Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
When I saw this book recommended from my library, and needing a new biography to read, I jumped on it. Being the Granddaughter of an Elephant Trainer and having a great love for the wonderful gentle (in my experience) giants, I was ecstatic to read this! Perhaps I thought this book would be more like the stories I have heard all my life of my Grandfather & his Elephant friends, and the additional memories of my Father working with him and my own memories. Or perhaps I thought it might be similar to Water for Elephants, which I also loved. Perhaps I thought I’d hear more of the stories that I heard from my former in-laws of their lives in Africa (Angola, Congo & Botswana) before coming to America as refugees….
To my surprise this was uniquely not like any of what I had expected. Dame Daphne is definitely an interesting person, who
has lived an extraordinary life and I feel made a greater impact on the world than she realizes, let alone Kenya, and the rest of the African continent and it’s largest population. While there were something’s she shared in her life, decisions and actions that I personally don’t agree with she is still a stellar woman. Who undoubtedly ADORED her second husband David, who helped build her ultimate legacy as well as his.
In the reading of the book, I felt that at many times it dragged on and on. That Dame Daphne obviously prefers the company of animals to humans, and that the relationships with them, how brief some may have been were much more significant than those of anyone outside of David and her two daughters. That being said the stories of the animals, which are the basis of this writing, seemed never to end and went into considerably too much detail, which made me want to skip a lot, although I never did. But then it felt like a chore to persevere through the book rather than go along for the ride.
English: Baby elephants in “The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust”, Nairobi, Kenya. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust has, between 1987 and 2009, successfully hand-reared over 85 newborn and very young elephant orphans through its Nairobi Nursery. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This being said, there were many wonderful parts of her story that ultimately teach us lessons and leave us yearning to make a difference in the world around us. To follow our hearts, our passions and find our greater purpose here on Earth. Sadly most of the greatest parts of this book were in the last few pages. However, I’m sure that without reading the entire epilogue that they would have not been as dramatic or left such a deep impression. I feel that reading this book has left an impression on my heart that will stick. A further love of the African Wildlife, and fascination of Africa, more rooted desire to visit there someday and find my own way to serve there and here at home.
Passages that really stuck out were about Elephants and their amazing memory. A few of my most vivid memories are those with the Elephants, myself, my Grandfather & my Father. I’d always heard this my whole life… Until I was a teenager I didn’t fully comprehend. I remember going to The Hogle Zoo with my family, where my family had worked. My father was a boy/teenager when he’d worked at the zoo with his father. But I remember the elephants come running and seemingly so excited to see my father. Normally the elephants would ignore the tourists unless they were giving them food. But all my father had to do was walk up to the fence, say softly “There’s our girl. Hey Toka.” She immediately turned and ran to my father trying to reach him over the ‘moat’ around her pen. She seemed to be smiley and giddy as a child, mimicking my fathers similar reaction. My father hadn’t been there in years, and had been a boy. But I knew then Toka, Toni and Hydori all remembered my father, and associated the love and joy that my Grandfather (Avril Jenson) gave to them for all those years with my father as well. As you can imagine the times of going to the zoo with my Grandfather were even greater, with similar but more intense reactions of love and excitement for my Grandpa, who simply loved and adored these amazing creatures.
Dame Daphne relates a similar experience when one of her elephants joyously runs to enthusiastically greet a former caretaker from 30 years in the past. Her closing statement of the book Is that she has learned her lives greatest lessons from the elephants, wherein which no matter the wrong that had been done to them they had such a high resolve to forgive the trespasses against them, without the ability to ever forget. What a strong lesson in that simple statement! We as humans have the ability for things to slip from our minds, to actually forget many things after a great or small wrong as besought us, yet forgiveness is such a huge thing for us to obtain or give, and we can let it go, we can forget it ever happened and go on with life! Imagine never being able to ever to simply forget, but having to consciously forgive and take the higher road, to give others the chance to grow, learn and become better individuals, even though they might never do so.
She also elaborated on things such as a conviction that Elephants must be able to communicate telepathically. This, I find simply fascinating! I’m anxious to follow the studies through the rest of my life to see what we are able to figure out about their higher level and ability to communicate. In addition she also made reference to the fact that the animal kingdom seems to function at a higher level of understanding, in a much older and adjusted world. As if they have been given blessings and understandings than any of us humans could ever comprehend. Thinking on this, I believe she is right. We already know that God has only given us so much knowledge in this life so far, because of our cardinal selves, and the fact that we haven’t been able to raise ourselves high enough yet for further enlightenment. What a cool time that will be!
Despite the sometimes long and drawn out seasons of this book, I still highly recommend.
If you are interested in learning more about the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and how you can be involved go to their website to learn more: http://www.sheldrickwildlifetrust.org You can also follow them on Facebook, & YouTube.
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