272 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.64 in
July 17, 2007
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 0618872507
ISBN - 13: 9780618872503
About the Book
In this thrilling real-life adventure, Mark and Delia Owens tell the dramatic
story of their last years in Africa, fighting to save elephants, villagers,
and--in the end--themselves. The award-winning zoologists and
pioneering conservationists describe their work in the "remote and
ruggedly beautiful" Luangwa Valley in northeastern Zambia, where the
elephant population had been severely depleted. As they studied the mysteries of the elephants' recovery, they found remarkable behavioral similarities between elephants and humans. They also encountered a scientific mystery: how could there be so many baby elephants and so few females old enough to be mothers? Ultimately, a young elephant named Gift provided a clue to help them crack the elephants' secret of survival. A stirring,
hopeful, and poignant portrait of life in Africa, Secrets of the Savanna is a
vivid record of the Owenses' unique passions.
Read from the Book
1 Delia GiftA 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. DaviesBetween 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
Table of 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
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.