Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story

Rate this book
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.

352 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2011

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Daphne Sheldrick

16 books89 followers
Dame Daphne Sheldrick is a Kenyan author, conservationist, and expert in animal husbandry, particularly the raising and reintegrating of orphaned elephants into the wild. From 1955 to 1976, Sheldrick was co-warden of Kenya’s Tsavo National Park.

Sheldrick has been named as one of the 35 most significant conservationists ever. She has won the BBC’s Lifetime Achievement Award and has an Honorary Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery from Glasgow University. In 2002 the Kenyan government made her a Moran of the Burning Spear, and in 2006 she was made a Dame of the British Empire for her services to conservation work. She runs the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust with her daughter, Angela.


Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
2,419 (45%)
4 stars
1,745 (32%)
3 stars
871 (16%)
2 stars
212 (3%)
1 star
74 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 677 reviews
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,061 followers
February 28, 2023
For over 25 years, Daphne and David Sheldrick worked together to nurture orphans of various different wild species, and release them back into the wild. Concentrating on elephants and rhinos, they also rescued buffaloes, zebra, eland, kudu, impala, warthogs and many other smaller animals. After David’s death Daphne famously founded the Tsavo National Park, now a huge area spreading over 8,000 square miles. Species are protected by law here, and the work to rescue individuals and species and fight the poaching continues tirelessly, with Daphne at the helm, although she is now over 80 years old. In 2006 she was awarded the DBE by the Queen. An African Love Story, published in 2012, is the story of her life.

Daphne Sheldrick begins her autobiography with an anecdotal prologue. Searching in the Tsavo bush for a particular elephant, Eleanor, with whom she had had a special trusting relationship for many years, she had a very different encounter. What happened was so startling and dramatic, that it made Daphne resolve to write down all her experiences, for the world to read. She was the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared newborn elephants and the knowledge she had gained from a life-long observation of these gentle, intelligent, powerful creatures - so close to humans in their family structure, but so superior to humans in many uncanny ways - needed to be shared.

The book flashes back to when Daphne Sheldrick’s family arrived in Africa from Scotland in the 1820s. It is a chronicle of those early pioneering days of the settlers from Britain, describing their tenacity and fortitude. By 1907 the British Government had decided to make speed up progress in one of their colonies, Kenya, by expanding a single track beyond Nairobi, getting white settlers in to increase trade, and build a railway. The Governor made a proposition to Daphne's great-uncle. If twenty families for Britain would relocate to Kenya, then the government would give them free land on which to settle.

Those families were Daphne’s ancestors, Great-Granny and Great-Grandpa Aggett, plus all their children and children’s children. The story of how the family came to be living in Kenya was handed down from generation to generation. She makes a good job of bringing these historical figures to life, with all their quirks and spirit intact, as they lived their lives of self-sufficiency. Then follows Daphne's childhood, her upbringing, and frequent tales of her indomitable family. Animals surrounded her from a very early age, rabbits, cats, chicks and ducklings, a mongoose named Ricky-Ticky-Tavey and an orphaned baby bushbuck or antelope she called Bushy, and later on Punda, a tiny zebra foal.

By the time she was six, Daphne had already learned through experience the joys and sorrows of rearing baby animals. She also had to grow up very quickly, as World War II was under way, and her father was assigned by the Government to kill thousands of wildebeast and zebras within a game reserve to provide food for the troops.

Daphne relates how she went to boarding school, grew up, fell in love, and married her sweetheart Bill. The bias of the book is still very much towards Daphne's personal life. But intertwined with this is is an account of Kenya’s turbulent political situation. Shortly after the war the political climate was changing, and there was growing unrest from the Mau Mau, an underground faction within the Kikuyu tribe.

“It was impossible for Granny Chat, or any of us white Kenyans for that matter, to accept the Mau Mau view of the settlers as illegal intruders. Rather than brutal foreign colonisers, we and our ancestors were humane and totally honourable pioneers who had braved the unknown and, with blood, sweat and toil, brought progress to darkest Africa, promising law and order and good governance under benign British rule.”

Resenting the British settlers, the Mau Mau made attacks on livestock and property, which became increasingly barbaric. Many of the Kikuyu tribe were on the same side as the whites, and whether this is because the tribesmen were willingly loyal, bribed, or victims of oppression is hard to say. It is difficult now to find unbiased comment on colonial times. Anyone resisting the Mau Mau were subject to attacks which,

“became more brutal, barbaric and savage, with murder and mutilation turning into almost daily events.”

One member of the Wakamba tribe called Kinada, became sick and no doctors could find anything wrong. Every day he became weaker until he died. Later it transpired that the Mau Mau had ordered him to kill all the family, and because he refused, he had had a death curse put on him, which he had believed.

The family employed tribesmen who weren't aligned to the Kikuyu, Embu or Meyu, to guard them at night, but it did not stop a savage attack on the grandparents, who were,

“assumed dead, clubbed into unconsciousness and left lying in pools of blood.” Their neighbours were “hacked into little pieces.”

In 1952 Jomo Kenyatta, who ironically was later to become Independent Kenya’s first President, was imprisoned. It was thought that he was the mastermind behind the Mau Mau uprising.

“Terror stalked the country. The loyalist faction of the Kikuyu tribe bore the brunt of the carnage, culminating in the Lari massacre ... over 100 men women and children decapitated and left as a sinister warning to other Government supporters.”

British troops were shipped over to help quell the Mau Mau,

“There was resentment at the overtly sympathetic views of many of the British servicemen towards the Mau Mau cause and their condemnation of us settlers as a privileged elite who had no real right to be in Kenya in the first place ... Labelled the White Tribe of Africa, we were rapidly losing our stake in the country we viewed as home and could never be truly British again, due to long isolation in Africa. Nor could we be truly African either, because of colour and culture.”

By now Daphne was 21, married to Bill, and with a baby, Jill. The couple were working together with Daphne’s brother Peter. Bill, with a team of soldiers from the Kenyan Regiment, recruited Waliangulu former elephant poachers; bushmen who were expert trackers, to infiltrate the gangs and bring an end to the massacres.

In 1955 a new man arrived to head the new National Park in Tsavo. His name was David Sheldrick.

“Tsavo was by far the largest Park in Kenya, the most remote, the most unknown, the most untouched - uninhabited, shunned by all except the ruthless bands of professional poachers in pursuit of ivory and rhino horn. No other Park in the country was as fraught with such obstacles, and yet, David told us, he had to fight for a reasonable portion of funds for its development.”

The middle section of the book details Daphne’s personal life, and the crumbling marriage she had with Bill. She worked in the office producing reports, inevitably working very closely with David, admiring his knowledge and tenacity. The book is now far more about the preservation of Kenya’s natural habitat, including stories about the individual animals which the Sheldricks rescued, such as Samson and Fatuma, the first orphaned elephant calves in Kenya known outside zoos. Daphne was learning much from David’s deep understanding of elephants, sometimes in exact contradiction of what was perceived to be already known about their behaviour. He was passionately committed to wildlife care.

Bill meanwhile, established a highly trained disciplined unit he called the “Field Force”,

“an extremely effective anti-poaching unit that would prove the blueprint for all the other National Park forces in East Africa.”

“Tsavo was renowned for its elephant and black rhinos - in fact there were more black rhinos in the Park than in anywhere else in the whole of Africa, as well as some of the largest tusked elephants in the world, giants that carried over 100lb of ivory on each side.”

And of course, this is why the area was a poacher’s paradise. Areas outside Tsava were classified as hunting blocks, with approval from the Government. Provided hunters paid a fee, they were licensed to kill any animals which were named on their license.

“Discipline within the Game Department was lax, with a great deal of ‘shooting for the pot’ condoned and even practised among the officers, many of whom had joined more because they enjoyed the hunt that because they held any ideals on conservation. David was particularly intolerant of the professional hunters who skulked around the periphery of the Park hoping that one of its magnificent giants would put a foot across the border. I felt a sense of embarrassment that Bill derived so much pleasure from shooting an elephant ... There had been a time when David had also hunted elephants ... but since acquiring Samson and Fatuma, and as Warden of Tsavo learning so much about them, nothing was further from his mind.”

After such vigilance against the poachers, there was a drawback,

“a negative spin-off from the campaign, for having made the Park more secure for elephants, many more were coming in from outlying areas, especially from places where the human population was expanding. It was becoming obvious from our travels around the Park that the elephants were responsible for large-scale destruction of vegetation through their feeding habits and travel patterns.”

They were dreading being forced to follow South Africa’s example, culling their animals on a regular basis in order to keep the population at a fixed level, processing the carcasses for tinned pet food. Fortunately this did not happen, however, and David was awarded the MBE in 1959, shortly after a surrender by one of the chief poachers. This part of the book points up the complexity of the issue. An important member of the Waliangulu tribe, Galogalo Kafonde said,

“The elephants are finished. Rich people wanting more and more are responsible. Like you, I fear the demise of the elephants, for they are at the core of our culture and our daily lives. Always the Walianagulu have lived among elephants and have hunted them honourably as true men, only targeting large bulls and never killing cow elephants or their babies. Now ‘others’ who do not care about them kill them clumsily for mere gain. I want no part of that and I swear I will never hunt an elephant again."

These were true words. To this day, no tribesman from that tribe has ever been found poaching, irrespective of their tribal and cultural tradition.

The narrative makes it crystal clear that Daphne had fallen in love with David almost from the moment she saw him, although there was no agreement of anything permanent with David. On the contrary, having had one failed marriage, he had vowed never to be married ever again. After about six years, Daphne’s marriage to Bill was over, and Daphne moved temporarily to live with her sister Sheila, and work in an office in Nairobi, in 1958. Despite their mutual attraction, it looked as if she would never see David Sheldrick again.

On a visit back to Tsavo, the devastation to the environment caused by the elephants seemed very clear to Daphne,

“tree debris lay in tangled heaps on bare baked soil; baobabs were actually gouged out, with some even felled entirely"

and it looked as if a third of the elephant population of Tsavo would have to go.

The Conservative British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan made his ‘Winds of Change’ speech. He intended to give many of the British Colonies in Africa their Independence. With this double threat hanging over their heads, in 1960, Daphne married David in Mombasa, and they lived together in the Warden’s house,

“It must have been puzzling for Frederick the cook, and other members of the household to find Bwana Bill's former wife metamorphosed into the lady of the house and David’s wife.”

The couple were very much in love, and both totally committed to wildlife conservation. Daphne cared for many orphans in these days, such as Rufus, a newly born rhino calf, and Higglety, a banded mongoose, so-called because he moved in a ‘higglety-pigglety’ fashion. He eventually responded to the call of the wild,

“Higglety had returned to where he rightfully belonged, and as David reminded me, this was cause for celebration, not self-pity. It was the quality of life that counted, he said, not the duration.”

These were prescient words, as it was to turn out.

There was a civet cat named ‘Old Spice’, since a rub from David's aftershave sent him into “a rubbing and jumping frenzy”, Oliver Twist, a baby swift who had fallen out of his nest, Abdul, a baby bulbul, Puffin, a little puff-backed shrike, and Red Head, a red-headed weaver bird.

Politically it was an unstable time, especially for the white settlers. Kenya was granted self-goverment by mid-1963, followed by full Independence at the end of the year. Daphne was in danger of being classed as an alien. Many whites, remembering the bad times of the Mau Mau massacres, moved to countries such as Rhodesia, South Africa, Australia, Canada or Britain. Any former British Government workers who chose to stay, and became ‘Africanised’ would receive financial compensation plus a pension. Unfortunately for the Sheldricks, this did not include any of those who worked in Tsavo National Park.

Pregnant with Angela, Daphne found herself caring for a zebra foal, ‘Hupperty’. The concern over the burgeoning numbers of elephants continued. Their decimation of Tsavo’s vegetation was threatening the browsing species such as gerenuk, kudu, dikdiks and rhinos. The Sheldricks were terrified that the South African method would also be implemented in Tsavo. Elephants there were shot with the immoblising drug scholine, so that their meat would not be contaminated. Fully conscious, they then had to wait for a gunshot to the head, whilst the men jumped about over the herd of paralysed elephants to get a better vantage point. Film was made of panic-stricken calves, who were destined for zoos or circuses. The tiniest calves, those still dependent on milk, were slaughtered last. Once the entire family was dead, they would be butchered for their meat. This was an annual event, and the South African elephants had learned that when a helicopter arrived, they should run for their lives.

The army helped to count the elephants in Tsavo: 9000 instead of the estimated 5000, and 15000 in a square area of 16000 miles. David did a lot of research, reading the record made by the early settlers, and became convinced by his own observations, that this was part of a cycle,

“what we were witnessing was simply the reoccurrence of a perfectly natural vegetation cycle: woodland thicket to grassland and grassland back to woodland thicket, all triggered by the elephants having knocked out the trees to enable grasses to emerge for the grazing species, having planted another generation of trees in their dung, etc.”

He argued that this greater biodiversity would also have more tourist appeal. A visiting naturalist said that grassland in Tsavo would be more beneficial than the dense commiphora thicket, and agreed that the elephants should be left alone; that observing the course of Nature was a much better option. However, some of Kenya's most prominent and powerful citizens were beginning to trade in ivory, and corruption was rife. A scientific study was commissioned, which involved isolating and shoot identified entire familes. It was a grim time, when they felt a betrayal of all the trust they had engendered in these elephants. Fortunately all eventually agreed with David’s view.

The story continues with delight and joy, sadness and tragedy. There was the famous Eleanor, born in 1961, who grew to be the matriarch, fostering all the younger elephants. Also two young bull elephants, Rarau and Bukanezi, joined Samson’s herd. We learn of Reudi, a rhino, assorted ostriches, antelopes, Wiffle, a dikdik, and Lollipa, a buffalo calf. A bad-tempered little rhino was suitably called Stroppie, and a feisty newborn zebra, Punda, tiny orphan elephants were called Sobo and Gulliver, Baby was an eland. A beautiful impala called Bunty bridged the wildlife gap, giving birth to her wild young with Daphne close by. Yet in the middle of all this activity in 1970 a drought caused the deaths of thousands of animals.

By the 1970s the Tsavo National Park had been established as a tourist attraction, but the poaching continued. Around 500,000 in 1972, Kenya’s elephant population had fallen to 300,000 a year later due to the increase in the price of ivory on the stock market, much of it going to China on the black market.

Daphne's account of the death she witnessed of one elephant is profoundly moving,

“The death of this great elephant evoked in us a lament for all the wild creatures of Africa and the vanishing wilderness that had protected and sheltered them for so long. It was symbolic of the tenuous future all wildlife faced in a continent where poverty bred corruption and greedy people in faraway lands created the demand the fuelled the killing. The bull's very size and magnificence heightened the sense of tragedy, for there is nothing so profoundly dead as a five-ton elephant with the allotted lifespan of a human, who has died before his time simply to supply some unthinking Westerner with a trinket.”

The catalogue of orphan deaths escalates. Seeming to accept the formula milk to start with, they then rapidly declined. Daphne grew to dread the “sunken eye sockets, pronouced cheekbones and feebleness” she knew only had one end. One favourite, Shmetty - so named after the German for butterfly, ‘schmetterling’ after her ears - was following this same path. In desperation Daphne remembered that coconut oil was said to be closest to the fat in elephant's milk, so she tried that. Incredibly it worked, and this formula is used even now.

In 1976 came a new disaster. The National Parks were amalgamated with the National Game Dept. David was assigned a supervisory post, in charge of National Reserves, away from Tsavo,

“abandoning thirty years of painstaking work and leaving the elephant and rhino population at the mercy of poachers and their corrupt masters.”

The rhinos Pushmi and Stroppie were relocated at a ranch, along with Reudi, as rhino horn was such a prime target that they would have stood no chance. Most of the animals however, including Bunty, Eleanor, Raru and Bukanezi were left behind. It was shortly after this move that David clearly became unwell, although he was in denial about any problem, as he wanted to keep leading the same active life that he always had. He died a few months later in 1977.

Within a few months Daphne had been commissioned to write wildlife articles for the country’s Wildlife Clubs, and been given permission to erect a bungalow in the Nairobi National Park, so that she could continue working with animals. An appeal was set up, called the David Sheldrick Memorial Appeal, and the seeds of ‘The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust’ were sown. Daphne continues to live and work there to this day, continuing to fight poaching, and promote animal welfare, wildlife conservation and community awareness.

This is an important book, about a remarkable person, but it is not an easy read. The three components, Kenya's political history, Daphne’s personal life (about which she is remarkably frank) and the animal conservation side are probably about equally balanced. In places it is heart-breaking, but the sheer determination of the author to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles shines through.
Profile Image for Martin Rowe.
Author 32 books57 followers
June 9, 2012
Disclaimer: I have visited and given money to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, and so should you. Daphne Sheldrick has made a major contribution to wildlife conservation and her work is to be applauded. Her memoir is a somewhat conventional "Out of Africa" story: hardy pioneers, gauzy sunsets, magnificent vistas, and lots of lots of stories about the animals who have come her way. She was obviously deeply in love with David, and yet he strangely remains a somewhat remote character. He is defined by his deeds, as he and other rangers carve out Kenya's wildlife parks and reserves and heroically try to stop the decimation of the wildlife caused by our insatiable demand for trinkets made from ivory and potions made from rhino horn.

It's hard to criticize a book for what it does NOT say, but, having worked for over ten years with another Kenyan conservationist, Wangari Maathai, I have a very different perspective on the history of Kenya that Dame Daphne covers. (If you haven't read Maathai's memoir, Unbowed, I would recommend it.) What struck me most noticeably in Dame Daphne's story was the almost complete absence of black Kenyans. Nearly all of the main characters are white and of British stock. The Mau Mau rebellion is treated as an affront against white settlers. Daphne's daughter studies in South Africa, and some of her relatives retire there to live, but there is only one reference to Apartheid. We get no sense of the conservation movement in the context of Kenya as an independent country. We do not hear from black Kenyan political figures or the press or, indeed, from the poachers. We never learn the biographies of the black attendants who look after and even live with the animals. Tribes are mentioned in connection with their hunting practices, but these Africans are rarely individualized. It's almost as if they're simply background for the white people's attempts to save the animals.

None of this, I'm sure, is done deliberately. Dame Daphne speaks Swahili and has lived in Africa all her life. Many of the white people she worked with were born in Africa. Yet she considers herself British first and foremost and she appears to share the bitterness of the settlers in southern Africa who felt sold out by British government as it retreated from Empire in the fifties and sixties. The animals she has spent her life rescuing have personalities and biographies, and her life with them is fondly and deeply remembered. It's a pity that all those black Africans who helped her all those years couldn't have been afforded the same attention.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,006 reviews36k followers
August 29, 2015
Daphne Sheldrick's passion 'and' compassion for LOVE....LIFE....and ELEPHANTS is energizing. In this memoir, Daphne' teaches us about love. She teaches us about life. And she certainly teaches us about elephants. She's kinda an expert! Ah...
If you think... I'm saying she is kinda an expert on elephants... ( Yes.. Highly trained and skilled
as she raised orphaned elephants and reintegrated them into the wild), but
Daphne is also 'kinda' an expert on love and life as well.

In the area of love...
she teaches us about the different types of love, changing love, the
and trusting one's inner voice even if the results lead to 'new action' that 'feels' risky and scary. Daphne and her husband David, (lovers and soulmates), had the type of relationship that made a difference in the world. They had purpose in their lives. Their 'drive-direction-action-with-a-purpose' .....created a 'win-win' situation for all. Their children and grandchildren grew up with the same values : passionate love serves purpose in the world. Great purpose in the world serves romantic love. It's a full circle love/purpose powerful way to live a rich life .. the most satisfying love there is.

In the area of life...
Daphne was born into the type of family where children's greatness blossom....
Lots of animals...wide open space to play and explore. From her mother she learned the value of hard work...taking care of farmyard animals - domestic duties- and gardening. Her father was more remote.. but he too.. was always busy involved on the farm.
She grew up in a self-contained family but they were a family known for their hospitality and often had many visitors. Her father came alive when friends and neighbors were over -telling them amusing stories.
As a child -- she learned and observed from her parents. They work hard and enjoy life: Both! As an adult.. Daphne also worked hard ... but 'enjoyment' and love was never taken for granted.
From her grandparents...especially her Granny Webb, she learned wisdom, spirituality, a love for
music and delicious foods

In the area of Elephants...
Raising an elephant is quite involved. Feedings are every three and four hours. A calf needs to be dependent on milk for the first three years. ( David & Daphne came up with the only milk formula which kept the elephants alive). It wasn't only elephants they were saving, but rhinos as well.
Daphne set up 'The Orphans Project', Fostering Unit, The Vet Unit, Community Outreach, and The Art Store. Set in motion.. One of Daphne's daughter will take over after her death.
Anyone can adopt a baby elephant for $50 a year.

When a baby elephant was rescued and then reunited with a herd which she was separated from for many years was such a touching story ... I had tears in my eyes. Those tears continued at the end of the book where we were treated to see many wonderful photos.
I'm glad these photos were at the end of this story --I had a deeper emotional tie with the family members -Africa- and the elephants 'the end'. So.., the photos were frosting on the cake!

I still remember 'my' favorite elephant. Her name was 'Effie'. She lived at the Oakland Zoo, in California. Grand memories of Effie! The 'few' photos I have of my dad.... before he died.. was of me- dad and Effie. I was about 3 years old with a little round belly.. but Effie's belly was bigger!

A wonderful - not ordinary- book!
Profile Image for Candi.
614 reviews4,635 followers
September 21, 2015
This was a truly delightful and enlightening book about the plight of the elephants, the dedication of Daphne and David Sheldrick to the wildlife of Africa, and the landscape of Kenya. I found it to be very inspirational - living out your dream and being able to actually devote and immerse yourself in work that you find truly rewarding – how wonderful is that?!. More than just a memoir of Dame Daphne's life in Africa, Love, Life, and Elephants is also a lovely tribute to the memory of Daphne's second husband and the spark behind the name of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

So many moments in this book were quite heartwarming, as Daphne and David rescued and raised numerous orphans of various animal species throughout the years. I learned a little bit about some of these other species and a lot about the elephants themselves. I loved that many of the elephants in the Sheldricks' care took the other orphans, whether elephant or not, under their wing and essentially made them part of their own family. There were moments of sorrow when some of the orphans did not survive, but also joyful times when they were saved and returned to their own kind in the great wilderness of Africa. Daphne struggled for so long to find the perfect milk formula to feed the baby elephants. I did not know prior to reading this book that such a feat could be so difficult. Since baby elephants were extremely sensitive to cow's milk, Daphne, through trial and error, developed many different formulas before finding the right one. I can only imagine her despair when it would seem an elephant may survive only for that creature to then suddenly deteriorate before her very eyes.

David and Daphne's insight into the behavior of elephants is just remarkable. These truly are an amazing species that exhibit emotions much like human beings. According to David, "In order to interpret elephant behaviour, you must simply analyse it from a human point of view and that way, you will usually end up close to the truth, something that scientists have yet to learn." Many times the Sheldricks would find themselves at odds with various scientists that would journey to Kenya in order to study the species of animals living there. Often, these scientists were missing the humane approach towards animals and the Sheldricks suffered additional remorse when decisions were made contrary to the true wellbeing of the animals.

Daphne reflects on the killing of animals for sport: "How lightly my ancestors shot at animals. For us, now living in a different era, conscious of the decimation of wildlife and privileged even to glimpse such creatures in a wild situation, the actions of my forefathers appear shocking and difficult to understand. But at that time the maps of Kenya showed little on their empty faces, and beyond each horizon stretched another and another of endless untouched acres, sunlit plains of corn-gold grass, wooded luggas, lush valleys, crystal-clear waters. And everywhere there was wildlife in such spellbinding profusion that it is difficult for those who were never witness to this to even begin to visualize such numbers. At the time no one ever imagined that any amount of shooting could devastate the stocks of wild game, let alone all but eliminate it." However, despite the fact that much knowledge was gained regarding the wildlife of Kenya and all of Africa, poaching was a constant plague to the animals and to the Sheldricks. The greed for ivory and rhino horn was a major threat to the elephant and rhinoceros species of Kenya. Huge initiatives were taken at various times throughout David Sheldrick's life in order to rid the country of these poachers.

The death of David Sheldrick was a huge blow to Daphne as well as many others involved in the preservation and care of Kenya's wildlife and parks. Daphne carried on his work and is someone to be admired without a doubt. I believe she found that by continuing her devotion to the animals and to her homeland of Kenya, the grief she felt was softened a bit. I think she demonstrated a very touching realization when she stated: "The wild animals were my solace, my companions and my sanity, and because of them I was never entirely alone… I thought about the elephants and felt humbled, knowing how stoically they dealt with the loss of loved ones on an almost daily basis, how deeply they grieved but how they did so with courage, never forgetting the needs of the living. Their example gave me the strength I needed to 'turn the page'."

Overall, this was an amazing book. Perhaps the writing is not "perfect", but I think when reading a memoir such as this, I often overlook some of the technical aspects. If the book inspires me, teaches me, and really gets me thinking about life and love, then it is well worth the time spent in reading it. I highly recommend this book if you love animals, love learning about other parts of our world, and love to feel inspired!
143 reviews
September 17, 2012
I am continuing to read this book only because Of its window into Kenya of the 50s and because I love books about nature- however- I am praying this woman comes to her senses in some of her views on big game hunting and colonialism. To wit: despite the fact that her British family decided to take up Kenya's offer of land and move into masai tribal lands she is astounded at the Mau Mau anti colonial guerilla war- different tribes but you get the point. She sees her family as benign colonists. Also she deftly explains away her families big game hunting saying they never imagined that Africas natural bounty would ever run out. But then castigates the local tribes who made clothes out of animal pelts and the poachers who kill just for tusks... Which according to her we're only valued on the Arabic and Asian markets.... Not trying to defend poaching here...but don't see much difference between that and big game hunting.
Profile Image for Kali.
524 reviews36 followers
July 31, 2013
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 under Daphne's 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 one about the PTSD dude with a dog with the kitschy title, 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-newsworthy. I think Daphne's description/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 can't speak much to this but do find a bit of her cultural belief system the elephant (ha!) 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.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,737 reviews1,469 followers
December 11, 2012
I have assorted thoughts on this book. First of all the language is detached, polite, oh so proper British English, quite different from how Americans express themselves. The "Britishness" is reflected not only in word pronunciation but also in the choice of words, the views presented and the life style of the family, of clear colonial stock. I am listening to the audiobook and the narration by Virginia McKenna emphasizes this. It kind of bugs me a bit. Maybe the "Britishness" of the narration perfectly depicts the "Britishness" of the author, so I am unsure whether this is a fair criticism. Even for me the narration is slow! Others will definitely have to increase the speed. The narrator puts too much emotion into her reading.

There is quite a bit about the policies of animal protection in Kenya, about natural selection, authorized culling versus poaching and how the entire ecosystem affects wildlife. This is pretty interesting. This is related to both politics and history too. The Mau Mau Rebellion is covered, as well as the independence of Kenya. Here again one is given the English colonial point of view! To me this seems rather one-sided.

I was getting a little bit annoyed, because I wanted to hear about her relationships with the orphaned animals! That is what primarily attracted me to the book. Luckily, in the second half, there is quite a bit more about the animals. Elena and Gregory Peck and Bunty and others have joined the story, so now I am not grumbling any more. I love the antics of these animals, but don't be fooled, the book is an even balance between animal stories and a history of the protection of wildlife in Kenya.

There is also quite a bit about the author's love for her second husband....while she was still married to the first! With the "Britishness", with everything having to be so properly correct, the duplicity was a bit jarring. Her second husband is David Sheldrick, the David Sheldrick of the Kenyan David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. At times this book felt like it was written in support of this trust. At times it read as a eulogy for David.

What I enjoy most is learning about the animals! They are very special. How do they communicate? How do they understand? Telepathy? I don't know..... It is hard to find a logical explanation.
Profile Image for Book Concierge.
2,768 reviews332 followers
December 10, 2017
Digital audiobook narrated by Virginia McKenna

Subtitle: An African Love Story

From the book jacket: 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.

My reactions
This is a wonderful memoir that takes the reader from Sheldrick’s birth and childhood through her teen years, and first love, on to the love of her life, David Sheldrick, and the work they accomplished together. He truly inspired her to a variety of achievements, perhaps most famously the founding of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the orphans’ nursery in Nairobi National Park.

She writes in a frank and open manner, describing her missteps as openly as her triumphs. I can feel her empathy with the animals, cheered with her when she achieved success, and shed tears at the heartbreaking events that befell some of her favorite animals. While I was interested most in her work with elephants, Sheldrick had room in her life for a wide variety of orphaned animals – rhinos, antelope, mongoose, and a mischievous zebra, among others.

Virginia McKenna does a marvelous job voicing the audio book. She has great pacing and really brought Sheldrick’s voice and point of view to life.
Profile Image for g-na.
385 reviews8 followers
September 13, 2012
I just adored this book. It is an autobiography telling the story of an African-born British woman--how her family came to Kenya, describing how it was growing up there, meeting her first love, then later falling deeply in love with her soulmate. It is also the story of how Sheldrick, as the wife of a game warden, began to raise orphan wildlife to give them a second chance at life. She worked with many elephant calves and became an expert on how to raise them, given their surprisingly delicate needs and their complex family structures and emotions. As time progressed her elephant orphanage sprung from her "unofficial" work, and is going strong today.

I was so touched by the lifelong dedication Sheldrick and her family gave and continue to lavish on young, otherwise helpless animals, in many/most cases orphaned by poaching or other human interference. Like any story surrounding wildlife this one does contain its share of heartbreak, and there were several times I shed tears because of that, but the goodness within makes it all worthwhile.
Profile Image for ♏ Gina Baratono☽.
731 reviews119 followers
June 3, 2018
I've always had an affinity for elephants so this book grabbed me from the title and didn't let go.

Daphne Sheldrick's name should be better known to those of us who love animals and wildlife and want to protect it, treasure it, and stop any more from becoming extinct. However, I had never heard of her.

Daphne's family went to Africa in the 1820's, having migrated from Scotland. Why do I say her name should be better known? She is the first person to have hand raised newborn elephants successfully on her own. Daphne has an astonishing ability to emphatize with Kenya's vast variety of wildlife. Elephants weren't her only success story by any means.

To all lives, tragedy comes at some point. For Daphne, it was the sudden death of her beloved, David Sheldrick, Tsavo Park warden.

Daphne continues to have a huge impact on preservation of wildlife to this day, and is the founder of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphaned Wildlife Nursery in Nairobi. She is every bit a hero in my book.

Profile Image for Amanda.
228 reviews42 followers
July 25, 2013
The Boston Globe warns readers they might be tempted after the last page to sell their possessions and join the author's cause.

They are right.

This book packs a wallop. It is the story of a woman born and raised in Africa. Who eventually finds herself madly and deeply in love with a man who shares her passions. Together, they rally to create sanctuaries for a once abundant and replete wildlife. All of it against the backdrop of a heartbreaking and incredible fight for the preservation and protection of elephants.

As her story ensues, my heart was quickly consumed by every animal she offered refuge with hopes for rehabilitation, especially the elephants. And the depth of feeling and understanding the animals possess, which she explains through one unforgettable story after another, is nothing short of fascinating.

Beautiful, stunning, and moving. Easily a favorite read for 2013.
Profile Image for Melissa.
382 reviews79 followers
March 23, 2016
I took this book from the library expecting that it would give me the same kind of pleasure as YouTube videos of unlikely animal friends and also probably get me more riled up about hunting, which is something I'm probably already sufficiently riled up about. But I was not expecting just how much this book would offend me.

Before I start in on why this book offended me, I want to first say this about Daphne Sheldrick. She's an elderly woman, 81 at the time of this review, and it's amazing she wrote a book at such an advanced age. She obviously comes from a very different generation than I do and I cannot expect her to have taken in and accepted all the ideas about social justice that have always been easily at my fingertips (literally). She didn't go to college and learn about history or oppression; she went to secretary school and got married very young. So I cannot totally fault her for having seemingly no regard for the right of the Kenyan people to have been free from British colonial rule, nor for her seeming blindness to the fact that the colonial era caused the poaching to begin in the first place and that it is entirely her own parents' and their ilk's fault that all megafauna are being hunted to extinction. That said, I cannot just ignore it. Sheldrick's attitude in this book is often sickening.

Mrs. Sheldrick acts like the Mau-Mau uprising had no reason for having happened and she never explains about why the Kenyan people were rising up. She only talks about the fact that white settlers like herself were being killed. I'm sure it was horrifying for her. But let us imagine for a second that the British had a small minority of people who looked very different from them come into the country, take it over, and force the native population to work for them. Would anyone expect the British not to revolt and even kill the foreign usurpers of their country? Sheldrick was upset that the women at home provided the rebels with food. That's so funny to me. Did she expect the local women not to provide food for their male soldier relatives? The thing is, all the rebels had deep roots in Kenya. Their parents were not the first ones of their family there, unlike Sheldrick (her parents then brought their parents to Africa and she had two daughters there herself). The rebels were always there. It's their country. She was appalled and impressed with how the rebels knew the forests so well and could pick up on the slightest changes. Hmmm, Daphne. Maybe that's because, unlike your parents and the other British colonizers, the people of Kenya actually treated the forest like it was allowed to exist. They didn't cut the forest down to raise cattle there, then kill off any wild animal that threatened the cattle as well as any that they could sell abroad for profit.

In fact, let's think about what the British were doing in Kenya, shall we? They were ranchers. They literally cut down the forests to graze cows. They killed many wild animals in order to raise and kill even more animals. Even her husband, David Sheldrick, was friends with these ranchers, and seemed to have little problem with these white ranchers legally hunting the large local animals. In fact, it seems to me that the difference between what the Sheldricks saw as an acceptable hunt and an unacceptable one was the color of the hunters. And I can't help but want to observe that the Sheldricks were not eating processed food, but they were surely eating a lot of dairy and red meat from the local ranchers, and poor David Sheldrick died at age 58 from a heart attack. Just think: perhaps if he'd paid for fewer animals to have been killed for his plate, he could have lived to save more of the animals he actually cared about. Ultimately, the raising of domesticated animals and the destruction of wild spaces for wild animals is inextricably linked. Fail to realize this and stop paying to eat farmed animals and you fail to be doing even the minimum you could be doing to give wild animals a chance at survival.

I took a lot of notes while reading this, jotting down some things that offended me. Most of it had to do with Mrs. Sheldrick's complete inability to admit that the British had done anything wrong by being colonial rulers of Kenya. She was upset that the people like her who had turned the forest from "virgin bush" to "the finest parks" had to prove their British identity to the British after the rebellion. I suppose that's fair enough in a way. Obviously, people like her were British, not Kenyan. But, seriously, should we be thankful that the forest is a park instead of a wild space now? I'm not glad of that. She was mad when some British soldiers treated her like "the privileged elite with no right to be there" when, whoa, she'd been there two whole generations already. I'm sorry, Daphne, but that does not mean you had the right to be there. Of course, she's not exactly wrong to not have appreciated it coming from the British soldiers. It was their faults too. Their country encouraged white settlement in Kenya, and now their country was using their military to fight it out with the Kenyan people, and there they were, Bristish soldiers. She was proud of the soldiers David trained, his ability to turn "tribesmen" into the best army for "the crown" in Tsavo. I suppose I could see why she'd be proud since before that, the Kenyans who attempted to aid the settlers, in her words, "bore the brunt" of the attacks from the rebels. One could argue the settlers had a duty to make sure the innocent but not-brave-enough-to-be-rebels Kenyan people didn't just get murdered right and left for helping the colonizers. But ultimately, I don't think that is is a worthy source of pride to have trained Keyan people to fight other Kenyans for the sake of foreign invaders. It's twisted and sick.

That said, of course, I am glad that the orphanage exists. We can't change the past, and colonizing powers have already put humanity on the seemingly unstoppable path of hunting all wildlife to extinction in Africa and elsewhere. The orphanage is a drop in the bucket, and most of the orphans don't survive long into adulthood, but that doesn't mean I think their lives were not worth saving. As I predicted, I did enjoy the unlikely animal friendship stories in the book and OH MY were they plentiful, and yes, very cute and interesting. I also learned about some creatures I never knew to look up before, such as civets, dik-diks, elands, and kudus. That enriched my life, so I gave the book two stars instead of one.
Profile Image for Ariel .
262 reviews13 followers
September 5, 2015
I think the world would be a poorer place if it lacked Dame Daphne, David Sheldrick, and those that have worked with and been inspired by them. I believe the Sheldricks, via Daphne's writing as well as in their actions for wildlife welfare, have provided ample proof of the richness of life that comes with finding one's passion and committing entirely to it; that a life of such passion for a just cause is filled with ripples that flow out from a central inspiration and have far-reaching effects.

This being said, I experienced a distinct emotional remove from parts of Sheldrick's narrative. The root of such probably burgeoning, in part, from Mrs. A's Creative Writing class back in high school. Memoir writing and reading being a significant part of the course. I tend to hear her telling us to help our readers see our memories rather than having them picture us squinting into the midst of recollection from a remove by consistently employing phrases like, "I will always remember..." and the like whenever I sit down to read a memoir. I'd hope that you'd remember an event disclosed in your memoirs so I'm of the same opinion- I want the essence of said memory without the burden of a recollected remove employed prior or, worse, employed often. Sheldrick makes use of this phrase and similar in both ways and it felt like a hindrance to connecting with a lot of her personal reflections.

Exacerbating this hindrance was the jumpiness of the narrative in places. I felt that it took effort to remain steeped in the story while trying to connect names and times in the background and would have preferred a more fluid telling.

All in all, there was certainly a lot of love, life, and Elephants. I do feel it was an immense undertaking and that several animal's voices could be heard throughout. So while there were points I didn't enjoy because of my personal takes (i.e. Sheldrick's opinion on one person/one vote which would consequently give black Kenyans the majority - an opinion that could have been enriched by a more personal fleshing out concerning her fears & potential loss of the only home she knew but that came off the page as a very biased and selfish view that seemed to push aside the feelings and rights of others in an unflattering lack of empathy and acknowledgement.) to narrative pacing and consistency, I still thought highly of other points that make me grateful for the read.

Profile Image for Dov Zeller.
Author 2 books105 followers
January 31, 2018
I read this a few years ago and thought I'd written a review. Apparently I did not. I remember enjoying it a lot and finding it intriguing and informative. I also recall being a bit uncomfortable at times with her attitude toward non-white people of Africa, and worrying over questions and histories of colonialism. I am going to have to look around and see if I can find more specific notes I'd taken on the book. Or, at some point, perhaps I'll get it out of the library again so I can write a proper review. A few things that I recall being really interesting: the relationship between stress and poor health in orphaned animals--particularly rhinos who, if too stressed out, often died of infections that less stressed-out rhinos were able to "fight"; the trial and error work done to come up with baby formulas/mammary milk substitutes.
Profile Image for Jessica.
421 reviews48 followers
March 30, 2017
This was a combination biography/memoir, as Dame Daphne starts by describing her family's settlement in Kenya and her years growing up and falling in love with nature and animals. Her love of the physical landscape and Kenya's flora and fauna shine throughout the book, and of course the strongest parts are where she discusses her work with orphaned elephants, dikdiks, civets, Cape buffalos, zebras, and all manner of other creatures. The animal stories are funny and touching. The details of poaching for ivory turned my stomach, and I cannot believe it continues to be a problem to this day. It is a cruel and horrible way for animals to die.

The text is interspersed with details of Dame Daphne's personal life (her marriages, her children, etc.). While this felt disjointed to me at first, these details soon blend seamlessly into the larger narrative as her children grow up and eventually join her in her conservation efforts. Having lived through a tumultuous period of Kenyan history (she was born in 1934), Dame Daphne also includes her perspective and experiences of major events such as the Mau Mau rebellion and Kenyan independence. She expressed some views I felt uncomfortable with and also thought were rather contradictory. Basically, she was annoyed at the British government for retreating from its empire, yet also resented being considered an outsider in Kenya because she came from a family of white settlers. Her introduction of the larger social and political context was very undeveloped, in other words. While this is her memoir and I would expect personal bias, I will admit I am very disappointed that throughout the entire book, black Africans are largely absent from her story and she does not seem to take the time to understand perspectives that may be different from hers as a white colonist.

That aside, I would probably still recommend this to someone for the animal stories and the journey of Dame Daphne's efforts to successfully rehabilitate baby elephants. It's packed with interesting information in that regard. I just found that I couldn't overlook the spotty and undeveloped political/social context, and it did weaken the book for me.
Profile Image for Fahmida.
167 reviews63 followers
Currently reading
July 12, 2017
I love watching human nursed wild baby animals & ocean life documentaries on youtube. Just this morning youtube suggested me to watch the short documentary "Faces of Africa - Walking with Elephants", there I heard the name of David Sheldric Wildlife Trust in Kenya for the first time, also about Dr. Dame Daphne Sheldric for the first time. She wrote an autobiography, I learned that at afternoon. Those storytelling short video clips about the trust and orphaned baby elephants are too heartwarming that made my hats off with respect and very eager to read the book. Now, on that same day at morning I learned her name, at evening I am reading her book with immense happiness that usually I feel while having my favourite desserts. Haha.

Thanks Youtube.
Thanks Library Genesis Russia.
Profile Image for Svenja.
46 reviews2 followers
September 8, 2018
This book was absolutely stunning and so inspiring! Daphne is such a hardworking and resilient woman who has done such wonderful things with her life. I have always loved elephants for the gentle and intelligent creatures they are and this book showed me how emotive and loyal they are. It’s beautifully written and the passion for Kenya and all the orphans leap of the page 💗
Profile Image for Beth.
579 reviews14 followers
December 6, 2013
As a contemporary of Shedrick(just two years apart) also working on a family history, it is interesting to see how she managed her writing. Daphne did exactly what she set out to do- tell the story of her loves, life and elephants as she lived it. She divorced in a time before it was normal and remained friends with her ex-husband. She took hardship that included hours of no sleep to care for animals, and months of living "camp style" as an opportunity to love her husband, the animals she came across who needed help, and her extended family.

I found the family history of interest. We are those we descended from but we move towards species improvement just as animals do. So I think Shedrick approved that her husband hired the most qualified people from various tribes to assist with the animals and become rangers, therefore there was no need for her to soliloquize about blacks and whites as some other reviewers have suggested.

How she remembers each animal,the name she gave them the specific examples of their actions and personalities is amazing. How I would have loved to listen in when her husband explained the hows and whys of nature. I feel so lucky to have even had 8 weeks on 4 safaris to experience even a little of such exposure! This book lets me get deeper into what I could not adsorb during my travels.
Profile Image for Melody.
1,170 reviews331 followers
July 24, 2015
This one is painful to read. I can only imagine how painful it would be to live it. Very graphic descriptions of elephants and other Africa animals being killed for ivory, testicles, gall bladders and other black trade animal products. Dame Daphne and her family take in the orphans and try to raise them to adulthood so they can be returned to the wild. We get her personal story and the story of the animals.
282 reviews
February 13, 2018
Took me a very long time to finish this book and several times I nearly gave up. The content should be compelling, but the writing is not. The book really seems to suffer from an identity crisis. Is it a memoir or an autobiography? Is it a love story or is it an animal story? In fact, it tries to be everything and inevitably is not successful at anything.

Daphne has obviously done some amazing work throughout her lifetime and had a very exciting life and I imagine meeting her would be a very interesting experience. Interestingly whilst reading I realised that the place where Daphne lived was where The Elephant Diaries (a series by the BBC in 2005) was filmed. I can remember this series from all those years ago (evern before reading the book) and remember thinking the work they did was amazing. Ironically however, her writing, at times, comes across as boring and unengaging and really lacks emotion and passion. I liked a lot of the animal stories that were included, however I found it very difficult to become emotionally invested in these animals; firstly, because there is so many of them it is difficult to keep track of who is who and secondly because of the writing style. I also found the same problem with the human characters.

Daphne also has some questionable views and hypocritical views (her ex-husband was a poacher), especially about the locals and Kenya politics. Whilst she may be a product of her time and place, it does make for uncomfortable reading at times and alienates her somewhat from the more modern, liberal reader. I found it very telling that although the local elephant keepers obviously do the majority of the work in helping the animal orphans survive and dedicate huge portions of their lives to their jobs, there was very little included about them.

The book would have been better if she had, like another reviewer suggested, hired a professional writer or ghost writer and had focused on the animal element of her story rather than on her love story.
Profile Image for Kimberly.
141 reviews2 followers
July 5, 2012
This is an inspirational book for anyone interested in rescuing animals. It's also an interesting (if not a bit scattered) history of the decimation of the animal population in Kenya and other parts of Africa. There are some emotional parts that could have been much more emotional if Sheldrick had not kept such a "distanced" tone to her narrative. Not detached, just "distanced," which is understandable considering all the emotional pain she has experienced throughout the years.
I've read other reviews pointing out how she gives very little information on the lives of the keepers and the native populations of people in Kenya, except to point out the work they do and how poverty breeds violence and greed. I think Sheldrick is upretty up-front about who she is, where she comes from, and her purpose for writing this book, which is definitely not to give her version of the social history of Africa. Instead, she is telling her story with the main focus on the conservation of native wildlife and the work they do to keep it going.
Aside from the writing being almost like a laundry-list of events, jumping from one to the other, I really enjoyed this book. Particularly when paragraphs like this come up:

"It was symbolic of the tenuous future all wildlife faced in a continent where poverty bred corruption and greedy people in faraway lands created the demand that fuelled the killing. The bull's very size and magnificence heightened the sense of tragedy, for there is nothing so profoundly dead as a five-ton elephant with the allotted lifespan of a human, who has died before his time simply to supply some unthinking Westerner with a trinket. Those beautiful tusks were worth a small fortune to any trophy hunter, but for the elephant they were the very mark of his majesty and rank, a symbol that elevated him among the elite within his community--the identity that generated respect and awe from his peers and made him a dominant breeding bull." -pg. 226
Profile Image for Sandy Seppala.
12 reviews1 follower
March 14, 2014
Since I served in the Peace Corps in Kenya and visited the Sheldrick Orphan Project when I visited Kenya in 1991, I was most interested to read this book. I was not disappointed. I thought the book was excellent and that would be of interest to anyone.

The book is a memoir recounting Dame Daphne's life in Kenya, her marriage to David Sheldrick and how that changed her life, and, most importantly, her love of and commitment to the wildlife of Kenya. She became the first person to be able to raise elephants from birth. Orphan elephants were left at the Tsavo home, which were headquarters for the Tsavo Game Reserve that David established. Many were orphaned due to poachers. Other animal orphans were left there, including rhinos, bushbucks, and antelopes, and they joined a myriad of other wild animals that frequented the area around their home. Later, she moved to the Nairobi Game Reserve and, after David died, she continued her work with orphans and established the David Sheldrick Trust.

Her stories of the wildlife are absolutely fascinating. I loved the photo and story of how some ostriches became enamored with the training of wildlife rangers at their home headquarters in Tsavo and showed up as soon as their training starting to prance around behind the rangers. Her stories following Eleanor, the elephant who was a surrogate mother to orphan elephants before they returned to the wild were fascinating. Her understanding of elephants and of rhinos will change how you view them. The fight against poachers is heart-rending but readers will better understand that issue.

Most importantly, readers live through the days before Independence and up to today in Kenya. And, also, this is a love story on two levels: her love and relationship with the wildlife of Kenya and her relationship with the love of her life, David.

I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Donna.
3,903 reviews20 followers
March 1, 2015
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the animals and I felt touched by this account of Daphne Sheldrick’s remarkable life and her accomplishments. Her love of Africa, her family, and the animals were fascinating and engaging. Despite the title, it wasn’t just elephants. For being a memoir/autobiography, it was very well written. I’m grateful for that.

The first part was about the author growing up and her family structure. The story covered why they traveled to Africa to live. This part felt a little slow, but it was helpful to set the stage for the rest of the book.

The stories on the efforts to nurture orphaned animals in Africa were heartwarming, but it was also a difficult and heartbreaking read. It seemed like it was trial and error, to see what worked and what didn’t. So many of the little orphans didn’t make it. I laughed along with the happy parts and sucked back the tears in the tragedies. I like the subtitle of this book – An African Love Story because it really was.
Profile Image for Mark Tilbury.
Author 26 books264 followers
November 11, 2015
Daphne and David Sheldrick devoted themselves to the care of wild elephants in Kenya for over 25 years. This book tells of how Daphne and David met, how Daphne become immersed in David's work, and how after David's death, Daphne continues to work to save the lives of wild elephants.

This book took me to Africa. The descriptions of the surroundings, animals and their behaviours made me feel like I was there watching everything as it happened.

The battles against the ivory trade were (and still are) difficult to face. Some scenes contained graphic descriptions of the consequences of this vile trade and they are difficult to read.

The passion, commitment and love shown by Daphne and David to the animals of Kenya is boundless, as was their love for each other. Daphne continues to run the Sheldrick Foundation today.

This is a beautifully written book that made me feel the full spectrum of emotions.

An amazing read. Recommended.
Profile Image for Elysse.
31 reviews
November 2, 2022
This book was incredibly difficult to get through. For all the amazing things Dame Daphne and her family have done for wildlife in Kenya, she is unbelievably ignorant, as reflected by the language in this book. The first part of the book discusses her family as “settlers”, when really they were colonizers. No need to romanticize it! In the ~315 pages, she only mentions her privilege on 296, and in the context of being able to raise rhinos.

I’ve given to this organization for many years, and I still believe in what they do for the elephants and other animals, but I’m pretty disappointed by the elitism and white saviorism. Hopefully now that her daughter has taken over the organization, the family will educate themselves on their actual place in Kenya, and proceed more realistically and humbly.
October 3, 2012
This is the best preservation-of-nature book I've read since "Gorillas in the Mist" many years ago. In fact, I was so emotionally involved in Daphne Sheldrick's wonderful prose that I read portions of this book out loud to my husband. I heartily recommend it to anyone who cares about animals and worries about what happens to them. The author's anecdotes about rearing orphaned elephants, antelope, rhinos and more are both heartwarming and, often, heartbreaking. Please join me in loving and appreciating this book. (And no, I'm not related to the author in any way!)
Profile Image for Mellanee.
88 reviews
October 2, 2018
I loved this book. It was amazing to learn about the animals of Africa. They all are capable of emotions and have personalities similar to humans. They love, they cry, they hug, they express great joy and great sorrow, and they remember, especially elephants. With all the delightful animal AND people stories in this book, it also contains heartbreaking stories of the incredible, heartless destruction of thousands of animals for financial gain. This was hard to take. But there is so much beauty and goodness in the book, it's well worth reading.
267 reviews2 followers
August 6, 2017
I seldom give a book five stars so this means I truly loved the book! I loved reading about all the animals and their efforts to keep them alive. I felt like I Was there with Daphne. I admired her spunk and her way of life, but I wouldn't want to do what she did in those dark days of Kenya. I was so sad when the book ended...so unusual for me! Of course, I imagine I loved it even more because I am going to Africa soon and I love elephants and the wild animals of Africa.
Profile Image for Bonnie Brody.
1,193 reviews187 followers
November 11, 2012
Dame Daphne Sheldrick writes with a sure hand about her pioneering ancestors and family who farm in Kenya. Dame Daphne is instrumental in the environmental movement there and writes about her love of animals, her part in opening the Tsavo Park, and the memories she has of her life and loves in Africa.
798 reviews
November 16, 2020
WOW what a wonderful and heartbreaking book. I wish I had heard / read this book years before.
Anyone who loves Africa, who believes in Conservation and knows that there is a way to bring wildlife and humanity to live peacefully and productivly side by side MUST read this book. There truely is hope for the planet.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 677 reviews

Join the discussion

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.