The Eye of the Elephant
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The authors of Secrets of the Sahara battle the elephant poachers of Zambia in this “exciting . . . part adventure story, part wildlife tale” (The Boston Globe).

Intelligent, majestic, and loyal, with lifespans matching our own, elephants are among the greatest of the wonders gracing the African wilds. Yet, in the 1970s and 1980s, about a thousand of these captivating creatures were slaughtered in Zambia each year, killed for their valuable ivory tusks. When biologists Mark and Delia Owens, residing in Africa to study lions, found themselves in the middle of a poaching fray, they took the only side they morally could: that of the elephants.
The Eye of the Elephant recounts the Owens’ struggle to save these innocent animals from decimation, a journey not only to supply the natives with ways of supporting their villages, but also to cultivate support around the globe for the protection of elephants. Filled with daring exploits among disgruntled hunters, arduous labor on the African plains, and vivid depictions of various wildlife, this remarkable tale is at once an adventure story, a travelogue, a preservationist call to action, and a fascinating examination of both human and animal nature.



Publié par
Date de parution 29 octobre 1993
Nombre de lectures 4
EAN13 9780547524665
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0075€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Table of Contents
Title Page
Table of Contents
Authors' Note
Principal Characters
Mpika Districk
North Luangwa National Park
1. Flight to Deception
2. Home to the Dunes
3. Against the Wind
4. Beyond Deception
5. Into the Rift
6. Floods
7. A Valley of Life
8. The Heart of the Village
9. Survivor's Seasons
10. Eye of the Dragon
11. The Second Ivory Coast
12. A Zebra with No Stripes
13. Chikilinti Juju
14. The Eagle
15. Moon Shadow
16. One Tusk
17. The Eye of the Storm
18. Nyama Zamara
19. Close Encounters
20. The Last Season
21. Cherry Bombs
22. Scouts on the Prowl
23. Mwamfushi Village
24. Sharing the Same Season
Appendix A
Appendix B
Appendix C
The Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation
About the Authors
Copyright © 1992 by Delia and Mark Owens All rights reserved
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to Permissions, Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, New York 10003.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the print version as follows: Owens, Delia. The eye of the elephant: an epic adventure in the African wilderness / Delia and Mark Owens. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN -13: 978-0-395-42381-3 ISBN -13:978-0-395-68090-2 (pbk.) ISBN -10: 0-395-42381-3 ISBN -10: 0-395-68090-5 (pbk.) 1. Wildlife conservation—Luangwa River Valley (Zambia and Mozambique) 2. Elephants—Luangwa River Valley (Zambia and Mozambique) 3. Owens, Delia. 4. Owens, Mark. 5. Wildlife conservationists—United States—Biography. I. Owens, Mark. II. Title QL 84.6.233084 1992 639.9'7961—dc20 92-17691 CIP
Maps by George Ward
eISBN 978-0-547-52466-5 v2.0912
To Helen and Fred, Bobby and Mary, and Mama—for doing so much.
And to Lee and Glenda, who keep us all smiling.
Authors' Note
This story is not meant to judge Zambia's past conservation practices so much as to project hope for the future. The events described in this book occurred under the previous one-party Marxist government in Zambia. In 1991 the Zambian people elected a truly democratic government, which has taken positive steps to address the conservation problems of the country. It is only because of this change in government that we have the freedom to tell our story. Scientists and conservationists have the responsibility and the right to report their findings. By telling the truth, no matter how controversial, they incur a measure of personal and professional risk; by not telling it, we all risk much, much more.
The names of the innocent in this book have been changed to protect them from the guilty; the names of the guilty have been changed to protect us. The rest of this story is true.
Principal Characters

The Dry Season
D AWN IN LUANGWA. I hear the elephant feeding on marula fruits just outside the cottage. Quietly pushing aside the mosquito net, I rise from the bed and tiptoe through the dark to the washroom, which has a tiny window high under the thatched roof. All I can see in the window is a large eye, like that of a whale, blinking at me through the pale morning light.
One step at a time, I ease closer to the window until I am just below it. Then, standing on an old tea-crate cupboard, I pull myself up to the sill and see Survivor's eye only a foot away. Long, straight lashes partially cover his pupil as he looks toward the ground searching for a fruit. Then, as he picks one up with his trunk and puts it into his mouth, he lifts his lashes and looks directly at me. He shows neither surprise nor concern, and I stare into the gray forever of an elephant's eye.
Such an incident may take place in other areas of Africa, but not in the northern Luangwa Valley of Zambia. In the last fifteen years, one hundred thousand elephants have been slaughtered by poachers in this valley. Here elephants usually run at the first sight or scent of man. I want to remember always the deep furrows of folded skin above Survivor's lashes, his moist and glistening eye, which now reflects the sunrise. Surely this will never happen to me again; the memory must last a lifetime. And I must never forget the way I feel, for at this moment I can see everything so clearly.
We first came to Africa in 1974 and settled in Deception Valley, a dry, fossilized river in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana. For seven years we lived in tents among the bush-covered dunes, the only people other than a few scattered bands of Bushmen in a wilderness the size of Ireland. The lions and brown hyenas there apparently had never seen humans before. They accepted us into their prides and clans, revealing previously unknown details of their natural history. Our tree-island camp was in the center of the Blue Pride's territory. These lions—Blue, Sassy, Happy, Bones, and later Muffin and Moffet—often sat beyond our campfire or raided our pantry. Once, when sleeping on the open savanna, we awoke to find ourselves surrounded by lions an arm's length away.
We left Deception at the end of 1980 to complete our graduate work and returned in 1985, when this story begins. Our greatest hope was to find whichever Blue Pride lions might still be alive, and to continue the research for another five years. We would search every dune slope, dried water hole, and acacia grove until we found them.
But we had another objective, too. The Central Kalahari Game Reserve—long forgotten and ignored by the outside world—was now the center of controversy. Powerful cattlemen and politicians wanted to dissolve the reserve and divide it into large private ranches, even though the sandy desert savannas could not sustain cattle for long. We had a quite different recommendation: that the area be conserved for the benefit of the local people through wildlife tourism.
Despite the pressures on the Kalahari, surely few places on earth had changed so little during the four years we were away. There was still no development of any kind in the reserve. At our camp we would still have to haul water in drums for fifty miles, live in the same faded tents, drive on the one bush track we had made years before. Once again our only visitors would be lions, brown hyenas, jackals, springbok, giraffes, hornbills, and lizards.
Lost again among those dunes, we failed to realize that even though the Kalahari had remained much the same, the rest of Africa had changed. We had survived drought and sandstorms. Now we would be caught in another kind of storm—one that would uproot us and blow us like tumbleweeds across the continent in search of another wilderness. And there the storm would continue.
Survivor lowers his lashes again as he feels around for another fruit, finds one, and raises it to his mouth, smacking loudly as he chews. He looks back at me again. I can see not only into his eye, but through it. Beyond are thousands of elephants in massive herds wending their way along mountain trails and down into the valley, there to stroll slowly across stilled savannas surrounded by thick, luxuriant forests. Giant, gentle mothers and playful youngsters romp and bathe in wide, sweeping rivers, unafraid. Powerful males push and shove for courtship rights, then stand back from each other, shaking their heads, their ears flapping in a cloud of dust. Through Survivor's eye I can see the wilderness as it once was. The storm continues, but a ray of hope shines through. Because of it, some of wild Africa may be saved.
Slowly Survivor curls his trunk to the windowsill and takes in my scent as he looks directly at me again. I wiggle my fingers forward until they are pressed against the flyscreen, only inches from his trunk. I want to whisper something, but what could I say?
The eye of the elephant is the eye of the storm.
1. Flight to Deception
Every time that I have gone up in an aeroplane and looking down have realized that I was free of the ground, I have had the consciousness of a great new discovery. "I see," I have thought. "This was the idea. And now I understand everything."
A IRBORNE OVER THE KALAHARI for the first time in years, I felt as though I was meeting an old friend again in some secret corner of the earth known only to the two of us. During our seven years in this vast wilderness, I had got Kalahari sand in my shoes, and civilization with its fine hotels, its restaurants, its hot baths and other conveniences, had not been able to shake it out. The farther north I flew, the farther into the desert. Seeing the familiar pans, the fossil river valleys, the vast, undulating bush savannas with giraffes browsing flat-topped Acacia tortillas trees, I knew I was going back where I belonged. It was early April 1985.
While planning the flight to Botswana, I had been anxious that the six-year drought might have so changed the Kalahari's features that I would be unable to find our old camp. I was supposed to have met Delia there two days ago, but last-minute problems with the plane in Johannesburg had delayed me. During her long drive into the Kalahari by truck, and even after she reached camp, there was no way to alert her. If I didn't show up soon, she would think I had been forced down somewhere.

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