By Caitlin O’Connell

In December, 1991, my boyfriend and I decided to spend a year traveling in Africa in between graduate degrees. But after being seduced by Africa, we never left. And from there, boyfriend became husband, and elephants the subject of my scientific career.

While working for the Namibian government in the Caprivi region of Namibia in the early 1990’s, I was struck by the realities of the elephant-human interface and the contrast between dedicated conservation staff trying to protect elephants and their habitat on the one hand, and farmers having to live with elephants eating their crops on the other. There was so much color and energy to this place and these people that the experience made me want to write a fictional account that illustrated the contrasts of modern Africa in the face of elephants on the brink.

Over the intervening years, although elephant conservation efforts have improved in some places across Africa, in others, the situation for elephants is getting worse, given recent political instabilities in north Africa, a rise in crime syndicates on the continent, and the increase in the demand for ivory in China, all contributing to a rise in the price of ivory and a staggering increase in elephant poaching in some countries*. Having written five nonfiction books about elephants, including my most recent science memoir about male elephant society, Elephant Don (University of Chicago Press, 2015), [see National Geographic author interview: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/04/150419-ngbooktalk-elephant-behavior-rituals-animals-africa/], I revisited the idea of fiction as another approach to drawing attention to them and their plight.


Ivory Ghosts (Random House ebook imprint, Alibi) is a fictional account of the people, places, politics, events and situations that represent the urgency of the elephant crisis in Africa. I set the story in the —> Read More