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About the book
  • Published: 15 September 2013
  • ISBN: 9780099555889
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $27.99

Ivory, Apes & Peacocks

Animals, adventure and discovery in the wild places of Africa




A breathtaking close-up look at Africa's animals and natural wonders from one of our great wildlife pioneers

Breathtaking close-up look at Africa's animals and natural wonders from one of our great wildlife pioneers.
Alan Root is one of Africa's most bitten. In the course of his adventures he has been mauled by a leopard, a silverback gorilla and a hippo, and almost lost his life to a deadly puff adder, which claimed one of his fingers. Root's unmatched experience of East African wildlife and his appetite for risk have made him a world-class naturalist and film-maker. He's one of the great wildlife pioneers.

In Ivory, Apes & Peacocks, Alan tells the story of his life's work, from his arrival in Kenya as a young boy (furious at having to leave behind Britain's birds) to the making of his game-changing films. Instead of sticking to the Big Five animals, these looked up close at whole ecosystems -- baobab trees, termite mounds, natural springs -- and involved firsts such as tracking the wildebeest migration from a balloon, then flying it over Kilimanjaro, filming inside a hornbill's nest and diving with hippos and crocodiles.

Along the way we meet Sally the pet hippo and Emily the house-proud chimp, watch as Dian Fossey catches sight of her first mountain gorilla and have sundowners with George and Joy Adamson. And here, too, is Joan Root, Alan's wife and collaborator for over thirty years, who was brutally murdered in retaliation for her environmental campaigning.

In this extraordinary memoir we look at Africa's wonders through the eyes of a visionary, live through hair-raising adventure and personal sorrow, and also bear witness to a natural world now largely lost from view.

  • Pub date: 15 September 2013
  • ISBN: 9780099555889
  • Imprint: Vintage
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 336
  • RRP: $27.99

About the Author

Alan Root

Alan Root was born in London in 1937 but moved to Kenya as a young boy. He dropped out of school at sixteen but soon found himself behind the camera. He married Joan Thorpe in 1961 and together they produced an array of award-winning wildlife films including Baobab: Portrait of a Tree, commissioned by David Attenborough, Safari by Balloon, The Year of the Wildebeest and Castles of Clay, which was nominated for an Oscar. Alan won over sixty awards during his career, including an Emmy, three Lifetime Achievement Awards an OBE. Alan Root died in August 2017.


Praise for Ivory, Apes & Peacocks

“Written by a consummate wordsmith, Alan Root’s enthralling memoir is the best true-life adventure story to come out of Africa for years. The final chapter, which describes Root’s last moments with Joan, I found almost too painful to read (5 star review)”

Brian Jackman, Daily Telegraph

“This is an entrancing book. Root is a natural story-teller, roaming East Africa before poachers began to decimate the wildlife. Against the staggering backdrop of East Africa’s landscape and wildlife, the darkness of its problems casts a growing shadow over this book... Luckily, Alan Root’s wonderful films remain, a testimony to the man of whom David Attenborough once said: ‘He made wild-life films grow up'”

Daily Mail

“In a riveting memoir, Root offers far more than a few well-work anecdotes of cute, hand-reared animals who like to sit down to breakfast with you and curl up on the sofa after dinner...a truly compelling book, savage and sparkling by turns”

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

“Root is aware that his magical life has ‘run parallel with a heartbreaking holocaust, as wildlife conservation has proved to be a disastrous failure’. This wonderful book can’t put it more honestly than that. Not only are the current generation of wildlife film-makers mere pygmies compared to Root, but soon they will not even be able to attempt matching his documentaries because the world he captured has ceased to exist.”

Aidan Hartley, Spectator

“If Dame Daphne Sheldrick’s touching and romantic Love, Life, and Elephants has been climbing the bestseller lists in Britain and America, Alan Root’s Ivory, Apes and Peacocks is by far the deeper and more interesting read. The problems that beset Africa’s wildlife - population pressures, poaching, drought and disease - are all part of this story, though balanced here by Mr Root’s sense of fun and adventure”

The Economist

“There is a great sense of life lived to the limit here and great personal tragedy. A pioneer on the environment and in film-making, Alan Root does not have a dull word in him. Nature red in tooth and claw”

Bookseller

“From English birds to the Cape peacock, from elephants to termites, Alan Root illuminates the lives of animals and the environments they live in with a very special skill. Years of study and observation, however passionately followed, do not always go hand in hand with captivating storytelling. Here they are completely woven together, also revealing his fascinating, touching, and very personal life. And he reminds us at the end that “wild places like the Serengeti will be essential for our spiritual well-being”. Yes, indeed”

Virginia McKenna

“Alan Root has for half a century made superb wildlife films so innovative in their photography and script that they set new high standards. Filmmaker, naturalist, and adventurer, Alan Root has written a delightful memoir with the verve of a true raconteur, whether being bitten by a mountain gorilla or flying over Mt. Kilimanjaro in a balloon. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in nature films, wildlife, and Africa”

George Schaller

“Brave, crazy, hilarious and lucky - the legendary Root completely changed our understanding of East Africa and its wildlife”

Nigel Winser, Executive Vice President, The Earthwatch Institute

“I have long been an admirer of Alan’s work and of his ground- breaking, outstanding documentaries: and now, in this enthralling, witty, and deeply moving memoir that cannot be put down, he brings back a nostalgia for an early days African wilderness that no longer exists. This book is a must for all who love nature and have vowed to protect, as I have, the few remaining fragments of natural world still untarnished by greed”

Kuki Gallmann

“Some dream of going to Africa. This book will make you dream of an Africa that was, and a life that cannot be repeated. Alan Root lived (and several times died, it seems) a life that most people can scarcely fantasize. Yet he has the scars and medals to prove it, and he shared with the world the fruits of his adventures in his films. Now, read what’s behind those films”

Carl Safina, author of 'The View From Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World'

“His honesty and integrity are legendary and this shines through in his book... Nothing, nothing was too small or unimportant to escape his attention. They all had their place in the wonderful balance of nature... He didn't just make wildlife films grow up. He made the best there ever was and will ever be and told his stories with a humour and innuendo and so poignantly that it brought the other living creatures that we live with on our planet level with us, and gave them a status and dignity that they'd never had before...a must for, well, everyone”

Tony Fitzjohn

“Alan, almost single-handedly in my opinion, made wildlife films grow up”

David Attenborough

“Enthralling, the best true-life adventure story to come out of Africa for years”

Brian Jackman, Daily Telegraph

“A truly compelling book, savage and sparkling by turns”

Kathryn Hughes, Mail on Sunday

“Alan Root’s overflowing life as a dedicated, adventurous film-maker and naturalist is almost the story of wild East Africa itself in those glorious and tragic years surrounding the advent of political independence…a fresh, honest, often moving (and humorous) account, a terrific contribution to the literature”

Peter Matthiessen

“Required reading for anyone who wants to experience the joys and sorrows of conservation in today's Africa”

Wilbur Smith

“Root’s enthralling memoir…is the best true-life adventure story to come out of Africa for years”

Sunday Telegraph

“His is a funny, harrowing, beautifully written love letter to Africa”

Christopher Hart, Sunday Times

“In this captivating memoir [Root] documents his brushes in the bush and his passion for wildlife”

Big Issue in the North

“Oscar-nominated filmmaker Root has written the most extraordinary love letter to Africa – packed with drama and knowledge, tragedy and hope... A completely gripping and important study of this complex and disappearing natural environment”

Sally Morris, Daily Mail

“His is an extraordinary story laced with tragedy”

Mail on Sunday

“[Root's] life story, vividly related here, is crammed with incident and adventure. Curious, creative and fearless, he has diced with death on numerous occasions and been mauled several times in his efforts to capture the daily lives of everything from silver-back gorillas to leopards in the wild on film. A gripping account of a life well lived”

Good Book Guide


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