animals they love. Indeed, elephants are more loving and caring to their family members than most people these days!
This is a totally lovely book! The sad and violent parts are not gratuitous; they have to be told. I love you, Daphne!
This is a deeply moving story of life and death of humans and animals. If you have any affinity for Africa and its wildlife, this is an absolute must read. Ms. McKenna, the narrator, was exquisite.
Daphne and David. Plus the whole menagerie of orphaned little ones.
The entire book!
Yes, too bad one needs to sleep sometimes.
This is a must for anyone who is a supporter of the David Sheldrick’s Wildlife Trust, but if you are not a avid supporter the book may have a hard time keeping your attention.
Yes I would recommend this book to the correct people; supporters of the DSWT. If you like elephants though, the Elephant Whisper is a better book and will make you fall in love with elephants.
Her performance is very good and it makes you feel that Daphne Sheldrick is reading the book. Virginia is so good; I had to check to see if Daphne was the narrator.
The book should be made into a movie for the sake of the African Elephant.
I am a lifelong lover of books. I got my degree in English & worked in the publishing business for many years. Now I work with wildlife.
As someone who has worked in the field of wildlife rehabilitation for many years now, I love books like this. Daphne Sheldrick is a true hero of mine and one amazing woman. She has lived an incredible life. Her second husband, David Sheldrick, was Daphne's mentor and soulmate. When he died of a heart attack at 57, Daphne was devastated, but went on to find her own calling raising orphaned elephants. This is no small task, no pun intended, and the knowledge she has gained is used all over the world to help orphaned elephants and other species. The things she has learned about elephants she passes on to the reader, making it all way too sad to see what is happening to these magnificent animals due to poaching. Elephants are light years ahead of humans on almost any level.
This book could have done with a bit of editing. Some things are a bit repetitive, but it is a small criticism.
I think having Virginia McKenna read this book to us was a very good choice. She is about the same age as Dame Sheldrick, and she has quite a bit of experience with wildlife herself. She and her late husband Bill founded the Born Free Foundation. She is a hero of mine as well.
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