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Now and then, a book breaks through the wallpaper of my life and delivers its message intravenously. Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott did that for me – an intense, inspiring, and moving read.

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott

Sharon Pincott made the life-changing decision in 2001 to forgo her jet-setting job and comfortable Australian home to make a difference in the world. Having sold her possessions, and later her home, to fund this project, she arrived in Zimbabwe during a tumultuous time in this country’s history – to spend time with a herd of elephants that in 1990 was granted protection under President Mugabe’s decree.

These wild elephants roam over a large, unfenced area that includes the magnificent Hwange National Park and the adjacent Hwange Estate. The presidential protection turned out to be a paper tiger, and to this day, the elephants face the same threats that elephants face all over Africa – primarily poachers and trophy hunters – exacerbated and fuelled by Mugabe’s controversial and destructive land reform programme.

Sharon is one with the elephants. ©NHU Africa

This book is not your classic African safari story; it chronicles Pincott’s roller-coaster journey and follows the lives of several of the matriarchs she got to know.

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott
Sharon with the gentle Misty. ©NHU Africa

Over an incredible 13 years, this tough-as-teak lady developed a valuable understanding of all 17 extended family groups that make up the greater 500-strong herd. She also became the public figurehead of this herd in their battle against the deadly intentions of the poachers and trophy hunters. Her deeply personal bond with some of the matriarchs (who would come running when she called) struck a chord with me, although the touching and caressing of some of the elephants would surely have attracted criticism from many.

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott
Willa and Sharon share a tender moment.

And yet, here we are – Zimbabwe’s Presidential Herd of elephants is now famous and under intense international scrutiny. Job done. Well, partly. Will Zimbabwe take advantage of this marketing godsend and capitalise on high levels of safari tourism interest? Time will tell.

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott
It was a very different life in Africa for Sharon. ©Brent Stapelkamp

Sharon Pincott is, at the time of writing, currently back in Australia, taking a break from the pressures of the intensely political world of wildlife conservation. Hopefully, her energy and passion will not be lost to Africa, and she will soon return. Again, time will tell.

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott
Sharon spent hours every day sitting on the roof of her 4×4 recording the lives of the Presidential Elephants ©NHU Africa

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott is available on

Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott
Sharon with some of the elephants ©NHU Africa

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