Flowers for Elephants
How a Conservation Movement in Kenya Offers Lessons for Us All
Foreword by HRH The Duke of Cambridge
An uplifting story of endangered livelihoods and species saved, by communities fighting climate change and poaching.
When northern Kenyans find elephant bones, they lay down blossoms and branches as a mark of respect, honouring their crucial connection with the wildlife they live alongside. In our changing world, these values are vitally important.
For decades, northern Kenya was one step away from a warzone, on the frontlines of climate change and habitat loss. People slept with their shoes on, fearing attack. Wildlife was decimated. Yet, facing the most extreme challenges, people united. What began as a last-ditch effort to save rhinos from extinction sparked a remarkable return of wildlife, with the once-struggling cattle ranch Lewa named a UN World Heritage Site for its outstanding value to humanity. This served as a catalyst for much broader action. Communities created a network of protected lands across an area larger than Switzerland. Through conservation, they built peace, driving social, environmental and political change.
From tracking elephants through the bush to gun battles with bandits and treks through Al-Qaeda territory, Peter Martell tells the exciting story of a conservation movement that gives hope. At a time when humanity is reassessing its broken relationship with nature, these communities offer an inspirational blueprint, proving that environmental change does not have to divide, but can bring us together.
‘Martell’s narrative journalism is a lesson for those in the field as to how a writer can instil empathy for the others around. The reader can taste affection for both the animals and humans in his storytelling.’ — The Daily Star
‘Flowers for Elephants brings to life the extraordinary coexistence and resilience of nature and people in Kenya’s Northern territories over the past four decades. Martell’s prose captures this intriguing true story, a must-read for those seeking to understand more about this wonderful but troubled part of the world.’ — The Rt Hon. Francis Ole Kaparo, former Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya
‘Fascinating and timely. Emphasising the cultural bond between people and wild animals, Martell describes the dangers and rewards of working with local communities to save elephants and rhinos from extinction. Read it and buy copies for everyone who cares about the natural world.’ — Dr. Jane Goodall, DBE, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and UN Messenger of Peace
‘A compelling story of how the power of connecting with wildlife can strengthen communities. A must-read for anyone with a love for elephants.’ — Major Levison Wood FRGS, British Army officer, explorer, and author of Walking the Nile and The Last Giants
‘Flowers for Elephants is a deeply reported, beautifully written homage to the natural world. Its focus is a patch of Kenyan wilderness known as Lewa, and on Ian Craig, the man who found a novel way to save Kenya’s vanishing herds of elephants, its rhinos and lions and other wild animals, from certain destruction. It also tells the story of some remarkable people within the indigenous communities who have joined Craig’s efforts by creating a web of conservancies to form the Northern Rangelands Trust, in which people and wildlife coexist sustainably across a broad swathe of northern Kenya. In an age when all of us fear the worst is yet to come for our planet, Martell’s book provides proof that human dedication to the cause of conservation, and to one another, can still make a difference.’ — Jon Lee Anderson, New Yorker staff writer
‘This important book–by a devoted reporter, about a critical ecosystem–should be on the reading list of any Africa-bound traveller or armchair conservationist. In lucid prose, it reveals what is at stake and what can be saved through the tenacity and long-term vision of a few brave people working against the odds.’ — Sophy Roberts, travel journalist and author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia, a Sunday Times Book of 2020
‘A beautifully written, thoughtful book about a subject which concerns us all. It should be required reading for everyone who cares about elephants, Africa and the natural world.’ — John Simpson CBE, World Affairs Editor, BBC News
‘Peter Martell is one of the bravest and finest reporters from the frontlines, but he raises the bar still further with his account of the Northern Rangelands Trust and northern Kenya. This is powerful history, rich nature writing and literature rolled into one.’ — J.M. Ledgard, author of Submergence
Peter Martell reports on the Middle East and North Africa for AFP. Hailing from a Northumberland sheep farm, he started as a foreign correspondent in Zimbabwe. First Raise A Flag, his book on South Sudanese independence (also published by Hurst), was an Economist and a Spectator 'Book of the Year'.