A POETRY OF ELEPHANTS
British writer and poet Rebecca Gethin has compiled a book in aid of elephant conservation. The anthology contains poetry from 31 poets. All proceeds of the book sales are going to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) in Kenya.
According to the publisher, “The strength of poetry is often overlooked in modern society but it has a strong and ever ready powerful voice at times of need. We hope this book may in some small way help raise awareness and funds for those who work tirelessly to save these beautiful animals for future generations.”
Rebecca lives in the wilds of Dartmoor in Devon. The opportunity for her to do something for an African icon and one of the world’s most beloved animals fuelled her determination to make her dream a reality. At the time of this interview, sales of “A Poetry of Elephants” had raised around £1,000 for DSWT.
What decided you to put together this book?
I went to a talk by Kenyan wildlife conservationist and presenter Saba Douglas Hamilton about elephant conservation and her early life growing up with them. At the end of the talk, she challenged everyone to go home and think about what we could do for elephants. Being a bit of poet, I decided to compile an anthology of elephant poems. I put out a call to poets, and had a fantastic response. I produced an online anthology, which was well received. A few months later, one of the poets suggested turning the e-book into a printed version. Of course, I was more than delighted! We invited more poets to contribute and the anthology began to take shape.
Have you always loved elephants?
I love all animals and fell in love with elephants while on a family trip to Sri Lanka last January. I defy anyone who meets an elephant not to be smitten. Before I first met an elephant, I read plenty of books about them. The most inspiring was Lawrence Anthony’s “Elephant Whisperer” and Katie Payne’s “Silent Thunder”. Any book about elephants is a delight.
Why did you choose the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust?
I was gifted a “fostered” orphan baby elephant for my birthday. I was impressed with their incredible work and their newsletters to the extended family!
What is your occupation?
I am a retired teacher, and I run a very small business selling children’s books. I spend a fair amount of my time trying to write. I have had two novels and two collections of poetry published, and two poetry booklets will be released by the end of this year.
Have you ever been to Africa?
No, but I fully intend to come and see elephants early in 2018. My husband grew up in Kenya, so there is an African connection!
Please visit Rebecca’s website for further information about her books.
Local photographer Ann Warner has produced a book of her photographs to raise money for animal welfare organisations. As well as being a keen photographer, Ann is passionate about Africa and her wildlife. We asked Ann to tell us about this interesting concept.
“For many years I have posted my pictures of various African animal species on Facebook, some selected from the wild and others from rescue centres in and around Harare. My personal finances have not enabled me to help organisations that go out and rescue the many animals that need help and as some of you know can never be returned the wild. It takes huge sums of money in care and rescue costs, so how could I possibly generate funds from my pictures to help in some small way?
“The answer came in an unusual way. I was approached by a gentleman in the USA whose interest – like my own – was to somehow help our wildlife. He was willing to help me utilise my pictures to try and raise funds for rescue centres in Zimbabwe. A small coffee table book was compiled, containing just under 100 of my pictures with brief information and facts on some of the animals, especially those that are becoming endangered or close to extinction and the reasons why they are important to our eco system.
“From the proceeds from the book so far we have been able to foster two rescued baby Elephants at Wild is Life ZEN and pay towards seven rescued antelope at the Twala Trust Sanctuary Harare, Zimbabwe. We hope we’ll soon to be able to help more sanctuaries through sales of our book.”
“Connections” can be purchased online: www.warnerwaters.org
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Tarzannandmike/
WILD IS LIFE AND ZIMBABWE ELEPHANT NURSERY: REACHING OUT
Roxy Dankwerts’ animal sanctuary outside Harare is home to a variety of orphaned and injured animals. Notable residents include Noodle the wildebeest, Pickles the Warthog, Missy the Giraffe, Joe the lion and Marimba the pangolin. There are other lions and giraffe, as well as impala, kudu, sable, monkeys, baboons and a couple of cheetah.
In February 2014 the newly formed Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery (ZEN) welcomed Moyo. This tiny elephant weighed just 56 kilograms when she arrived, (elephant calves usually weigh 90 kilograms) yet despite all the odds Moyo has grown into a mischievous elephant child, and is a true ambassador for ZEN. There are now six elephant calves being cared for and rehabilitated at ZEN.
What decided you to compile this book?
My mum is a keen photographer and a historian. Most of the photographs in the book are hers and she wanted to document the somewhat unusual story of the sanctuary, mainly for the family and for our visitors. She has been working on it for some years, having to add chapters as new developments take place! To put it together she got the help of professional designer Caroline Calascione. Mum has been a tremendous support to me during the growth of the sanctuary, through dark times and funny times… I have exasperated her, terrified her, appalled her and occasionally amused her with my adventures!
Have you always loved elephants?
Oh yes, we used to visit Mana Pools when I was a child and found these animals to be the most enchanting of all. During my A levels, I did a project on Elephants under the guidance of Garth Thompson. He absolutely cemented my curiosity and wonder for these extraordinary beings.
How and when was “Wild is Life” born?
About eighteen years ago I transitioned from farm animals (cattle/sheep/horses) to small wildlife. I was mentored by some well-known Zimbabwean conservationists, and slowly the sanctuary grew in an organic way. One thing lead to another, lessons were learnt, my heart was broken countless times, but finally we gave birth to the Zimbabwe Elephant Nursery. That was the light bulb moment! I would never have been able to establish the elephant nursery without the experience that I had gathered from a lifetime of animal connection, husbandry care and passion. Elephants seem to embody all the most difficult and complicated aspects of all the other species put together!
The joy of the Sanctuary is that the whole family is involved and engaged with the activities here, in one way or another. The support is tremendous and despite the sacrifices made by my boys whilst trying to grow up in this chaotic house of different creatures, they still appreciate the magic and importance of the natural world. They too, want to make a difference. Wild is Life will thus continue well through the next generation.
You have travelled to Thailand and Kenya to learn more about elephant sanctuaries; can you tell us what those experiences mean to you?
I think it’s terribly important to be constantly reevaluating one’s methods and techniques. I love to learn and read and research endlessly. Travelling to visit Lek Chailert and then Angela Sheldrick were huge moments for me. I was inspired, of course… but more importantly, my resolve was strengthened to continue on the path that I am on. I follow the protocols of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust pretty closely, so being able to visit and experience their work made me also realize that I am doing a few things right!
What is the most interesting thing you have learned about elephants from working with your orphans?
Their ability to forgive is remarkable. Their generosity of spirit is incomparable. Their curiosity is insatiable. Their sense of loyalty cannot be replicated. They are great teachers… I just wish people would take the time to simply stop, listen and watch. Human lives would be so much richer if they were able to open themselves up to learning from these remarkable animals, instead of trying to dominate them, laugh at them… or even kill them.
“Wild is Life: Reaching Out” can be purchased online: firstname.lastname@example.org