Delia Owens

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Delia Owens
Born (1949-04-04) April 4, 1949 (age 74)
  • Author
  • zoologist
  • conservationist
Alma materUniversity of Georgia
University of California, Davis
Notable worksWhere the Crawdads Sing (2018)
Cry of the Kalahari (1984)

Delia Owens (born April 4, 1949)[1][2] is an American author, zoologist, and conservationist. She is best known for her 2018 novel Where the Crawdads Sing.

Owens was born and raised in Southern Georgia, where she spent most of her life in or near true wilderness. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Georgia, and a PhD in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis.[3]

Owens met Mark Owens in a protozoology class at the University of Georgia when they were both graduate students studying biology.[4] They married in 1973, and in 1974 moved to southern Africa to study animals in the Kalahari Desert and Zambia. She wrote about Africa in her memoirs Cry of the Kalahari, The Eye of the Elephant, and Secrets of the Savanna.[5] The couple were expelled from Botswana and are wanted for questioning in Zambia in relation to a murder investigation. They are no longer married. Since returning to the United States, Delia Owens has been involved in bear conservation.

Her debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, was released in 2018. It became one of the best-selling books of all time. It was adapted into a 2022 film of the same name.


Owens grew up in Thomasville which is in southern Georgia; she has mostly lived in or near true wilderness.[6][7] She and her then husband, Mark, were biology students at the University of Georgia; she received a Bachelor of Science in zoology there and a PhD in animal behavior from the University of California, Davis. She knew she wanted to be a writer, but she decided on a career in science.[8]

The couple moved to Africa in 1974, travelling for some time before making camp in the Kalahari Desert, Botswana. Cry of the Kalahari was written about the couple's experience there. After they campaigned against the local cattle industry, Botswanan government officials expelled them from the country.[1] The Owenses then settled in North Luangwa National Park, Zambia, and later in Mpika, Zambia in the early 1990s.[1] Cry of the Kalahari and her two other non-fictional bestselling books, The Eye of the Elephant and Secrets of the Savanna, all concern the couple's research and conservation work. In Zambia they contributed to reducing the poaching of elephants, by helping poachers earn a living with skills such as beekeeping, carpentry, midwifery, and weaving.[9]

Since completing her PhD in biology, Owens has published her studies of African wildlife behavioral ecology in journals including Nature,[10] the Journal of Mammalogy,[11] Animal Behaviour,[12] and the African Journal of Ecology.[13] She has contributed articles to Natural History[14] and International Wildlife, where she was a "roving editor" for more than 20 years.[15]

Delia and Mark Owens are divorced. For many years, Delia lived in Boundary County, Idaho which is twenty miles from Canada. However in 2019–2020, she moved to a former horse farm near Asheville, North Carolina.[16][17]

Owens is the co-founder of the Owens Foundation for Wildlife Conservation in Stone Mountain, Georgia. She has also worked as a roving editor for International Wildlife, lectured throughout North America and participated in conservation efforts for the grizzly bear throughout the United States.[18]

She released her debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, in 2018, which topped The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2019 and The New York Times Fiction Best Sellers of 2020 for 32 non-consecutive weeks and was on the list for 135 weeks in total. It also gave rise to a successful feature film.[19][20][21] In 2022, Reese Witherspoon acquired movie rights for her production company to bring the novel to the screen.[22]

Supposed Zambian murder case[edit]

Owens' former husband, Mark, has been accused of operating a "shoot to kill" policy against poachers while the couple were living in Zambia. ABC News aired a report in 1996, titled "Deadly Game: The Mark and Delia Owens Story". The report featured the killing of a poacher in Zambia, allegedly committed by Delia's stepson, Christopher. To this day, Delia Owens denies the incident, explaining she was not involved, and there was never a case. However, her 2018 best selling novel, Where the Crawdads Sing, has aroused suspicion from those on her book tour about the parallels between the main character Kya and her case, and Delia's own alleged accusation. The Owenses have denied the accusations.[23][24][1] No charges were brought against Owens or her ex-husband Mark, or stepson Christopher. Zambian officials told Jeffery Goldberg, a journalist and editor-in-chief of The Atlantic Magazine, that they do not believe Owens is a suspect. However, they do believe that she is the most important witness.[25] Owens has never been sought for questioning by the Zambian authorities.[9]

Awards and honors[edit]




See also[edit]

  • Ethology in fiction – animal behavior in fiction, as exemplified by the account in Where the Crawdads Sing


  1. ^ a b c d Goldberg, Jeffrey (March 29, 2010). "The Hunted". The New Yorker.
  2. ^ "Delia Owens - Google Search". Retrieved June 28, 2023.
  3. ^ Alter, Alexandra (July 19, 2022). "Questions about an unsolved murder linger over "where the Crawdads Sing"". The New York Times. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  4. ^ Finn, Natalie (July 23, 2022). "Inside the Resurfaced Murder Investigation Trailing Where the Crawdads Sing Author Delia Owens". EOnline. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  5. ^ Jordan, Tina (September 14, 2018). "Delia Owens, Who Suffused Her African Memoirs With Lush Natural Detail, Turns to Fiction". The New York Times.
  6. ^ Grey, Tobias (November 12, 2018). "With 'Where the Crawdads Sing,' a Debut Novel Goes Big". The Wall Street Journal.
  7. ^ Cary, Alice (August 2018). "Delia Owens: A natural way of storytelling". BookPage. Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  8. ^ "Delia Owens". Delia Owens. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  9. ^ a b Parker, Kathleen (April 21, 2023). "To protect wildlife, Delia Owens has been willing to make enemies". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  10. ^ Owens, Delia D., and Mark J. Owens. "Helping behaviour in brown hyenas." Nature 308.5962 (1984): 843-845.
  11. ^ Owens, Delia, and Mark Owens. "Notes on social organization and behavior in brown hyenas (Hyaena brunnea)." Journal of Mammalogy 60.2 (1979): 405-408.
  12. ^ Owens, Delia, and Mark Owens. "Social dominance and reproductive patterns in brown hyaenas, Hyaena brunnea, of the central Kalahari desert." Animal Behaviour 51.3 (1996): 535-551.
  13. ^ Owens, Mark J., and Delia D. Owens. "Feeding ecology and its influence on social organization in brown hyenas (Hyaena brunnea, Thunberg) of the central Kalahari Desert." African Journal of Ecology 16.2 (1978): 113-135.
  14. ^ Owens, D.; Owens, M., "Hyenas of the Kalahari", Natural History, volume 89, February 1980, p. 44
  15. ^ "Where the Crawdads Sing: Delia Owens" (PDF). Books on Tape. 2018. Retrieved April 21, 2023.
  16. ^ Gouty, Melissa (October 22, 2020). ""The Rest of the Story:" Delia Owens' Book Where the Crawdads Sing". Literature Lust. Retrieved July 10, 2022.
  17. ^ "About the Author". Delia Owens.
  18. ^ a b c d "Owens, Delia 1949(?)-". August 27, 2019. Retrieved September 5, 2019.
  19. ^ Kroll, Justin (January 25, 2021). "'Where The Crawdads Sing': Taylor John Smith And Harris Dickinson Join Film Adaptation For 3000 Pictures, Hello Sunshine And Sony". Deadline. Retrieved January 26, 2021.
  20. ^ "Combined Print & E-Book Fiction, Bestsellers". The New York Times. 2019.
  21. ^ "Crawdads: 1 year on the NYT Bestsellers List". Delia Owens. September 16, 2019. Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  22. ^ "Delia Owens Biography, Age, Birth, Family: Life Unveiled". December 8, 2023. Retrieved December 8, 2023.
  23. ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey (July 11, 2022). "Where the Crawdads Sing Author Wanted for Questioning in Murder". The Atlantic.
  24. ^ Walsh, Savannah (July 15, 2022). "Where the Crawdads Sing: Why Author Delia Owens Is Wanted for Questioning in a Real-Life Killing". Vanity Fair. Retrieved July 17, 2022.
  25. ^ Armitage, Rebecca (July 30, 2022). "Where the Crawdads Sing author Delia Owens is wanted for questioning in a decades-old murder mystery in Zambia". ABC News. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  26. ^ "About the Awards". Retrieved November 9, 2019.
  27. ^ "Review of The Eye of the Elephant". Publishers Weekly. September 28, 1992.
  28. ^ "Review of The Eye of the Elephant". Kirkus Reviews. 1992.
  29. ^ "Review of Secrets of the Savanna". Publishers Weekly. March 20, 2006.

External links[edit]