Book review: Wild is Life – Reaching out (by Sally Carney)

Wild is Life by Sally Carney

Front cover of Wild is Life by Sally Carney

Wild is Life – Reaching Out is about an animal sanctuary that has grown out of the turmoil that swept through Zimbabwe a few years before the millennium.

It is an inspiring, intimate photographic record of a home-made haven that started small – mongoose size – and then stretched. By the end of the book it is giraffe high … and the elephants have come.

Wild is Life, the animal sanctuary outside Harare, in Zimbabwe

Wild is Life, the animal sanctuary outside Harare, in Zimbabwe. (Please note that all the photographs and animal videos in this piece are mine, taken during a visit to Wild is Life in February 2017)

Sally Carney tells the story, much of it captured spontaneously with her camera.

My chat with a giraffe at Wild is Life, Zimbabwe

My chat with a giraffe at Wild is Life, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

Through the immediacy of her photographs Sally Carney shows us the relationships, and commitment that lie behind the success of Wild is Life.

At the heart of it all is her daughter Roxy Danckwerts, founder of the sanctuary.

Kudu - tourist viewing at Wild is Life, outside Harare in Zimbabwe

Kudu – tourist viewing at Wild is Life, outside Harare in Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

We follow Roxy Danckwerts, her sons and the animals over the course of the book, but it is the animals, particularly the celebrities among them, who steal the show …  Sweet Pea, the kudu; Noodle, the wildebeest; and Bones, the lion.

Wild is Life, Harare, Zimbabwe

Wild is Life, Harare, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

Two of the cheetah, Diesel and Levi, are the stars of school visits, and leggy Mirabelle is the inquisitive giraffe born at the sanctuary. Other stars include Pickles the warthog and Bubbles the ostrich but, perhaps more impressive than all of them together, is the quantity of others.

Ostrich and kudu at Wild is Life in Harare, Zimbabwe

Ostrich and kudu at Wild is Life in Harare, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

Today homeless wild animals still arrive at Wild is Life. They come in every shape and size, and spill over the garden and into the acres of natural woodland that lie beyond the lawn.

 

The book does not dwell on the sanctuary’s growing pains, nor on the difficult decades that Zimbabwe itself has faced. Instead Sally Carney draws our attention to the animals … to their recovery, their wellbeing, their future, and the benefits and pleasure they bring to the family and the communities around them. She captures the fascination of being able to get close to the animals, and allows us to see how they belong and interact.

 

Elephants, growing in number and size, play a large part in the story.

First there is Moyo – playmate, maverick, lad – then Sizi, followed by three more elephants who arrive at the sanctuary in the middle of 2015. This last group, rejects from an order of over twenty young, wild elephants headed for China, take Wild is Life to another level. They arrive, like all the animals, in urgent need of help.

We see the commitment needed to heal them and other damaged young elephants, and the exhaustion that brings to the carers, but we are also shown the reward – the trust of these great creatures, now able to move beyond their trauma and to reach out further.

Wild is Life, outside Harare in Zimbabwe

Wild is Life, outside Harare in Zimbabwe (by Georgie Knaggs)

In 2015 Wild is Life and its animals reached out as far as the President of China.

President Xi Jinping and his wife Madame Peng Liyuan spent an afternoon at the sanctuary during a state visit to Zimbabwe.

Six pages of photographs and half a page of text record that visit. An image captures the moment the President of China presents an apple to one of the sanctuary’s young elephants. In the picture it is hard to tell who is smiling more widely – the elephant or the President.

It is these moments of connection, authentic and positive, that the book passes on. It is a testament to hope, and to the power of a passion whatever the odds.

“From the loving example of one family a whole State may become loving…”
Confucian teaching

Wild is Life in Harare, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

Wild is Life in Harare, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

This wonderful, unique ark of a coffee table book – 170 pages of colour and character sprinkled with text and a few lovely sepia illustrations – costs US$50.  In Zimbabwe copies can be bought at Wild is Life, or at Kiki’s Gallery in Umwinsidale, Harare.

 Outside Zimbabwe copies can be ordered from Wild is Life (via text message to: 263 779 949 821) or else directly from the author: sal.carney@gmail.com).

“Funds raised from the sale of this book will go towards the care of the animal residents of Wild is Life.”

Below is a YouTube video (not mine) of an interview with Roxy Danckwerts who explains her vision for the elephants in her care.

 

Wild is Life in Harare, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

Wild is Life in Harare, Zimbabwe (photograph by Georgie Knaggs 2017)

Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2017

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