‘The elephant’s whole body trembled; a tear rolled down her face…Some sixth sense told Martine that the elephant’s heart was failing because it had been broken. Her freedom and her family had been stolen from her. She had nothing left to live for.’

When a sinister stranger threatens Martine’s home at Sawubona Game Reserve and her beloved white giraffe, Jemmy, she is determined to try everything in her power to save them. To do that she and her best friend, Ben, must risk their lives by travelling to the Namibian desert. There they stumble across a secret so terrible it threatens the existence of every person and animal in the land. Can they trust the mysterious San Bushman boy, Gift? And is the fate of twenty missing elephants linked to Sawubona?

In this fourth, thrilling African adventure, Martine and Ben have just thirteen days to find the truth or lose the wildlife sanctuary and animals they love.

One of my clearest childhood memories is going to a farm close to ours in Africa to see fifty baby elephants. They’d been orphaned in a cull and were on their way to zoos across the world. I’m not a fan of zoos and wasn’t then, and I’m dead set against culling – the practice of killing elephants “for their own good” if there are too many in a particular area. But, though I feared for the future of the babies, I was entranced by them. I sat on the corral fence and watched them tussle and play and rush around their enclosure on ungainly legs, little trunks swinging, and thought they were beyond adorable.

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to have many opportunities to be around elephants. I’ve rubbed their rough, prickly hides, cooed over their long eyelashes, watched them wallow joyously in muddy waterholes, ridden them and been charged by them in safari vehicles. But like Martine in The Elephant’s Tale, I’d never really given much thought to the intelligence and astonishing natural gifts of elephants until I discovered how their acute hearing means they are able to pick up communications from other elephants from as far as ten kilometers away. Or that their family bonds are so strong that youngsters orphaned by culls wake up screaming with nightmares. Then I remembered the babies I’d seen on that farm and felt devastated.

On a more positive note, while I was writing The Elephant’s Tale I was able to spend months researching elephant behaviour. What I learned convinced me that we have to do everything in our power to save these magnificent creatures, with their intricate and loving communities. We can’t do that unless, like Martine, we learn to understand them.

Another part of my research was travelling to Namibia, the setting for this story. It is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful countries in Africa, but its existence depends on a limited source of rainfall, which is increasingly being affected by global warming. Other desert regions, such as the Australian Outback are in the same position. My own father, a farmer in the Southern African country of Zimbabwe, often tells me of the catastrophic changes in climate that he has witnessed in his lifetime. We’re now using the resources of 1.4 earths. When those resources are gone, there’ll be none left.

The best part about writing the White Giraffe series has been living with characters whose mission is not only to heal and save animals but to make their lives better. There are nearly 6.8 billion people on earth. Imagine if every one of us did one small thing to help wildlife or the environment, the earth would soon begin to recover and we’d all benefit by having a more beautiful planet to enjoy.

The wonderful thing about the world now is that it has become a much smaller place. We’re all connected. Don’t ever feel that you’re too far away to make a difference. The smallest action, whether it’s stopping to be kind to a dog or cat on your way to school, or not dropping litter, or perhaps doing a school project on the endangered species of Africa, makes a difference, although you might not realize it at the time.

In the meantime, follow your dreams, follow your heart, and consider conservation.

Lauren St John, London 2009

“...there is a warmth and love for animals that raises this above the herd. It is an enjoyable, action-packed tale.”

TELEGRAPH

“The Elephant's Tale is the fourth book in a compelling series by Lauren St John. Set on a game reserve in South Africa it contains everything to make children sit up and listen to their bedtime story: the orphaned heroine with a gift for healing sick animals had my boys begging for just one more chapter.”

Daisy Bridgewater, TELEGRAPH MAGAZINE

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