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Joan Root was English by heritage, African by birth, and a lover of Kenya, its animals, and its people. Her home on the banks of Lake Vainasha was a veritable Eden to a menagerie of recuperating and orphaned animals. A visitor once mistook for a waterbed Joan's pet hippo, Sally, who was napping in a corner of the room.
So shy that her only response to a scorpion's sting was a soft "oh," Joan became, through quiet determination, one of East Africa's most respected voices for conservation. With her former husband, Alan, she'd made some of the most celebrated wildlife films ever produced. When poachers and massive flower farms began to destroy the region's delicate ecosystem, she worked with the poachers rather than sending them to jail, hoping to instill a love of conservation in native Kenyans.
By the time a small group of African gunmen opened fire through the bars in her bedroom window, killing the 69-year-old Root, she'd lived at the lake for 25 years. Hers was a gentle but stalwart voice that spoke for patience and knowledge. Her death came from a lifetime of understanding animals better than people and forgetting that among living creatures on earth, one alone has the capacity for evil. Seal's biography is an illuminating yet troubling tribute. (Fall 2009 Selection)