Alan Root is one of Africa’s most bitten people. 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.
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 has won over sixty awards during his career, including an Emmy, three Lifetime Achievement Awards an OBE. He now lives on the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in northern Kenya with his wife and two small sons.