From Executive Suits to Elephant Tracks: The Unforgettable Journey of a Woman Living in Africa’s Wild for 13 Years

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.

Life swap: Sharon Pincott (pictured) is a writer and photographer from Queensland who spent 13 years living in the Hwange bush.

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.

Former life: She traded her life as a high-flying corporate exec (pictured) to live with elephants.

In a chat with the Daily Mail Australia, Pincott revealed, “I’m not someone who would go bungee jumpingโ€ฆ 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.

Remarkable relationship: Ms. Pincott formed an immense, life-changing bond with the elephants (pictured) that has been described as one of the most remarkable relationships with wild elephants ever documented.

Her days fell into a pattern โ€“ 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.

Daily duties: Ms. Pincott’s day followed a regular pattern – she would wake up early, wash, and clean before going out in her 4×4 at around 10 to search for the elephants (pictured).
Ties that bind: Arriving in the Hwange bush totally untrained, Ms. Pincott slowly established a friend base, as well as got to know the elephants and their various 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.

Documented diary: Ms. Pincott would find out what she could about each elephant’s family by taking photographs of identifiers such as their ears and their tusks.
Happy family: Once she had identified them as being part of different families, she gave each family a name alongside first names beginning with that letter – the M family all had M names, for example.

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.’

Great friend: One elephant Ms. Pincott formed an extra special bond with was Lady (pictured) – she was one of the first elephants to let Ms. Pincott touch her trunk.
Level of trust: By the end of her time in the Hwange bush, however, the elephants would come to her door and grumble as they would with family members.

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.

Good times and bad: While Ms. Pincott had many good times, she also faced constant adversity – people fighting against the elephants’ well-being and their land.
Memories forever: Ms. Pincott says that there is not a day that goes by where she doesn’t think about the elephants – sometimes, she finds it hard to look at photos remembering.
One day: While she says she’d love to return one day, Ms. Pincott feels she cannot currently.
Dying breed: According to Sharon Pincott, there are currently 400,000 elephants in the world, which might sound like a lot, but it means nothing when you hear that one is killed every 15 minutes.

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