If you’re anything like me, reading a book about wildlife is a poor second to getting out into one of Africa’s game parks and seeing it for yourself. But there are times when that’s not possible, so here are 5 suggestions for books about wildlife that will keep you entertained until you can get your next Kruger, Etosha or Chobe ‘fix’.
Most people don’t really ‘get’ hyenas. As I’ve said before, they need a spin doctor. In their book researchers Gus and Margie Mills show that hyenas are intelligent, powerful, even beautiful. In the first part Gus tells the story of his 12 years of studying brown and spotted hyenas in the Kalahari from 1972–84. In the second part, Margie describes both the pleasures and difficulties of their lifestyle in this remote area. If you’ve ever thought wildlife research is glamorous, here you’ll find out both the pros and cons. You’ll also come away with a newfound respect for hyenas – and the people who study them.
If you think being a wildlife writer is all luxury lodges and Five-Star sightings, think again. Author Robyn Keene-Young went to live in a tent and document the African wild with her photographer husband. He was taking pictures, she was in the ‘back seat’ gathering experiences to write about. Sometimes amusing, sometimes sad, her writing brings the places, adventures and animals to life in a way that shows she has ‘been there, done that’. I really enjoyed this book and preferred it to her second, Africa Unplugged.
The Elephant Whisperer
South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony’s Thula Thula reserve was a last refuge for a herd of traumatised 'rogue' elephants. But they'd no sooner arrived than they started trying to escape. As he struggled to create a bond with the elephants, he discovered they had lots to teach him about loyalty and freedom. Beautifully
written in collaboration with Graham Spence, it tells of the problems the reserve faced, sketches unforgettable characters and will deeply move you - even if you think he goes a bit too far with the psychological powers he ascribes to elephants.
Mahlangeni: Stories of a Game Ranger’s Family
Mahlangeni is one of the most remote ranger stations in the Kruger National Park, far from everywhere. But it was home for eleven years to Kobie Krüger, wife of the ranger in charge of the station, and their three daughters. Although the book isn’t particularly elegantly written, it’s a fascinating insider's account of how to run a household and raise a family with leopards, elephants and snakes as your only neighbours. There are fabulous insights into what this means in practice, showing how resourceful and unflappable you have to be to survive – and thrive.
This book tells some of the adventures and anecdotes associated with author Bookey Peek and husband Richard's wildlife sanctuary among Zimbabwe's Matobo Hills. One of the main characters is a honey badger, a rather lovable creature despite its reputation as one of the fiercest fighters in Africa, happy to take on cobras and puff adders, even a leopard. An undercurrent flowing through the book is the question of how much longer the Peeks can protect their reserve in the face of farm invasions. It’s simple story telling by someone who obviously has an affinity with the creatures she cares for.
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