Oct 19, 2013


by Mark Seal

This is one from the pile of books I recently picked up from a library sale. I started reading it the same day and it's been hard to set it down again! It's about the life of Joan Root, a woman in Kenya who was involved in making documentary films about the wildlife and also conservation efforts. Her story starts out somewhat idyllic, when she was married to Alan Root and spend many years on endless safari filming wildlife and having adventures all over Africa. Their methods of filming without human intervention and Alan's skill with the camera earned them fame as wildlife filmmakers. Through it all, Joan worked in the background organizing everything, while Alan was in the spotlight. Spoiler: his good looks and fame caught the attention of another woman who practically stole him from Joan. She was devastated at first, then rebuilt her life, now focused on the animals. She had always rescued injured and orphaned wildlife, but now became heavily involved in protecting wild animals that lived on her property on Lake Naivasha. She recognized that the poachers who illegally overfished the lake and the hothouse flower industry that grew around it were threatening to collapse the lake's ecosystem, and she did what she could to stop that. Including hiring "reformed' poachers to thwart the poaching. It might have cost her her life. She was murdered in 2006, and who did it still remains something of a mystery, but Seal tells a good story with all the details leading up to her end. She was an incredible woman and I wished to hear more about her work, especially with the wildlife. I'm curious now to see some of the films she and Alan made; in the 70's they were winning Academy Awards for best documentary of the year, using techniques and capturing on film wildlife behavior that no one had ever seen before.

Rating: 3/5   234 pages, 2009

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