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Secrets of the Savanna: Twenty-three Years in the African Wilderness Unraveling the Mysteries of Elephants and People

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  355 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In this riveting real-life adventure, Mark and Delia Owens tell the dramatic story of their last years in Africa, fighting to save elephants, villagers, and -- in the end -- themselves. The award-winning zoologists and pioneering conservationists describe their work in the remote and ruggedly beautiful Luangwa Valley, in northeastern Zambia. There they studied the mysterie ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published July 17th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published May 24th 2006)
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4.07  · 
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 ·  355 ratings  ·  31 reviews

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Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, non-fiction
This was a rather bittersweet book. It was full of some beautiful - and utterly shocking - moments, but also parts that were quite sad and downright horrific. It was, all in all, a good book. I am sort of surprised that the focus was more on the people, and less on the actual animals. It was more of a memoir about this couple than the book on nature that I expected. Still, it had some fascinating moments in it.
May 31, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Mark and Delia Owens have spent a lot of time in Zambia, living their life as those people that we are often jealous of who take breathtaking pictures with binoculars and some soft looking animal in the background. Or not soft, but still intriguing, like elephants.

Secrets of the Savanna is about their experience in Africa trying to save the elephants that are being poached on for their tusks. There is a lot more to the story then the elephants, such as the villagers, the politics of the area, a
Jan 04, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Conservationists, animal lovers, tourists
Poaching leads to fewer elephants, a larger number of orphans, and a dissolution of typical elephant society. The authors document how the absence of adult females and matriarchs results in earlier pregnancies for orphaned females. They tell us the story of the orphaned Gift, who becomes a mother too early and whose daughter suffers from her inexperience.

The Owenses also tell stories of their youth as they correspond to elements of the animal kingdom. For example, Mark relates his father’s death
Dylan Lee
Sep 03, 2013 rated it liked it

This is the third book by Mark and Delia Owens. The first two were phenomenal. The first, Cry of the Kalahari, features the couple going into the Botswana desert and setting up camp for years to study the animals, mostly lions. The place is so desolate, not even the native bushmen live there. It's a crazy idea they have, and you love them for it and what they endure. The second book, The Eye of the Elephant, is not nearly as well known, but is their most compelling book. Every single incident, p
Chris Bartholomew
Jan 09, 2014 rated it really liked it
A good book. The true story of Mark and Delia Owens and their work in the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. Over the course of 20 years they turned back the tide of poaching in the area returning a viable elephant population along with the rise of quite a number of other African species. Using microloans to give the local tribes a better alternative to thrive outside of poaching. Similar to their Cry of the Kalahari which I read years ago.
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was ok
I don't really know how to rate this book. It wasn't bad or anything, but it also wasn't a book I'd go raving about. However, it might not exactly be the book's fault. It felt like more of a follow-up book, so I probably should have read one of their others ones first (maybe the first one). I feel like this book is meant for people who have already read their other books and already are aware of their conservation work and their story. However, I will say that despite that, I'm not a huge fan of ...more
Kirsten Cutler
Mar 23, 2019 rated it liked it
The endeavor to save African Elephants threatened by poaching is immensely difficult and never-ending. The authors offer individual chapters describing their efforts to enlist the help of local residents, some who are former poachers, to protect the dwindling population of elephants. The evidence is provided to show that as a result of the poaching of mature elephants, younger elephants are reproducing although they clearly lack the essential experience of older elephants. The big question remai ...more
Jane Burns
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

When I looked up Delia in order to read more of her novels, little did I know hers and Marks’s stories of living in Africa under pup tents and the stars! A fascinating read and you will fall in love with Africa and their work. Cry of the Kalahari is an amazing read as well.
Shauna Roth
Apr 19, 2019 rated it liked it
A very well written memoir of the years Mark and Delia Owens lived in Zambia. I wish there were more stories of the elephants and perhaps less about the building of programs to make poaching less profitable for the villagers of the Luangwa Valley.
Barbara Johnson
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very entertaining and educational!

I love to read about Africa. This piece showed me how terrible the elephant poaching had become. Thank you to these authors who were able to change that.
Philip Schwartzberg
I came on this book after reading "where the crawdads sing", which is a beautiful lovely book about survival. Delia Owens book about secrets of the Savana and the survival of wild life and people is as beautiful. Don’t miss it !!!
Katherine Campbell
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a "must read". The writing takes you right there among the people and the animals. The book is packed with information about Africa and it is weaved into a beautiful story. I found it hard to put down at night so I lost a little sleep but well worth it.
Anne Egbert
Mar 25, 2019 rated it liked it
I really wanted to read Delia Owens' non fiction after reading Where the Crawdad Sings. Interesting life she has had.
Carolyn Deboer
Dec 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Bish Denham
The writing was lovely and there were definitely moments when I felt myself to be in the African wilds. However, the book cover blurb suggests a different story which left me a wee bit disappointed.
I enjoyed this book, especially the parts that focused on the wildlife and the geography.

Despite heroic and even at times objectionable efforts on the part of conservationists like the Owenses, though, the elephant population in Africa continues to decline so ultimately it's a very sad story.
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Research for my trip to Africa included reading this inspiring memoir written jointly by Mark and Delia Owens. They each have chapters in the book, so you receive a male and female experience of the wilds they lived in for twenty three years. Aside from being a model marriage shouldering burdens and hardships without complaint together, they are both exceptional writers. Especially, Mark who waxes lyrical on more than one occasion describing the remote landscapes and connections with the animals ...more
Apr 17, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
After Mark & Delia Owens published "Cry of the Kalahari" they wanted to return to Africa. Prohibited from returning to Botswana, they went to Zambia where they remained for many years studying the elephants and working to establish programs to stifle the excessive poaching. This book is actually the second of the books on their years in Zambia, "Eye of the Elephant" being the first.
Reading this one before "Eye", I was disappointed. Part of what I enjoyed so much about "Cry" was the account
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Mark and Delia Owens' account of their time spent fighting elephant poachers in North Luangwa Park in Zambia. A well-written memoir that documents their struggle against entrenched interests that profited from illicit ivory trade that eventually got them run out of the country. Their North Luangwa Conservation Project lives on and is part of admirable efforts aimed at promoting conservation of wildlife while providing alternative employment opportunities (tourism, wildlife law enforcement, agrib ...more
AJ Payne
Apr 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
This book was really great. I learned a lot about elephants, about Zambia, and about the struggles of animal conservation in Africa. The passion of the two authors is incredible. Their writing style was really interesting, and many times made me feel as if I were in Zambia with them.

I highly recommend reading this book, even if you aren't into Africa or animal conservation. It's about a lot more than that. There are many anecdotes and similarities described between a broken and decimated elephan
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, africa
Non-fiction adventure... interesting book for the wild-animal lover. This is a straightforward and engaging account of a couple's experience in the African savanna, as they try to save endangered elephants and work for wildlife conservation. They have fascinating encounters with lions, baboons and other wild animals, as well as poachers and some government officials profiting from poaching. Fortunately, the couple has enough positive experiences with honest government officials and villagers to ...more
Dec 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book by Delia and Mark Owens focuses more on what the Owens couple is doing for the people of Zambia then the animals in the area. The Owens are focusing on changing the attitudes of the residents of the area so that there is a long lasting cease fire on the areas elephant population. The elephant population in the area is dangerously close to extiction due to illegal ivory poaching. The book sheds light on how the Owens were able to accomplish their goal, as well as the forces that wish to ...more
Jul 25, 2007 rated it it was ok
I can't get enough of these niche history/science books! But this one was not quite exciting as Secre Life of Lobsters. The Owens tell the story of their time spent working in the Luwanga Reserve where they create program that put poachers to work in order to save the bush animals. Interesting - and though I love elephants and the mysteries surrounding them and their current situation as they face more violent encounters with humans - I didn't love this book.
Apr 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
An exhilarating read that leaves you hopefully and depressed all at once. It sends you across the ocean and into the heart of Africa where you feel like you're experiencing everything with the authors. Great read!
May 05, 2013 rated it liked it
A good account of their years in Zambia and all the important work they accomplished. However, this was pretty much just an update of their previous book, The Eye of the Elephant, which I read many years ago.
Apr 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: safari, memoir, africa
Scientists with the souls of poets who can write well. Who love what they are doing. Love the land and its animal inhabitants. What more can you ask for?
Apr 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Pat Hardy
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing commitment to the people and animals in Zambia and their ability to shift in their next careers. Outstanding model of preparing the people you are helping to take over your work.
Dana King
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Learning about elephants and Zambia was well worth some melodramatic writing. I found it a little over-sentimental but the stories were great.
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
"Nice followup to Eye of the Elephant -- finishes up the story."
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