An American couple who planned to study lions North Luanga National Park are shocked by poachers’ decimation of the rhino and elephant populations. They design a conservation project aimed at finding poachers other means of livelihood, and observe the behavior of the remaining elephants.
Country Focus: Zambia (formerly Northern Rhodesia)
Secrets of the Savanna: Twenty-Three Years in the African Wilderness Unraveling the Mysteries of Elephants and People
By Mark and Delia Owens
Foreward by Alexandra Fuller
Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
About the authors: Americans Mark and Delia Owens arrived in Botswana in 1974 and chronicled their adventures with lions and hyenas in Cry of the Kalahari. After moving to Zambia, they co-wrote The Eye of the Elephant. Secrets of the Savanna is their third book. The couple claims that corrupt officials forced them to leave Zambia in 1997. In a blistering New Yorker article, reporter Jeffrey Goldberg claims there was more to the story than that, and that the couple’s actions against Zambian poachers went much too far.
And now, at eight-thirty at night, I listened to the lionesses pacing back and forth behind my tent. The lazy moon would not rise until after ten o’clock, so camp was dark except for my little flashlight beam bouncing around the shadows, illuminating one blond body after another. Ears erect, tails lashing about, each one walked about ten steps east, whirled around, and walked back again, sniffing the ground like a bloodhound. As always, the cats wore their thoughts on their tails: agitated, alert, definitely curious, probably hungry. This was not good. One lioness could topple my tent with a single blow; ten could demolish it like tissue paper – with me wrapped inside. They were not simply passing by, satisfying their curiosity. They were focused on my tent.
I sat in my small folding safari chair for more than an hour, listening to the lions, loving it and hating it at the same time. Meanwhile, the hippos sounded as if they were having a small war down by the river. Their loud splashing sounds and territorial roars mingled with the soft footfalls of lion paws. Great night out.