Save Akili : John BotternSave Akili

A group of ten highly trained and experienced ivory poachers equipped with semi-automatic rifles, sophisticated electronic equipment and heavy trucks, enters a game reserve in Tanzania with the aim of killing elephants for their tusks. Their main objective is to kill Akili, the matriarch of a large herd, as she possesses a pair of unusually long, and beautifully shaped tusks.

Most of the park’s game rangers are away on leave, so the main obstacles in their way are Tuli, the most experienced ranger in the park, and his son Onkolo, his sixteen-year-old son. All game rangers are usually armed with heavy rifles and are authorized to kill would-be poachers, but Tuli and his son have chosen to arm themselves each with only a bow and arrows as they face the few poachers who occasionally infiltrate the reserve. An ordinary man and an ordinary boy, they now suddenly face impossible odds.

And the odds worsen dramatically when Tuli is unexpectedly taken out of the equation. So the sixteen-year boy, petrified of the well-organized poachers, now has to overcome his fears and quickly adapt to his changing environment and circumstances. He has no military training at all, and can rely only on his own experience and knowledge of the bush and of the animals that live there, to survive. His chances of going further than just surviving and actually defending the elephants, now rest entirely on his ability to overcome his fears and think clearly and strategically. And on his dogged persistence. But will that be enough?

Then, along the way, he unexpectedly forges a partnership with the most unlikely of allies, the elephant Akili. The almost mystical interaction between the elephant and the sixteen-year-old Onkolo is very limited, yet it provides a small glimmer of hope that the odds may begin to change, as Onkolo finds to his astonishment that Akili somehow seems able to warn him over long distances of impending dangers.

(An addendum to the book shows that elephants can and do communicate across vast distances. The addendum separates fact from fiction)

The savagery of animals in the wild, and the savagery that emerges from interactions between poachers and rangers, is offset by scenes of tranquillity and of the beauty of the African bush that will surely enthrall and delight you.

And you will discover that, although the story is fiction, the events described are completely believable.

And Onkolo, boy turned man? Sheer guts!

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