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Ivory, Apes & Peacocks: Animals, adventure and discovery in the wild places of Africa [Hardcover]

Alan Root
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
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Book Description

6 Sep 2012

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.

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Ivory, Apes & Peacocks: Animals, adventure and discovery in the wild places of Africa + An African Love Story: Love, Life and Elephants
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Chatto & Windus (6 Sep 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0701186038
  • ISBN-13: 978-0701186036
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"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)

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

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4.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Having grown up watching documentary series such as Survival and graduating to the modern BBC series of 'Life' and 'Planet Earth' I was keen to read this autobiography of someone so involved in business end of the creation of such films. Alan Root's book gives us a wonderful insight into the adventures of the wildlife cameraman. I like to think that if i'd read this book twenty years ago, i'd have given such filming a shot myself, but am probably not brave enough! His narrative style and understated modisty of what must have been some exciting, and in places, truly terrifying events, result in a readable rendition of enviable adventure stories. The contents of the book seem to resemble an account of the Willard Price adventure books I enjoyed as a youngster. Root's obvious love of the flora and fauna come across in each chapter and I am found it a compelling read. For those who love natural history, the story of conservation as well as adventure, and would like to see 'behind the scenes' of those groundbreaking documentaries, this book is well worth it. My wife is now enjoying the book herself! It should come with a warning that it might make you want to say goodbye to health and safety and head into the wilds yourself to see what spots of bother you can get into. A great read!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Super book! 21 Oct 2012
By Jade D
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As a keen photographer and lifetime fan of wildlife and associated documentaries I found this book to be a perfect add on to my interest in the subjects. The writer is humorous and honest and tells a good tale. The subject material is treated fairly and with some sympathy. Well worth a read and for dipping into time and again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elephants, gorillas, and bird life with funny tails 12 April 2013
By Stel
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A must read. Breathtaking, enthralling, gripping, thrilling, funny, self-deprecating, laconic, tragic, a veritable page-turner ... think of any term you might use to describe a beautifully written adventure story with larger than life characters and it's not sufficient to do justice to Alan Root's autobiography Ivory, Apes and Peacocks. Household names to my generation like Armand and Michaela Denis, TV Survival programmes, they were only a front for Alan's astonishing wildlife films. Alan and his first wife, Joan, introduced Diane Fosse to her gorillas in the mist; they introduced the world to air balloons for tourists. Alan discovered hitherto unknown characteristics of known and of legendary unseen species. He pioneered so many innovations in wildlife photography all the while honouring and respecting their natural habitat that he has won several lifetime achievement awards as well as the scars of a hippopotamus bite, a hand destroyed by a puff adder bite and life threatening encounters with silverback gorillas and with a motorbike in the vast uninhabited Congo rainforests. And if you want to read more it highlights the two problems with this book. 1: it finishes; 2: there's no promise of a second volume. Please, please somebody make a boxset of Alan's films ... Then we'd have multiple volumes to entertain and educate us. Did I like it? At least as much as you will!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evocative, humorous and nostalgic account 23 Nov 2012
By S. Holt
I thoroughly enjoyed this memoire of those carefree heady days in African learning and enjoying about the fauna and flora of Africa which I have only experienced as a tourist on short holidays.

What a marvellous childhood and young adulthood lead to Alan's immersion in his life as a naturalist and cameraman the product of which we take for granted back in the UK. Thanks so much for this book Alan... marvellous.

I hope Emily the chimpanzee really did clean the house!!!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An excellent insight to Africa 9 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book while in Tanzania, this is an excellent read full of information and great detail. I can remember some of Alan's programs truly great.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read with plenty of cameos 18 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
One of the best wildlife books I have read. If you are a fan of Durrell then read this. He is mention a few times as are the Adamsons and miss Fossey. Shortley after reading i headed to the DRC to see Ivory (well just elephant ung and footprints) apes (bonobos) and peacocks (congo peacock). Alans a great camera man and very inventive. I plan to recreate some of his ideas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful life story 8 April 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I simply could not put the book down especially as I met Alan Root and was working in Kenya at the time a lot of the story was being experienced and can vouch for the authenticity and the air of East Africa that he recreates so vividly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best Autobiography I have ever read. 12 Feb 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the best written autobiography I have ever read, full of wit and truth. It is the record of a life spent among the people and wild animals of Africa, filming them for the rest of us to see and appreciate. I have viewed some of Alan's films and they are works of patience and endurance, courage and thoughtfulness, this book has the same attributes.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
amazing thankyou
Published 24 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superb writing
Published 3 months ago by sue green
5.0 out of 5 stars so much to wonder at
The whole book was fascinating, fantastic discoveries described with great detail. What a marvellous opportunity he had, and took with such excitement
Published 8 months ago by Mrs Susan Thomson
4.0 out of 5 stars A man who has done a lot.
I have looked forward to reading this since I saw him on t.v. talking about it. This is beautifully written about a life of filming adventure. A boy's own life put down in words. Read more
Published 8 months ago by R. D. Mayles
4.0 out of 5 stars inspirational
A picture painted of the wonderful African countryside but with the rather heartless approach to human life alongside. Read more
Published 8 months ago by alison
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling adventure...
Highly recommended reading - Alan Root's 'Ivory, Apes and Peacocks' - the story of his adventures, largely in Africa, from a boy to the present day. Read more
Published 8 months ago by P. Warren
5.0 out of 5 stars Great adventure story
Alan Root has a great way of telling the story of his life and the adventures he has made. It was fascinating reading, with some great humour thrown in too. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sally Svendsen
5.0 out of 5 stars Wildlife of East Africa in detail
Having seen a few videos of Root's film making, this book fills in all the gaps and details that one might miss when watching a motion picture. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Kindle Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoying it very much so far so have given 4-stars but still have...
I can usually tell very early on whether I am going to enjoy a book. This one I have liked from the outset.
Published 12 months ago by Benji's Mum
5.0 out of 5 stars Ivory apes and peacocks
One of the most enjoyable and entertaining wildlife books I have read. It should be read by all those who care about our world.
Published 12 months ago by BARRIE
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