Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cry of the Kalahari by Mark & Delia Owens

I first read this book nearly 25 years ago when first published in paperback. The story has not aged and still enthralls. Two young American graduate students sell everything they own to purchase a round-trip ticket to South Africa. They board the plane with about $6,000, and buy train tickets in Johannesburg for Gaberone, Botswana. Arriving there, they burn through quite a bit of their money waiting for permits to study the wildlife on a game preserve. A few months later, they buy what supplies they can, including a beat up Land Rover, and set off for the Kalahari Desert with the idea of finding some unstudied animal life. No experience in the desert and nothing more to guide them than their love and enthusiasm for wildlife speak of tremendous courage and dedication.

When their adventure began, in the middle 70s, they had great respect for the animals and the environment. They carefully observed lions, leopards, jackals, and brown hyenas, along with the myriad ungulates, birds, rodents, reptiles, and insects, while trying not to intrude or disturb them in the least.

The area of the desert they chose had never been visited by humans. They made friends with lions and much of the other wild life they encountered. At first, surrounded by a pride of curious lions, Mark and Delia, seem scared but calm. Gradually, the lions accepted them as part of the landscape. Numerous photos depict the close contact between the Owens and the big cats, as well as hyenas, which became one of the principle foci of their work.

The couple shared the writing of the book, and the chapters written by Delia display a somewhat more technical style, while those by Mark are more concerned with observing the landscape, the wildlife, and the climate.

Today the couple runs the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation based in Stone Mountain, GA. Their website is . Donations are welcome. Their story tells of the struggle for preservation of the predators of the Kalahari, as well as a constant struggle for funding to continue their work.

If you love animals, adventure, courage, with funny moments mixed in, this book is a must-read. Five stars.

--Chiron, 2/10/09

No comments: