A Remarkable 13-Year Odyssey: Living with Elephants in the African Wilderness

Imagine leaving behind a thriving career as a corporate executive to embark on an unpaid adventure in the heart of Zimbabwe, living alongside elephants.

This is precisely what Sharon Pincott, a talented author and photographer from Queensland, did in 2001.

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Over 13 years, she called the Hwange bush home, dedicating herself to protecting these magnificent creatures.

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During her time there, Pincott forged an extraordinary connection with the elephants. This relationship is one of the most remarkable bonds ever documented between humans and wild elephants.

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Pincott’s journey was far from conventional. She didn’t consider herself a natural risk-taker, but her decision to assist the elephants came after the untimely loss of a close friend, reminding her of life’s brevity.

With no formal training, she arrived in Zimbabwe, gradually building friendships and getting to know the elephants and their families through photography, focusing on unique features like ears and tusks.

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She gave each elephant family a name starting with the letter ‘M’ and eventually recognized them by their distinct gaits, much like identifying friends by their walk.

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One heartwarming tale emerged from Pincott’s experience – the relationship between a woman named Sharon Pincott and a harmonious elephant family.

It took time for the elephants to accept her entirely, but they would eventually come to her door, even bringing their newborns. One elephant, Lady, played a significant role in her journey.

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Although Pincott never intended to touch a wild, free-roaming elephant, she rubbed Lady’s trunk, a profound moment in their unique connection.

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Toward the end of her stay in the Hwange wilderness, Pincott had gained the trust of the elephants.

They visited her regularly and communicated as if she were part of their family. However, her time in Zimbabwe was far from idyllic.

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She faced constant threats and harassment from government officials and their associates, who aimed to disrupt her work with the elephants.

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The most heart-wrenching moments were when an elephant family went missing for over a week, a grim sign that they had perished.

Ms. Pincott’s dwelling in Zimbabwe was humble, consisting of just a single room, but it held countless memories, both challenging and cherished.

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Her decision to leave was difficult compared to the end of a turbulent marriage. Although she yearns to return when the political climate allows, she won’t return to a conventional 9-5 job.

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The memories of her time with the elephants remain etched in her heart, making it impossible for a day to pass without reflection.

She expressed her desire to revisit the place someday but cited current constraints.

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Pincott highlighted the alarming statistics of elephant killings, with one elephant being slaughtered every 15 minutes, totaling around 30,000 elephants perishing annually.

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She implores people to refrain from buying ivory, items made from elephant tail hair, or elephant tusks to reduce the demand for these products and save the elephants.

In an increasingly rare sight, elephants are vanishing from our world. While there are roughly 400,000 alive today, this number loses significance when one contemplates the fact that an elephant falls victim to poaching every quarter of an hour.

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