My Top 5 Conservation Books

This week Conservation Careers Blogger Emma Ackerley shares her favourite conservation books with us. So if you’re looking for some career inspiration, heading out on fieldwork and in need of some Kindle downloads, or just lazing on the beach … here’s a few ideas for you.

Reading a book written by active wildlife conservation practitioners has had great benefits for my career path. Pouring over first-hand diaries from people that have been in the game for years is a privilege, and a great way to understand what front-line conservation really might mean for some of us.

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Tony Fitzjohn for those of you that don’t know was a sort-of George Adamson apprentice (Born Free Co-Author). He was born in London, England and had a life-long dream of meeting George Adamson and to work alongside wild lions. George Adamson and his wife Joy were two of the biggest lion conservationists in Kenya throughout the 60’s, and sadly both died at the hands of Somalian bandits and former discharged labourers of the Adamson’s.

The book describes many wonderful scenarios, a world so far from his previous in London; something we can all relate to when working in the field. He describes the corruption of Kenya, the walks with his prides and his ultimate savour and bringer of death – both ironically lions. He illustrates being viciously attacked by a wild lion but being saved by one of his own, along with George.

Tony fought for Mkomazi Reserve in Tanzania to become a National Park for many years, he now prevails in wild dog, black rhino and of course lion conservation under the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust.

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If you have an interest in elephant conservation, this is the first and last book you need to have in your hands. Lawrence Anthony was the first man to reintroduce wild elephants back into Zululand on his reserve Thula Thula.

The story begins with him translocating a herd out-of-control and soon to be killed. He welcomes the herd into his reserve creating a bond so strong with Nana the matriarch, that when Lawrence Anthony has his first son he presents the new-born to Nana within a few metres, as she had done before him with her little calf.

I’ve been lucky enough to experience wild elephants less than a few metres away from me, but this may not be the case for people in the future if the mass poaching events carry on. Lawrence Anthony was a massive wildlife conservation advocate for South Africa and his legend lives on in his books.

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Of course Dian Fossey had to be in here somewhere, being a fan of primates this is a must for any primatologist. Dian Fossey is honestly one of the bravest characters I’ve ever come across, whether this is because of pure ignorance or unbreakable love for the mountain gorillas she lived with for 13 years.

The book depicts her time spent In the Virunga Mountains at the Karisoke Research station, with detailed accounts of being charged by silverbacks, fighting off poachers and cattle grazers and learning to understand and respect the mountain gorillas’ intricate behaviour.

Dian Fossey really threw herself in the deep end and although she rarely contributed to the scientific community, she deemed active conservation to be the most effective type, when you’re in a situation whereby the century in which a new species is discovered, could be the exact same century it also becomes extinct in.

This is a fantastic documentary available on Netflix that depicts the current conservation status of the Mountain gorillas: I’d give it a watch below!

[vimeo 92226142 w=560 h=315]

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This book that showcases Lawrence Anthony’s complete courage; in hope to save the last Northern White Rhino. Antony makes a deal with the devil himself (Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Northern Uganda) to find and protect the last population of the Northern White Rhino left on earth.

He gets himself into nearby sticky situations far away from home alongside loveable elephant companion Nana. He goes deep into the Democratic Republic of the Congo in order to save the species from the brink of extinction, caught in the warzones of human conflict – a common theme throughout endangered species issues.

With rhino horn trade legislation in question, this one would be a good one to read to know what you’re up against, when there’s $300,000 worth of adornments walking around on your reserve…

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This book was particularly unique to read. Sapolsky’s rather inappropriate humour takes a little getting used to, but I guess that’s most primatologists for you. The book actually develops really nicely and is actually a bit of a tear jerker in places.

Sapolsky talks of his naive psyche as he first visits Kenya from America, handing over half his money in order to help a local student pay his tuition fees, later to realise he has been completely done over. You learn a lot about baboons’ behaviour through this book, their social systems and the implications of human-animal conflict that we all need to be aware of.

Baboons are often thought of as vermin in Africa, much like the racoon in America or the grey squirrel or rat in the UK. This is quite hard for me to accept as an outsider (although I have had Baboons steal my potatoes out the back of my truck before now). However, I still have a fondness towards them.

Their social hierarchy is so strict, I feel almost sorry for the less sexy baboons – (Sapolsky’s words) and can’t help to anthropomorphise everything I read in this book…

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