Picture this – walking away from the bustling corporate world to join elephants in Zimbabwe, all without a paycheck. This is the path author and photographer Sharon Pincott chose in 2001.
For 13 years, the Hwange bush was her home, where Pincott, a Queenslander, committed herself to preserve the lives of elephants.
Her unique, enduring bond with these majestic creatures is hailed as one of the most extraordinary relationships ever forged with wild elephants.
One might view Pincott as dauntless, even borderline reckless, considering Zimbabwe’s turbulent state at the time. However, she admits to being quite the opposite.
In a chat with the Daily Mail Australia, Pincott revealed, “I’m not someone who would go bungee jumping… But the death of a close friend at 38 was a stark reminder that life is fleeting.”
Upon seeing her first elephant, she felt an unshakeable connection. When the opportunity presented itself to help these gentle giants, she seized it.
Initially, the vast Hwange bush and its resident elephants were overwhelming. But as Pincott formed relationships with the elephants and their families, she found companionship in the beings that once felt alien to her.
Her days fell into a pattern – rising early for house chores before venturing out in her 4×4, around 10 am, to locate the elephant families.
This timing was deliberate, as elephants are known for their familial bonding and privacy in the early hours.
Photographing unique identifiers like their ears and tusks helped her recognize and name different elephant families.
This practice evolved so she could identify them from afar, much like recognizing a friend by their gait.
Pincott earned the elephants’ trust for years, highlighted by the females introducing their newborn calves to her.
One elephant, Lady, held a particular significance in Pincott’s journey. “Lady taught me so much about her kind,” said Pincott, reminiscing about their special bond.
However, this unusual adventure comes with perils. Pincott often faced threats and harassment from individuals, some linked to the government, intent on harming the elephants and their habitat.
The most heartbreaking moments were when elephants from a particular family disappeared, often indicating a tragic end.
After spending 13 grueling yet fulfilling years in Zimbabwe, Pincott had to make the tough decision to leave, likening her experience to an ‘abusive marriage.’
The longing to return persists, especially when writing her book, but she waits for the political landscape to change.
Regardless of her departure, Pincott’s advocacy for elephants continues, urging everyone to contribute to their preservation.
With one elephant being killed every 15 minutes, leading to about 30,000 deaths annually, her pleas hold significant weight.
She emphasizes refraining from purchasing ivory or products made from elephant tail hair or tusk. “If there’s no demand, there’s no need to kill them,” she asserts.
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