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

by Cordelia Dykes Owens, Mark James Owens

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt | May 24, 2006 | Hardcover

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From the best-selling authors of Cry of the Kalahari, the dramatic story of Mark and Delia Owens''s last years in Africa, fighting to save elephants, villages, and, in the end, themselves.

Crossing stick bridges over swollen rivers and battling swarms of tsetse flies, Mark and Delia Owens found their way into one of the most startlingly beautiful, wild places on earth, the northern Luangwa Valley in Zambia. As they were setting up camp to launch their lion research, gunfire echoed off the cliffs nearby. Gangs of ivory poachers were not only shooting the elephants but also virtually enslaving local villagers. Against unimaginable odds, Mark and Delia stopped the poaching by helping the villagers find other work, start small businesses, and improve their health care and education.

Living with wild creatures all around (lions sleeping at their toes, an orphan elephant dancing a jig in camp), Mark and Delia observed surprising similarities between the behaviors of humans and those of other animals. The bonding among young female animals and the competition among males reminded them of their own childhoods. As the elephant population slowly recovered from poaching, the Owenses saw parallels to human societies under stress. Older elephants, killed for their tusks, had taken with them the knowledge that had been passed down to the young for generations. The slaughter of the elders led to chaos -- single mothers without older females to guide them, solitary orphans, rowdy gangs of young males -- and a scientific mystery: how could there be so many babies and so few females old enough to be mothers? A young orphan they named Gift eventually provided the clue to the remarkable discovery that revealed the elephants'' secret.

After the local ivory poachers were put out of business, they shifted their sights from the elephants to the Owenses. To save themselves, Mark and Delia took a lesson from the elephants, employing one of the last secrets of the savanna.

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.63 in

Published: May 24, 2006

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0395893100

ISBN - 13: 9780395893104

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– More About This Product –

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

by Cordelia Dykes Owens, Mark James Owens

Format: Hardcover

Dimensions: 256 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.63 in

Published: May 24, 2006

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0395893100

ISBN - 13: 9780395893104

About the Book

The authors spent 23 years in the Zambian wilderness where they started a unique program to lift the villagers out of poverty and allow the wildlife populations to recover from poaching. After more than two decades of work, they were driven out of the country by poachers and ivory smugglers.

Read from the Book

1 Delia Gift A gift into the world for whoever will accept it. -Richard Bach . . . there are conflicts of interest between male and female in courtship and mating. -J . R. Krebs and N. B. Davies Between the trees of the forest, amid the thorny undergrowth, under tangles of twisted twigs is a space that is more color than place. It is a grayness painted by drooping limbs and distant branches that blur together and fade into nothingness. It is not a shadow but a pause in the landscape, rarely noticed because our eyes touch the trees, not the emptiness on either side of them. And elephants are the color of this space. As large as they are, elephants can disappear into these secret surroundings, dissolve into the background. When poachers slaughtered the elephants of North Luangwa, the few remaining survivors slipped into the understory. They were seldom seen and almost never heard because they rarely lifted their trunks to trumpet. When we first came to the Luangwa Valley we could barely grab a glimpse through our binoculars of the elephants'' broad, gray bottoms and thin tails before they tore into the thick brush and disappeared. As poaching decreased, a hushed peace settled over the valley, like the silence of fog folded among hills at the end of a rain. In 1991 fewer than ten elephants were shot in North Luangwa, down from a thousand killed illegally every year for a decade. It was an unexpected yet natural quiet, as if a waterfall had frozen in midsong in an ice storm, leav
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Table of Contents

CONTENTS

FOREWORD BY ALEXANDRA FULLER VII PROLOGUE XI AUTHORS'' NOTE XXIII

MAPS NORTH LUANGWA NATIONAL PARK XXIV MPIKA DISTRICT XXV

1. GIFT 1 2. POACHER CUM MILLER 9 3. UPSIDE-DOWN ELEPHANTS 18 4. THE SONG OF THE WINTERTHORN 33 5. GRANDPA 45 6. ANY TIME FROM NOW 54 7. GULLYWHUMPER 65 8. NO SCHOOL FOR GIFT 78 9. THE WOMEN OF KATIBUNGA 81 10. MY TROOP 90 11. MOUNTAIN ELEPHANTS 97 12. THE COMMERCE OF UNDERSTANDING 103 13. THE KAKULE CLUB 112 14. TOO MUCH SUGAR 122 15. CHIPUNDU PRIDE 124 16. A PRESENT FROM GIFT 131 17. A DANGEROUS DINNER 138 18. WILDLIFE DRAMA 145 19. WHEN I CLOSE MY EYES I SEE ELEPHANTS 154 20. A DANCE WITH SURVIVOR 158 21. GRASS HUTS AND LEOPARD STUMPS 164 22. CAMP ARREST 173 23. ADRIFT 180 24. THE STONES OF MY STREAM 184

EPILOGUE 191

APPENDIX: THE NORTH LUANGWA CONSERVATION PROJECT 197 SUGGESTED READING 213 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 215 INDEX 221

From the Publisher

From the best-selling authors of Cry of the Kalahari, the dramatic story of Mark and Delia Owens''s last years in Africa, fighting to save elephants, villages, and, in the end, themselves.

Crossing stick bridges over swollen rivers and battling swarms of tsetse flies, Mark and Delia Owens found their way into one of the most startlingly beautiful, wild places on earth, the northern Luangwa Valley in Zambia. As they were setting up camp to launch their lion research, gunfire echoed off the cliffs nearby. Gangs of ivory poachers were not only shooting the elephants but also virtually enslaving local villagers. Against unimaginable odds, Mark and Delia stopped the poaching by helping the villagers find other work, start small businesses, and improve their health care and education.

Living with wild creatures all around (lions sleeping at their toes, an orphan elephant dancing a jig in camp), Mark and Delia observed surprising similarities between the behaviors of humans and those of other animals. The bonding among young female animals and the competition among males reminded them of their own childhoods. As the elephant population slowly recovered from poaching, the Owenses saw parallels to human societies under stress. Older elephants, killed for their tusks, had taken with them the knowledge that had been passed down to the young for generations. The slaughter of the elders led to chaos -- single mothers without older females to guide them, solitary orphans, rowdy gangs of young males -- and a scientific mystery: how could there be so many babies and so few females old enough to be mothers? A young orphan they named Gift eventually provided the clue to the remarkable discovery that revealed the elephants'' secret.

After the local ivory poachers were put out of business, they shifted their sights from the elephants to the Owenses. To save themselves, Mark and Delia took a lesson from the elephants, employing one of the last secrets of the savanna.

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