Listed below are some fascinating true stories about incredible individuals creating their own adventures, overcoming adversity, and discovering themselves and the world around them. These books and memoirs make great gifts for adventurers, people interested in wildlife conservation, and animal lovers for the holidays! Check the Back Country Gear page for other books and gear recommended by Red Hawk Adventures!
Note: All synopses are from GoodReads.com and are property of their respective owners. All links are to GoodReads which has ratings, synopses, and user-created reviews of the books listed below as well as books on related subjects.
When the Iraq war began, conservationist Lawrence Anthony could think of only one thing: the fate of the Baghdad Zoo, located in the city center and caught in the war’s crossfire. Once Anthony entered Baghdad he discovered that full-scale combat and uncontrolled looting had killed nearly all the animals of the zoo.
But not all of them. U.S. soldiers had taken the time to help care for the remaining animals, and the zoo’s staff had returned to work in spite of the constant firefights. Together the Americans and Iraqis had managed to keep alive the animals that had survived the invasion.
Babylon’s Ark chronicles the zoo’s transformation from bombed-out rubble to peaceful park. Along the way, Anthony recounts hair-raising efforts to save a pride of the dictator’s lions, close a deplorable black-market zoo, and rescue Saddam’s Arabian horses. His unique ground-level experience makes Babylon’s Ark an uplifting story of both sides working together for the sake of innocent animals caught in the war’s crossfire.
When South African conservationist Lawrence Anthony was asked to accept a herd of ‘rogue’ elephants on his Thula Thula game reserve in South Africa, his commonsense told him to refuse. But he was the herd’s last chance of survival – notorious escape artists, they would all be killed if Lawrence wouldn’t take them. He agreed, but before arrangements for the move could be completed the animals broke out again and the matriarch and her baby were shot. The remaining elephants were traumatised, dangerous, and very angry. As soon as they arrived at Thula Thula they started planning their escape…As Lawrence battled to create a bond with the elephants and save them from execution, he came to realise that they had a lot to teach him about life, loyalty and freedom. Set against the background of life on the reserve, with unforgettable characters and exotic wildlife, this is a delightful book that will appeal to animal lovers everywhere.
Daphne Sheldrick, whose family arrived in Africa from Scotland in the 1820s, is the first person ever to have successfully hand-reared newborn elephants. Her deep empathy and understanding, her years of observing Kenya’s rich variety of wildlife, and her pioneering work in perfecting the right husbandry and milk formula have saved countless elephants, rhinos, and other baby animals from certain death.
In this heartwarming and poignant memoir, Daphne shares her amazing relationships with a host of orphans, including her first love, Bushy, a liquid-eyed antelope; Rickey-Tickey-Tavey, the little dwarf mongoose; Gregory Peck, the busy buffalo weaver bird; Huppety, the mischievous zebra; and the majestic elephant Eleanor, with whom Daphne has shared more than forty years of great friendship.
But this is also a magical and heartbreaking human love story between Daphne and David Sheldrick, the famous Tsavo Park warden. It was their deep and passionate love, David’s extraordinary insight into all aspects of nature, and the tragedy of his early death that inspired Daphne’s vast array of achievements, most notably the founding of the world-renowned David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and the Orphans’ Nursery in Nairobi National Park, where Daphne continues to live and work to this day.
Encompassing not only David and Daphne’s tireless campaign for an end to poaching and for conserving Kenya’s wildlife, but also their ability to engage with the human side of animals and their rearing of the orphans expressly so they can return to the wild, Love, Life, and Elephants is alive with compassion and humor, providing a rare insight into the life of one of the world’s most remarkable women.
Elephant Memories: Thirteen Years in the Life of an Elephant Family by Cynthia Moss
Cynthia Moss has studied the elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park for over twenty-seven years. Her long-term research has revealed much of what we now know about these complex and intelligent animals. Here she chronicles the lives of the members of the T families led by matriarchs Teresia, Slit Ear, Torn Ear, Tania, and Tuskless. With a new afterword catching up on the families and covering current conservation issues, Moss’s story will continue to fascinate animal lovers.
To live in a pristine land unchanged by man…to roam a wilderness through which few other humans have passed…to choose an idyllic site, cut trees and build a log cabin…to be a self-sufficient craftsman, making what is needed from materials available…to be not at odds with the world but content with one’s own thoughts and company.
Thousands have had such dreams, but Richard Proenneke lived them. He found a place, built a cabin, and stayed to become part of the country. One Man’s Wilderness is a simple account of the day-to-day explorations and activities he carried out alone, and the constant chain of nature’s events that kept him company.
From Proenneke’s journals, and with first-hand knowledge of his subject and the setting, Sam Keith has woven a tribute to a man who carved his masterpiece out of the beyond.
Everyone warned Kobie Krüger that being the wife of a game warden at a remote ranger station in South Africa’s largest national park would be an arduous move. The heat was unbearable, malaria would be a constant danger, her husband would have to be away for long stretches, there were no schools or nearby doctors for their three daughters, and of course the area teemed with wild animals. Yet for Kobie and her family, the seventeen years at South Africa’s Kruger National Park were the most magical of their lives. Now, in The Wilderness Family, Kobie recounts the enchanting adventures and extraordinary encounters they experienced in this vast reserve where wildlife has right of way.
[…] But nothing prepared the Krügers for the adventure of raising an orphaned lion cub. The cub was only a few days old and on the verge of death when they found him alone. Leo, as the girls promptly named the cub, survived on loads of love and bottles of fat-enriched milk, and soon became an affectionate, rambunctious member of the family. At the heart of the book, Kobie recounts the unique bond that each of the Krügers forged with Leo and their sometimes hilarious endeavor to teach him to become a “real” lion and live with his own kind in the wild.
Writing with deep affection and luminous prose, Kobie Krüger captures here the mystery of untamed Africa–its fathomless skies, soulful landscapes, and most of all, its astonishing array of animals. By turns funny and heart-breaking, engaging and suspenseful, The Wilderness Family is an unforgettable memoir of a woman, her family, and the amazing game reserve they called home for seventeen incredible years.
When Lawrence Anthony learned that the northern white rhino, living in the war-ravaged Congo, was on the very brink of extinction, he knew he had to act. If the world lost the sub-species, it would be the largest land mammal since the woolly mammoth to go extinct. In The Last Rhinos, Anthony recounts his attempts to save these remarkable animals.
The demand for rhino horns in the Far East has turned poaching into a dangerous black market that threatens the lives of not just these rare beasts, but also the rangers who protect them.
The northern white rhino’s last refuge was in an area controlled by the infamous Lord’s Resistance Army, one of the most vicious rebel groups in the world. In the face of unmoving government bureaucracy, Anthony made a perilous journey deep into the jungle to try to find and convince them to help save the rhino.
An inspiring story of conservation in the face of brutal war and bureaucratic quagmires, The Last Rhinos will move animal lovers everywhere.
In the late 1980s, a female baby elephant was born on the plains of Southern Africa. In a “cull,” her family was slaughtered. Only the newborn female’s life was spared. Terrified and bewildered the young elephant was transported to America to be sold.
Bob Norris is a cowboy with an enormous empathy for animals. Handsome as a movie star, he was the Marlboro Man, with his face appearing on billboards around the world. But something was missing. When the hurt, vulnerable little elephant, Amy, came into his life, an incredible bond between the most unlikely of friends was forged.
Bob adopted Amy and through close observation, gentle training, humor, and endless perseverance, this accomplished horseman gradually coaxed Amy into overcoming her mistrust of humans, and her fear of the world. Amy became a beloved member of the Norris family, and partner to the ranch hands, but Bob knew from the start that the ultimate goal was for Amy to regain her confidence “and” her independence – even, if it were possible, to go back to the savannahs of Africa.
Amy may have left the cowboy’s life, but she never left his heart. “The Cowboy and His Elephant” is a story of mutual friendship, of genuine love and compassion, and foremost, this is an American story with roots that run deep in the values and traditions of the American West.
Check out these and other books, memoirs, and nature and adventure documentaries on the Back Country Gear page recommended by Red Hawk Adventures and buy them direct from Amazon.com!