Shaping Addo by Mitch Reardon: reader impression

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Shaping Addo
Mitch Reardon
ISBN: 978-1-77584-604-8
Publisher: Penguin Random House South Africa

This reader impression was written and sent to LitNet on the writer's own initiative.

Wildlife author and photographer Mitch Reardon writes this inspiring account of conservation success that is the Addo Elephant National Park, a megapark of more than 2 980 square kilometres. South Africa’s third-largest national park and an ecologically diverse protected space, Addo stretches across five of our seven biomes or distinct botanical communities.

The blurb on the back cover of Shaping Addo reads:

An inspiring account of the history of the park, the habits and behaviour of its terrestrial and marine animals, and the pioneering practices that have transformed overworked farmland into an unspoilt wildlife sanctuary.

Dr John Hanks, a zoologist, comments:

Mitch Reardon’s Shaping Addo encapsulates a remarkable conservation success story … presented in a highly readable form with superb photographs. It’s essential reading for all those interested in nature and animal behaviour, and will enthral visitors to the park.

Consisting of 208 pages, a double-page full-colour map and ten very interesting chapters, Shaping Addo captures the nature enthusiast’s imagination and attention. The titles of the chapters are: “A savage history”, “Over the Zuurberg”, “Elephant country”, “Lions in a land of opportunity”, “Jackals and hyaenas”, “Life in the thickets”, “Grassland dramas”, “After the storm”, “Woody Cape” and “Islands in the bay”.

Reardon is especially proud of the fact that the Addo project has shown that profitability and sustainable management of natural resources are not mutually exclusive.

Indeed, Addo has powerfully demonstrated how carefully crafted strategies to promote parks in terms of economic growth and employment can turn unproductive farmland into economically valuable conservation areas, which in turn generates momentum for more land for conservation. (11)

It is interesting to note that South Africa is perhaps the only country in the world where protected land is increasing in size. Reardon has personally visited the park “in the hope of finding a more benevolent relationship with nature” (13). He found Addo a fine place to seek that connection. “The grandeur and location of the place, its great seductive loneliness, made me aware that out here, living the simple life … I had everything I could wish for” (40) – this is how he recalls relaxing on green and gold grasslands bordering Darlington Dam and watching the sunset one evening.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Shaping Addo. Reardon writes both knowledgeably and entertainingly about the history of the park as well as its current endeavours. I love the fact that he engages with different role players, such as rangers and guides. He takes the reader with him on his adventure-filled explorations. One experiences the beautiful surroundings and animal life through his eyes. Full of interesting facts, amazing photos and well-written descriptive prose, Shaping Addo is a wonderful and informative read – a definitive must-have on the bookshelf of any nature enthusiast.

Get your copy of Shaping Addo here.


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