My name is Roberto Alvarez-Galloso and here is an exclusive interview from Zimbabwe. Sharon Pincott is promoting her latest book “The Elephants and I” and we are honoured to have her with us.
The following interview was conducted by E Mail between Zimbabwe and Florida.
1. What was the purpose of writing ‘The Elephants and I’?
My purpose in writing The Elephants and I was an attempt to raise better awareness about the plight of Zimbabwe’s wildlife; about the plight of its flagship herd of elephants. I felt it was time to try to reach a wider audience. I also believe it’s important for people to better understand what those working in Africa often go through (regularly struggling against powerful adversaries, for example) to help preserve the wildlife that they, as tourists, come to Africa to enjoy. And I hoped too that making people more aware of the intelligence and human-like qualities of elephants, and the dangers that they face on a daily basis, would make them more adverse to things like the ivory trade.
2. What is the main theme of ‘The Elephants and I’?
There are various themes entwined throughout my story. One is of pursuing your dreams, whatever they may be. Another is of striving to make a difference, in one’s own humble way, and the significance of important friendships in life – both human and animal. In particular, there’s one elephant, amongst others, named ‘Lady’ – who, over the years, I’ve formed an extraordinary relationship with. I’m now in my ninth year of full-time voluntary work on the land where she, her family and their clan members roam. During my third year here I found myself caught up in an ongoing battle for the lives of these elephants, and also for the land on which they roam – after it was claimed by a government official as his own, as part of Zimbabwe’s ‘land reform’ program – fighting for what I believe in, and also for the animals who have no voice of their own.
3. What convinced you to leave a life of privilege in Australia to go to Zimbabwe?
The death of a close Zimbabwean friend in the year 2000, when he was just 38 years old, made me realise that life really is short – and that you never know what might be just around the corner. It was also the realisation – following his death – that sometimes you need to take risks in this life, if you are to find your true calling, and the deep contentment that we all strive for in our lives. (My story begins with these life-changing events, prior to my arrival in the Hwange bush.)
4. What has been the situation with the Presidential Elephants in Zimbabwe after the power sharing agreement in that country?
There’s been no visible change to date. I’m hopeful though that more officials will eventually help to try to right the wrongs of the past, and ensure similar things never happen again; that they will also help to insist that these elephants be better promoted to the world (or alternatively, allow a different safari operator to do so) – and also insist that the land where these elephants roam be once again properly maintained (so that dry-season water is available – as it must be – for the survival of the elephants, and indeed all of the wildlife).
5. Why has ‘The Elephants and I’ received publicity in South Africa but not in North America?
My book was published in South Africa. I would dearly like to find an American publisher, so that my story could then be readily available to the American public too. Some big literary names, like Kuki Gallmann (who wrote the international best-seller I Dreamed of Africa), and Americans prominent in elephant/wildlife conservation circles (such as Cynthia Moss and Delia Owens) have demonstrated their support of my book by writing positive ‘review comments’. But it’s not easy, from the remote Zimbabwean bush, to try to find an interested publisher who is active in the American market. If there’s anyone out there, interested in producing an American – or indeed a UK/Europe – edition of my book, I’d love to hear from you! (email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com).
6. How is the Zimbabwean veld at the present time and has it been able to avoid being affected by the turmoil in the rest of the country (ecologically speaking)?
The beauty and wonder of the Zimbabwean veld remains – despite everything. For me, it evokes deep feelings that no other place does. But nothing has escaped Zimbabwe’s ongoing turmoil. Waterholes – which the animals are totally reliant on for their survival – are regularly left to dry up each dry-season (especially in the August to October period every year); snaring of animals is rife; too many trees are being felled; and at certain times of the year, fires burn out-of-control.
7. Have you written other books about the elephants in Zimbabwe?
I self-published two Zimbabwe-only-edition books – one in 2004 and another in 2006 – however both of these are now out of print. The Elephants and I is a much more ‘telling’ version of events, covering the entire period from 2001 to 2008.
8. Will there be another volume of ‘The Elephants and I’?
I’ll continue to keep journals and to record the daily happenings, while I remain amongst these elephants. Whether this is ever turned into another book, we’ll have to wait and see.
9. How do you see the future of the elephants in Zimbabwe?
It seems to me that the elephants in Zimbabwe have few friends in their own country. Many seem to want to do little other than have them killed for their ivory, or have them sport-hunted relentlessly – that is, to have them killed for profit. Unethical and underhanded things continue to go on. The elephants have no future in Zimbabwe unless these excesses are righted.
10. What can the International Community do to save the elephants?
I believe that the elephants – and all of the wildlife – in Zimbabwe are doomed unless we get the tourists back. Tourism used to be one of Zimbabwe’s biggest industries. And Zimbabwe will never recover – and therefore the animals, and the people, will continue to suffer – without this much-needed foreign currency coming back into the country. So show your support of the wildlife by coming to visit Zimbabwe. But be sure to book with reputable tourism operators, who actively care for the environment.
If you’re a sport-hunter, be even more careful that the hunting company you’re booking with is a reputable one – and that you’re definitely not hunting in photographic tourism areas. Do your home-work thoroughly, and watch out for so-called ‘professional hunters’ who claim to be something they’re not. Unethical hunters, and unethical hunting companies, do exist – as I’ve come to know first-hand. If anyone would like to support my own ongoing voluntary efforts to help save Zimbabwe’s flagship herd – that is, The Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe – you can contact the SAVE Foundation of Australia, who actively assist by raising money to try to cover such things as my annual vehicle and computer expenses. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and specify that you would particularly like to assist my project. Your support would be greatly appreciated. With grateful thanks, Sharon Pincott, Hwange Estate, Zimbabwe