Sharon Pincott

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Sharon Pincott
Sharon Pincott in Hwange, Zimbabwe.jpg
in Hwange, Zimbabwe, 2012
Born Sharon Schulz
May 1962
Queensland, Australia
Other names

'Thandeka Mandlovu' : (Ndebele for Much-loved Mother Elephant),

'The Elephant Guardian'
Known for 13 years working alone with the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe, Hwange 2001-2014
Notable work
  • Elephant Dawn - 2016 book
  • All the President's Elephants (La Gardienne des Éléphants) - 2012 doco
  • Battle for the President's Elephants - 2012 book
  • The Elephants and I - 2009 book
Spouse(s) Divorced 1989 (retained married name)

Sharon Pincott, an Australian, is a specialist in the field of African elephant behaviour, and also a highly acclaimed author of five books.

Together with Cynthia Moss and Iain Douglas-Hamilton, Pincott is one of only a few who have worked on a full-time dedicated basis, in the field for over a decade undertaking in-depth monitoring - including Social structure and Population dynamics - of a single clan of wild elephants. She arrived in Zimbabwe unpaid, untrained and self-funded, and created her own elephant project in Hwange, which she continued to fund primarily herself.

Her wildlife conservation and associated advocacy work, and deep connections with wild elephants in Africa are the subject of an award-winning international Documentary film, in which she features as herself.


Pincott grew up in the small town of Grantham, Queensland in the Lockyer Valley Region in Australia's east. She originally worked in the field of Information Technology (IT) and progressed to the position of National Director of IT for Ernst & Young Australia based in Sydney.[1] She then worked as an IT consultant in New Zealand (primarily for Air New Zealand) and in Australia (primarily for Telstra) prior to her move to elephants in Zimbabwe in March 2001 when she was 38 years old.

Elephant-related work in Hwange, Zimbabwe (including books and documentary) and related awards[edit]

Pincott worked alone, on a full-time voluntary basis,[2][3] for 13 years (2001-2014) with the clan of wild, free-roaming, elephants known as the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe (the country's flagship clan of elephants that bore the identity of the President of Zimbabwe) on land bordering the Main Camp entrance to Hwange National Park. She acquired a reputation for being able to "talk to the elephants".[4] In between monitoring and recording, and helping to protect and save the Presidential Elephants (including from wire snare traps)[5] - all under the banner of her newly created 'Presidential Elephant Conservation Project' - Pincott started to write in an effort to raise increased awareness for these elephants and to dispel some past myths, and ultimately became the author of three published books: The Elephants and I (Jacana Media, South Africa 2009), Battle for the President's Elephants (Jacana Media, South Africa 2012) and Elephant Dawn (first published by Allen & Unwin, Australia 2016, and then by Jacana Media, South Africa 2016). In addition, she is also the author of two earlier elephant works self-published in Zimbabwe, In An Elephant's Rumble (2004, ISBN 079742864X) and A Year Less Ordinary (2006, ISBN 0797431667).

In 2009, eight years after arriving in Zimbabwe, Pincott was appointed South Africa Getaway magazine's 'Elephant Ambassador in Africa' "in recognition of her courageous work with wildlife in Hwange",[6] which strengthened her notoriety with elephants in Africa. It was following the publication of The Elephants and I in 2009 that Pincott was credited with being "the Joy Adamson of Zimbabwe",[7] and comparisons were made with Adamson's 1960 book Born Free.[8] Renowned conservationist and OBE for services to the conservation of wildlife, David Shepherd (artist), endorsed The Elephants and I highly[3] in his review printed on the book's first page, as did world renowned elephant expert Cynthia Moss on its back cover, and international best-selling author and environmentalist Kuki Gallmann on its front cover. South Africa's longest running nature television program, 50/50, broadcast a lengthy (8 minute) interview with Pincott on 11 May 2009 on SABC 2 and featured footage showing what they described as her "intimate relationship with these elephants".[9] Pincott subsequently came to the attention of Natural History Unit Africa and became the subject of the award-winning international documentary titled All the President's Elephants.[10]

This one-hour All the President's Elephants documentary[11] was filmed with Pincott in Hwange in 2011, by the South African production company Triosphere.[12][13][14] It is the story of Pincott's life, work and intimate relationship with the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe, showcasing these Hwange elephants and some of the problems they face. It includes her wire snare removal work with colleagues called in to dart well-known injured elephants using a Tranquillizer gun. It also features Pincott's work recommending and encouraging President Robert Mugabe to reaffirm his commitment to this flagship clan of elephants, which bears his identity, in an effort to secure their future. The subsequent 'Presidential Decree Reaffirmation' ceremony, attended by then-Minister of the Environment Francis Nhema[15] on behalf of President Robert Mugabe, was held in Hwange in August 2011 and was included in the filming. All the President's Elephants premiered at the 2012 Durban International Film Festival, where it was considered among the best on show.[16] During an interview with Pincott in 2013 ScreenAfrica - Africa's leading broadcast and film publication - called the film "touching and profound...beautifully emphasis[ing] the deep relationship between Pincott and the elephants".[17] This documentary focusing on Pincott's wild elephant work and relationships won 'Outstanding Contribution to Nature' in 2013, with the judges commenting how "very moving" it was "to see how closely people and elephants can be mentally connected", and expressing their respect and appreciation for Pincott's elephant conservation work.[18] Among other nominations and selections including 'Best TV Wildlife Program' at the South African Film and Television Awards 2013,[19] it was shortlisted as a finalist in the prestigious 2016 International Elephant Film Festival[20] – where the world's best elephant films from the previous nine years were celebrated. This event, which involved both the United Nations (UN) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), was organised to raise global awareness of the various challenges facing the African and Asian elephants, as a highlight of UN World Wildlife Day 2016.[21] The distinguished panel of international judges included the United States Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, South Africa's Minister of Environmental Affairs and the Director-General of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

When All the President's Elephants screened on France 5 television, its name was changed to La Gardienne des Éléphants[22][23] - The Elephant Guardian - matching the name Pincott was frequently called in Zimbabwe.[24] She was also well-known as Mandlovu, meaning Mother Elephant[25][26] in the Zimbabwean Ndebele language.

Sharon Pincott in Hwange (2009)

Other significant wildlife conservation accolades and articles[edit]

Pincott's latest book, Elephant Dawn, was released in Australia and New Zealand in June 2016 (and subsequently in South Africa, USA and UK) after she had left Zimbabwe, which allowed her to write without restraint. It covers all of her 13 years working alone with the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe in Hwange. On its first page, Cynthia Moss credits Pincott with having risked so much for elephants, endorsing the book highly alongside award-winning journalist Caroline Jones (Order of Australia) who also positively endorsed it. It was reviewed enthusiastically by the CEO of Africa's premier wildlife magazine, Africa Geographic, with the inclusion of a video endorsement.[27] Following its release Pincott was interviewed live on Australia's Seven Network by The Daily Edition (Australian TV program),[28] and also later on The Morning Show (TV program)[29] and Seven News.[30] The book's release also prompted an article on Pincott's elephant work in the October–November issue of Forbes Woman Africa magazine,[31] among others. Elephant Dawn was listed in Writers Write Top Books of 2016.[32]

Pincott has been credited with having become "to elephants what Dian Fossey and Jane Goodall are to gorillas and chimps",[33] as a result of her long period of immersion fieldwork with a single clan of wild animals, one that she formed an extraordinary bond with, as they did; all of these women having arrived in Africa untrained. Pincott chose to use the popular press (as well as her books and documentary) to spread awareness, in preference to working towards a scientific degree.

Her elephant conservation work has been profiled in National Geographic,[34] BBC Wildlife[35] and Africa Geographic.[36] She has been interviewed for numerous other publications and newspapers, including Intrepid Explorer magazine, South Africa[37] The Zimbabwean newspaper,[38] The Sydney Morning Herald,[39] Daily Mail UK and Australia[40] and Travel Africa magazine,[41] thereby reaching a wide and varied audience.

The Zimbabwe situation at the time[edit]

Pincott's 13 years with Zimbabwe's elephants were some of the worst in its volatile history - during the period of Land reform in Zimbabwe and rampant Corruption in Zimbabwe under the rule of ZANU-PF's President Robert Mugabe - during which time Pincott endured years of repeated intimidation,[42][43] various threats[2][44] and physical assault[45] as she fought for the well-being of these elephants and their land areas.[46] Among numerous other incidents, Pincott was accused, in writing, by a member of the Cabinet of Zimbabwe who wanted her gone, of being a Spy[47][48] of the Australian Government "assigned with the task of frustrating Zimbabwe's land reform programme", a 2006 claim that was dismissed by other Cabinet ministers who permitted her to stay. By late 2006 Pincott decided, frustrated and having lost hope, to leave Hwange to work with elephants elsewhere in Africa,[49] but reconsidered this decision in early 2007. In 2008 she discovered her name on a Wanted poster[47] publicly displayed at the local station of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, where it remained for more than 12 months despite her nearby presence. In October 2013 Pincott was part of a small team that confirmed approximately 120 elephants[50] were dead from cyanide poisoning close to Hwange National Park (as opposed to the 300+ wrongly reported by the press), as poaching and ivory smuggling worsened around the country. In the year of her departure from Zimbabwe, Pincott was still attempting to provide adequate water for the Presidential Elephants as she had been doing since 2005 with waterhole scooping and water pumping, both of which had frequently been neglected in these land areas outside the national park boundary.[51]

Departure from Hwange elephants after 13 years[edit]

Pincott left her voluntary and primarily self-funded Hwange elephant work in May 2014[52]- and the country itself in October 2014 - frustrated by ongoing battles including private land claims in key Presidential Elephant areas,[53][54] unethical practices, unethical Trophy hunting,[55] and heightened attempts at intimidation,[42] one year after Saviour Kasukuwere was controversially appointed Minister of the Environment.

Although gone from Zimbabwe, Pincott continued to be a voice for the Hwange elephants. In October 2016, two years after leaving the country, she publicly clarified misleading information being spread about the Presidential Elephants by some photographic safari operators in Hwange.[56] In November 2016, Pincott was interviewed about Zimbabwe's decision to continue to rip young elephants from their mothers and families in the wild, a practice that, as an Elephant Behavioural Specialist, she considers "in no way ethical".[57] On 23 December 2016, Pincott broke news on social media that Zimbabwe was, in the middle of the night, in the process of flying out scores of young Hwange elephants from Victoria Falls airport to zoos in China, despite repeated denials from the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority and the Environment Ministry that they had recently been capturing young elephants for this purpose.[58][59]

Health concerns & ongoing conservation awareness[edit]

On Rare Disease Day 2017 Pincott revealed that she is now suffering from rare, incurable, autoimmune Connective tissue disease believed by medical researchers to be both environment- and stress-related, hampering her planned full-time return to Africa and other elephant work on the ground.[60] Pincott later revealed that she is in fact suffering from systemic Scleredema, an extremely rare variation of Scleredema (as opposed to Scleroderma) that also affects the internal organs.

For World Wildlife Day 2017 Pincott collaborated with the International Fund for Animal Welfare in an attempt to help bring an end to the Ivory trade.[61] On International Women's Day 2017 Pincott was acknowledged by associates of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland, Australia, as "blazing a trail for elephants as well as women working in conservation".[62] In late March 2017, almost 3 years after leaving her Hwange elephant work, Pincott was still being acknowledged by the Zimbabwe press for her "profound dedication to the Presidential Elephants", in a country increasingly known for hostility towards conservationists who speak out against wildlife-related corruption.[63] In May 2017, after a male big-game hunter was crushed to death in Hwange when an adult female elephant, felled by gunfire, landed on him, Pincott reasoned in an interview that it was "likely" to be a known Presidential Elephant female that was shot in this hunting party incident, and highlighted the ongoing ineffectuality of Mugabe's Presidential Decree.[64] This was further highlighted in late-June 2017 when a new bout of cyanide poisoning in Presidential Elephant areas in Hwange was revealed, which Pincott spoke about in another interview.[65]

Also in May 2017 Blue Ant Media licensed (non-exclusively) All the President's Elephants for world-wide screening through its various broadcast channels, including Love_Nature's online streaming to more than 60 countries.[66] [67]

Pincott continues to speak out on behalf of elephants, including at wildlife conservation[68] and literary events,[69] and on world radio,[70] as elephant deaths in Presidential Elephant areas in Hwange continued into August 2017.[71] From December 2017 Pincott was active in voicing widespread opposition to scores more young elephants being captured, forcibly taken from their mothers and families inside Hwange National Park and transported to Chinese zoos, appealing to Zimbabwe's new President Emmerson Mnangagwa for an immediate review of policy and ultimately delivering a petition that attracted 287,509 signatures.[72][73][74][75]

In February 2018 Pincott once again joined the call[76] for the Government of Australia to close its Domestic Ivory Trade, with Australia's first historic Destruction of ivory/Ivory Crush held in Melbourne on 3 March, World Wildlife Day. Following this event, Pincott emphasized the importance of keeping the elephants themselves in sharp focus during Ivory Crush events.[77]

In April 2018 Pincott traveled to Beijing, China, to speak to school children about elephants. While there she visited the Beijing_Zoo and reported on the elephant conditions there that she referred to as "utterly disgraceful", sharing her video footage. Pincott urged the general public to contact CITES with their views with regards to elephants in zoos, also flagging these zoo conditions to Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa and current Environment Minister Oppah_Muchinguri, again requesting feedback on Zimbabwe's review of their elephant capture policies.[78][79]


  1. ^ Threadingham, Tom. "Grantham's wildlife warrior". 
  2. ^ a b Baron, Nick. "Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott, (Allen and Unwin) Reviewed by John Asquith". 
  3. ^ a b "New Book: "The Elephant and I" by Sharon Pincott". 4 April 2009. 
  4. ^ "Mabhena, Sunday News (7 August 2011) Zimbabwe". 
  5. ^ "More battles for the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe - Africa Geographic". 29 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Editor (November 2009), Introducing Getaway's 'Elephant Ambassador in Africa'; A life in love with elephants, Getaway magazine, South Africa p.43
  7. ^ Cape Librarian, (January/February 2011)The elephants and I: pursuing a dream in troubled Zimbabwe, South Africa
  8. ^ Editor (June 2009), The Secret meets Born Free; A review of The Elephants and I. British Airways Comair Inflight Horizon's magazine, p. 99.
  9. ^ Producer (May 2009), television segment on CD, Interview with Sharon Pincott, Author of The Elephants and I, 50/50 South Africa
  10. ^ Off the Fence Production Company (2012) All the President's Elephants, 60 minute, South Africa
  11. ^ "Sharon Pincott's All the President's Elephants documentary online". The Zimbabwean. 29 June 2018. 
  12. ^ South Africa Triosphere Filmmakers, Documentaries, All the President's Elephants
  13. ^ NHU Africa (April 2012) All the President's Elephants trailer, South Africa
  14. ^ "WATCH: Zimbabwean ellie with fashion envy?". 
  15. ^ Bulawayo Bureau, The Herald (2 August 2011), Zimbabwe
  16. ^ "Best of Durban International Film Fest - The Mercury". 
  17. ^ "All the President's Elephants". 
  18. ^ The International News and Information Resource for Wildlife Filmmakers (11 August 2013) 20. Outstanding Contribution to Nature - All the President's Elephants
  19. ^ Screen Africa, South African Film & Television Awards (2013) All the President's Elephants Nominees: Best Director of a Wildlife program + Best Editor + Best Cinematographer + Best TV Wildlife Program
  20. ^ International Elephant Film Festival, Finalists and Winners (2016) African Voices, All the President's Elephants
  21. ^ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (3 March 2016) All the President's Elephants
  22. ^ France 5, La Gardienne des Éléphants Replay
  23. ^ "All the president's elephants - The Zimbabwean". 1 August 2017. 
  24. ^ "President renews pledge to protect elephant herd - The Herald". 
  25. ^ "Zimbabwe: Mama Elephant's farewell to 'doomed' herd". 
  26. ^ "Volunteer conservationist's brave fight for Zim's elephants - The Standard". 5 February 2017. 
  27. ^ "Book Review: Elephant Dawn by Sharon Pincott - Africa Geographic". 22 August 2016. 
  28. ^ The Daily Edition, Yahoo!7 Featured Video (26 May 2016) Sharon Pincott's life in the African wilderness, as told in her book Elephant Dawn, Australia
  29. ^ "The extraordinary life of an elephant whisperer". 
  30. ^ "Channel 7 News (18 September 2016) Queensland, Australia". 
  31. ^ "Forbes Woman Africa Magazine - Get your Digital Subscription". Magzter. 
  32. ^ "Writers Write Reviewers Choose Their Top Books Of 2016 - Writers Write". 
  33. ^ "Elephant Dawn: The high cost of hanging out with elephants - Daily Maverick". 
  34. ^ Russo, Christina. "The Fate of the Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe—A Conversation With Sharon Pincott – National Geographic Society (blogs)". 
  35. ^ Mark Stratton, Discover Wildlife, Wildlife and photography at its best from BBC Wildlife Magazine (24 May 2011) All the President's Elephants UK
  36. ^ "Zimbabwe's Presidential Elephants in peril - Africa Geographic". 22 May 2014. 
  37. ^ "Magnificent Obsession ‹ The Intrepid Explorer". 
  38. ^ Staff Reporter, The Zimbabwean (23 November 2016) Zimbabwe
  39. ^ Mitchell-Whittington, Amy (11 June 2016). "Queensland woman ditches corporate life for 13-year battle to save elephants" – via The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  40. ^ "Meet the woman who spent 13 years living with elephants in Zimbabwe". 
  41. ^ Clark, Mike. "Elephant ambassador". 
  42. ^ a b "Elephant Dawn: The high cost of hanging out with elephants - Daily Maverick". 
  43. ^ Prosper Ndlovu, The Chronicle (3 June 2014) Bulawayo, Zimbabwe
  44. ^ "All the President's Elephants". 
  45. ^ CharlotteLam. "The Grantham woman who fought 13 years for elephants". 
  46. ^ The Zimbabwean (September 2006) Zimbabwe
  47. ^ a b "Magnificent Obsession ‹ The Intrepid Explorer". 
  48. ^ "Escaping the corporate rat race". 9 January 2015. 
  49. ^ "Kubatana - Archive - A sad day for the presidential elephants of Zimbabwe - ZCTF - Nov 29, 2006". 
  50. ^ "Cox, Zambezi Traveller (8 December 2013) Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe". 
  51. ^ "Water for The Presidential Elephants - VictoriaFalls24". 11 March 2014. 
  52. ^ arickard. "Australian woman spends 13 years fighting for elephants". 
  53. ^ "Zimbabwe's Presidential Elephants Embroiled in a New Saga – GreenActionNews". 
  54. ^ "ELEPHANT DAWN: Sharon Pincott's New Book - ZimEye". 
  55. ^ "Hunting of Zim Presidential elephants reportedly begins - The Zimbabwean". 23 April 2014. 
  56. ^ "Pincott speaks on Presidential eles - The Zimbabwean". 31 October 2016. 
  57. ^ "Hwange elephant captures - A discussion with Sharon Pincott - The Zimbabwean". 23 November 2016. 
  58. ^ "Thirty-five Hwange elephants flew from Victoria Falls to China on a "Flight to Hell" - The Zimbabwean". 27 December 2016. 
  59. ^ Russo, Christina; Cruise, Adam (23 December 2016). "Zimbabwe ships live elephants to wildlife parks in China" – via 
  60. ^ "From rare experiences with wild elephants in Hwange, zimbabwe, Sharon Pincott is now living with "rare diseases" - The Zimbabwean". 28 February 2017. 
  61. ^ "Ending ivory trade this World Wildlife Day - IFAW - International Fund for Animal Welfare". 
  62. ^ "The Queensland woman who spent 13 years with a single clan of African elephants". 4 March 2017. 
  63. ^ "Zimbabwe hostile to conservationists - The Standard". 31 March 2017. 
  64. ^ "Did a shot 'Presidential' elephant fall on hunter Theunis Botha in Hwange? - The Zimbabwean". 25 May 2017. 
  65. ^ "Cyanide Poisoning in Hwange Presidential Elephant area - The Zimbabwean". 20 June 2017. 
  66. ^ "'Masakhe': Trying to rebuild what has been broken - The Zimbabwean". 1 June 2017. 
  67. ^ "All the president's elephants - The Zimbabwean". 1 August 2017. 
  68. ^ "A walk for the animals - Noosa Today". 27 September 2016. 
  69. ^ "June 18 Coolum's My Place Restaurant Literary Morning Tea". Eventbrite. 
  70. ^ "Talk Radio Europe Official". 
  71. ^ "More elephants dead in Hwange - The Zimbabwean". 21 August 2017. 
  72. ^ "Another Disgrace Zimbabwe; another 'Elephant' Disgrace - The Zimbabwean". 29 December 2017. 
  73. ^ "Zim Elephant Capture Petition attracts over a Quarter-of-a-Million - The Zimbabwean". 19 January 2018. 
  74. ^ "Dear Mr President - Re Zimbabwe Elephant Captures - The Zimbabwean". 7 February 2018. 
  75. ^ "Open Letter to Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa on behalf of 287,509 concerned would-be tourists around the globe - The Zimbabwean". 14 May 2018. 
  76. ^ "Join Ivory Crush protest against elephant products - The Sunshine Coast Daily". 20 February 2018. 
  77. ^ "Australia's first Ivory Crush - For the love of ELEPHANTS - The Zimbabwean". 7 March 2018. 
  78. ^ "Is this how much Zimbabwe values its Elephants?". 12 April 2018. 
  79. ^ "Video: Horrific conditions for elephants at Beijing Zoo - Africa Geographic". 10 April 2018. 

Additional book reviews[edit]

In excess of 40 Editorial Reviews and Endorsements of Pincott's three published books, Elephant Dawn, The Elephants and I and Battle for the President's Elephants, have been collated here. A collection of these are printed in each of Pincott's three books, published by Jacana Media South Africa (publisher of all three books), and Allen&Unwin Australia (original publisher of Elephant Dawn).

Elephant Dawn[edit]

Battle for the President's Elephants[edit]

The Elephants and I[edit]

External links[edit]