Book Reviews: “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill”:, and “Life, Love, and Elephants”

I love books about animal behavior, and I have  two to recommend to anyone interested  in caring for animals, or who just wants to learn more about animal behavior.

The first is, “The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill,”  by Mark Bittner.  Bittner is  (or was) a sort of lost soul/hippie, who  had a hard time finding his way in life. He spent time as a street musician, and lived  off friends and the kindness of strangers, as well as by doing odd jobs, for years, in San Francisco. He lucked into a job as  ‘caretaker’ of a house that he knew would ultimately be sold.  Having a lot of free time on his hands, he noticed a flock of conures, and started feeling them.  From feeding them, he started observing their  behavior, and the dynamics of the flock.  He’s very observant, and an excellent writer.  He realized that the conures are not native birds (to San Francisco), and started learning all he could about them, by going to his local library, bookstores, and seeking out experts.  This is  a great book for any bird lover, and especially for anyone thinking of buying a pet bird.

I had  known about the Sheldrick Trust (of Kenya) because I had seen a feature on their work with orphan animals on the  TV show, 60 Minutes.  This book is an autobiography by Dame  Daphne Sheldrick, who was married to David Sheldrick (who died young of a heart attack).  Her family had  originally  been farmers in South Africa, and were enticed to Kenya.  Yes, her family  were settlers.  It’s a rough life.  However, early on, they were committed to environmental conservation.  She and her first husband went to Tsavo to manage the ‘conservancy’ and address poaching, One thing leads to another,  and she  developed a system to  save orphaned elephants and rhinos.  She saved other orphaned animals, too.  When her husband died suddenly, she was really at a loss, but the Kenyans working in the Wildlife Department, as well as the founders of the African Wildlife Foundation, recognized that she had  worked unpaid along side David for much of her adult life. Kenya needed her.  The Sheldrick WildlifeTrust  not only  nurtures orphaned animals, but also provides environmental education  to the students in communities around the parks.

Both of these books are excellent histories/environmental studies for  animal lovers. The first  book partly addresses how the pet industry impacts wildlife.  The second book addresses the economic as well as social aspects of environmental conservation.


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