by Mark and Delia Owens
This one picks up where Eye of the Elephant left off. Most of the previous book was about their efforts to stop poaching; while they had made great strides it was not wiped out completely. So this book continues to tell about the conflicts with poachers and govenment corruption- although on a lesser scale, it did ultimately prevent them from returning to Africa. It\’s also more about the animals- lions, baboons and wildebeest but mostly of course the elephants. How the years of poaching had decimated the population, removing adult breeding males and females alike- and what effects that had on their social structure. Also that they saw increasing number of tuskless elephants born in the population because of the poaching. I remember just recently reading about this happening in Mozambique; the Owenses saw it in Zambia in the early nineties. This book also tells a lot about the continued programs that supported village industries and also has chapters about each of the author\’s childhoods. So I have mixed feelings about it. I found most of the book interesting- in some ways I actually liked it better than Eye of the Elephant. It was good to learn about the author\’s backgrounds- what led a farm boy from Ohio and a girl from South Georgia to spend decades of their adult lives fighting for elephants in Africa. But I can see how other readers found this book disjointed- it not only switches POV every chapter, but also veers from telling about the anti-poaching work, village life and wildlife studies in Africa to relating childhood memories. Pertinent, yes- but also a bit abrupt. Also, I found the title and jacket blurbs a bit misleading. The back cover would make you think this book is all focused on the wild animals, but it\’s not. And I didn\’t find the data they gathered about how elephant populations rebound from poaching (or natural disasters) so big as to be considered a \’secret\’ revealed. Title had me expecting a lot of details about the private lives of the animals, and I just didn\’t get that.
There\’s also, in hindsight, all the stuff they left out. Which I discovered upon reading more about the Owenses online- this article in particular is disturbing. I wasn\’t even aware that Mark had a son, you\’d never know it from the book- but it appears he was heavily involved in the anti-poaching efforts too, which were far more volatile than the books let on. And that\’s the least of it.
Rating: 3/5 230 pages, 2006
Even if the book isn't the best, I'm glad there are people out there fighting the poachers.