Recognised Authors warmly welcome Karen as their new peer

Recognised Authors warmly welcome Karen as their new peer

Karen has received great comments from highly recognised authors. Here are their comments welcoming Karen as a fellow published author.

Freshly added: a review from Book Shop owner.


Gareth Patterson
Gareth Patterson
When you spend hours with an animal, learning things you never knew. When you see that animal for what it is. When you watch it being a father, a fighter, a protector, a clown, and you think of some person killing him so that they can mount his ancient head on their wall, far away from Africa, well, it cuts a large hole in your heart. Karen Paolillo, A Hippo Love Story.

A Hippo Love story is a wonderful book. It is the inspiring story of Karen’s quest to courageously protect the hippo’s, and her work also gives us new and important insights into the behavior and psyche of these wonderful animals. Today, the more we learn about animal behavior, be it elephants, lions, gorilla’s, hippo’s and the myriad of other species, we increasingly learn that the so-called ‘species barrier’, dividing us from the other species of life, is a damaging myth that should, like other human prejudices, be dismantled.

Gareth Patterson is author of 10 books,including Last of the Free, and the forthcoming autobiography, My Lion’s Heart.

Tammie Matson
Tammie Matson Dr Tammie Matson is a zoologist, author and director of Matson and Ridley Safaris.
A long while ago – back in 1995, I met a woman known to the locals in Zimbabwe as Madam Mvuu, which translated into the Shona language means literally ‘Mrs Hippo’. Back when I was aspiring to be a wildlife conservationist in Africa, something that seemed like an impossible dream at the age of about 17, Karen Paolillo encouraged me to take the plunge, not just in her words of encouragement, but by setting a fine example. While volunteering for her, I recall being in the driver’s seat of her dilapidated old Peugeot bakkie, holding my foot on the brakes on a downhill slope near her house, while she tried to save a puff adder that had crawled inside the engine with a long stick, before walking across rocks to where hippos slept in the midday sun, sunning themselves on the river bank. What an adventure every day was! For a fledgling researcher, it was the stuff of dreams, and these early encounters with wild animals drove me to help make my dreams a reality. Almost twenty years later, Karen and I are still friends and I’m delighted to share that her biography, “A Hippo Love Story” has just hit the book shelves. My oh my, is this a gobsmacking journey! This is one worth reading, folks

Tammie Matson, author of Planet Elephant, Elephant Dance, Dry Water.

C.J Carver
C.J Carver
Karen Paolillo gets right under the skin of the African bush, making an impressive chronicle not just of her beloved hippos and their behaviour, but by also taking the temperature of a nation. An absorbing read right from the start, this is Africa seen through the eyes of a writer with a powerful feeling for her subject. Confrontations with angry bull hippos, trophy hunters and war veterans who want to take over in the Conservancy in which she lives as well as take over her home are interspersed with snapshots on the status and politics of the country. Karen Paolillo is an extraordinary woman and her journey remarkable. Her love for the hippos shines through the book as hard and bright as the African sun itself. This is indeed a hippo love story. I loved every bit.

C.J Carver is well known thriller author of 7 books among them The Honest Assassin, Back with Vengeance

Bookey Peek
Bookey Peek Stone Hills Wildlife Sanctuary
What possesses a young couple to risk their lives in a foreign country for no tangible reward? It would have been so easy for them to pack up and leave those years of danger and deprivation behind, putting them down to experience. People would have understood that. Well, they’d say, you’ve had some wonderful years, as if all that mattered were the memories. When the truth is the Paolillos are tied to their land as surely as if they had been chained to a tree – by their responsibility to others, forged over the years – knowing that if they go, the animals they protect will surely die. The words that come to mind: first, crazy, obsessed even, because what could be worth losing your life for? But then – brave and devoted with the fierce love of one who has appointed herself protector of the helpless: those who would otherwise be doomed. And courage – the mad courage – of a man who stayed despite being constantly threatened and then kidnapped, and a woman who lives alone for much of the year in a house built with their own hands, trying to make ends meet for the animals she loves. The tragedy is that these are the people our wildlife relies on – those who are unafraid, willing to lose everything so they might live. It’s not only the land invaders who pose a threat to the Paolillos and the hippos they protect, the people around them make a living from hunting and find it difficult to understand or sympathise with the “bunny huggers” who cannot accept that the value of wildlife is as a commodity – an economic asset. But although Karen has no family close by, nor close friends for support, she lives with the joy of acceptance by the hippos, baboons and the monkeys in her little kingdom – all of whom are truly wild but have given her the priceless gift of their trust. These days, the scene is deceptively calm outside the peaceful house on the hill overlooking the Turgwe River, where Karen and Jean Roger sit and have tea with Spazzy, an adult male baboon, lolling comfortably on his own chair close by while he watches the activity below him. It’s just a short walk down to the pool where the hippos gather – Karen talks to them as she approaches, and they immediately relax. Can anyone understand the dedication it takes to spend hour after patient hour with wild animals, year after year, gaining their trust, learning their families and their ways – while knowing that all this could change forever with the sound of a bullet or the arrival of those who would drive you away from your land? I read Karen’s book slowly at first, getting a sense of who the Paolillos are and how it all began – then I was turning the pages faster and faster – pulled along by the developing dramas, the threats, the danger. And of course those incredible insights into the lives of the hippos, who behave quite naturally when Karen is there. There are others, but so few, putting themselves out on a limb for wildlife – not for money, nor academic acclaim, but simply because they care. Karen and Jean Roger Paolillo deserve all our respect and admiration.

Bookey Peek is author of All the Way Home, Wild Honey, Beyond the Wild Wood. Richard Peek is the photographer for all of her books.

Sally Henderson
Sally Henderson
Just occasionally a book comes along which you cannot put down; when you eat up the words too quickly and find yourself checking pages because the end is looming – and you cannot bear it. A Hippo Love Story is one of those. Karen’s intimate rendition of her life with Jean Roger, and the pod of hippos and wildlife they battled to save in Zimbabwe’s rugged lowveld, can stand with pride beside the best memoirs of living with, and caring for animals in Africa. I spent time with the Paolillos’ in 2012 and can assure you that this inspirational woman writes as she speaks and moves: with intensity, passion and energy. Her honesty is soul-baring as she shares her love story with Jean. Her devotion and empathy for her animal tribe, and her respect and love for Bob, Blackface and their families is humbling. I felt fear with Karen, and I wept with her. But if I cried, I also laughed. Humour pops up when it is least expected as it does in the company of the wildlife warrior and the man who loves her so well that he gave up his life to support hers. When drought and flood wrought carnage they went without so the animals had food. When so-called “war veterans” and “death squads” came for them they cared more about the fate of the wildlife than their own lives. Can courage be measured? If so, then this unique couple deserve a Victoria Cross. But I doubt that either of them would consider their actions as heroic. They are doing what they love, for the beings they love. It is a magnificent obsession and that is the secret of lives well lived. Read this memoir. It will move and inspire you.

Sally Henderson is author of : ‘Silent Footsteps’ – A Woman’s Awakening Among The Elephants Of Africa: Pan Macmillan, ‘Ivory Moon’ – Getting Lost And Found Among The Desert Elephants Of Namibia.

Sharon Pincott
Sharon Pincott
So thrilled to have finally got my hands on a copy of A Hippo Love Story. Having known Karen Paolillo for the past 17 years I already knew and appreciated her inspirational story, and it’s certainly an important and valuable one to have recorded for posterity. And it’s a great read. Just imagine if everyone actively took on a small part of this planet and fought for small populations of wildlife everywhere! I can certainly attest to the hardships and suffering of living full-time in today’s Zimbabwe. When striving to make a difference in this part of Africa, there are unbelievable obstacles and risks – beyond the comprehension of many – to overcome every day. Thank you Karen for rising to the challenges, and if the hippos could talk they would say a huge thank you too. I also give thanks to Karen’s husband Jean-Roger – through what has been good times and bad – since it’s an excruciatingly difficult battle when fighting alone. The world surely needs more hands-on wildlife warriors. I pray Karen that you, the hippos, and your little piece of troubled Zimbabwe continue to survive the ongoing madness. Congratulations.

Sharon Pincott, is author of “The Elephants and I” and “Battle for the President’s Elephants”. She works among the wild clan of elephants known as The Presidential Elephants of Zimbabwe, on land bordering the Main Camp section of Hwange National Park.

Mandy Retzlaff
Mandy Retzlaff
Everyone should read this wonderful book. It is a warm and poignant story that should be on everyone’s bookshelf.A truly inspirational story that made me laugh and cry. Mandy Retzlaff.

Mandy Retzlaff, is author of “One Hundred and Four Horses”.

Books’ Shop Owner Section


Annie Grossman
Annie Grossman
I will preface this by saying that I was fortunate enough to visit Karen and her husband Jean-Roger in 2012. I travelled to Zimbabwe with my dear friend and author Sally Henderson (Silent Footsteps and Ivory Moon), and another close friend, John Cooper of African Adventures Safari Company; Karen had generously invited us to stay with them at Hippo Haven. We heard Karen’s story of her journey to Zimbabwe, the settlement of Hippo Haven, the creation of the Turgwe Hippo Trust and many of her stories from the past 20 years, from her own mouth. We walked with Karen in the African bush surrounding this remote outpost, and sat around the dinner table where Karen’s and Jean-Roger’s incredible story unfolded. During these days spent at the Turgwe River I was admittedly distracted by the fact I was in an extremely remote part of the world, visited by few tourists, and in a place where baboons shared the outside table and slipped their hands into my pockets looking for treats. It was surreal, but oh so beautiful. Karen took us to visit her beloved hippos in the pools of the Turgwe River, and her devotion to them and connection with them was obvious. She would stand by the pools speaking to these floating boulders as she may have done to a family pet, knowing the identity of each from so many years of research and observation, understanding their individual characters and caring passionately for every single one.

Now that I have had the time to read and reflect on Karen’s story, with no distraction from wild animals, stunning scenery or just that indescribable African light, I understand exactly the sacrifices Karen and Jean-Roger have made over these years to protect a local population of this largely misunderstood animal, battling drought and flood and their biggest threat, man. The events Karen relates through her memoir A Hippo Love Story are vividly described. It is difficult to come to terms with the fact that this diminutive woman has managed to rescue a pod of thirteen hippos from the worst drought in Zimbabwe in living history, physically help to build a system of pools and weirs which now provide a year round water supply for these creatures, hand feed this group of animals said to be the most dangerous in Africa (where there are MANY dangerous creatures) and create a beautiful home for herself, her husband and their menagerie of mismatched animals. Not only has this tiny dynamic woman achieved these things with her own blood, sweat and tears, she has also stood up against the (supposed) war vets; the black people who have been given the go ahead to settle on white owned lands, rape the bush and decimate the wildlife. These people have marched aggressively upon the Paolillo household, instructing them to leave their property as it was now rightfully theirs. I cannot even imagine the scene: the terror for their own lives and the lives of their beloved animals was well and truly at stake. Karen and Jean-Roger stood their ground, willing to die for their animals, earning the respect (for the moment) of these people. There is now a tentative peace in Hippo haven. The population of hippos under Karen’s care has grown steadily, 49 calves being born since the devastating drought of 1992, and the poaching of wild animals in general is still being fought on a daily basis.

It was wonderful to be back at the Turgwe River, the wildest place I have ever been, whilst reading Karen’s story; this time I could truly absorb what she and Jean-Roger had endured over the past two decades. Karen’s spirit and passion shines throughout the book; her writing is personal and well considered – she leaves little out. I could once again smell the African bush, hear the wildlife serenade, and even feel those inquisitive fingers deftly probing my pockets! This is a book for people who enjoy a fascinating human or animal story, or anyone with a love or a hunger for Africa. Congratulations Karen, on opening the door to the non-adventurous, allowing them a window into your world. I wish you happiness health and safety as you continue your life’s work.

Annie Grossman. Annie’s Books on Peregian

Annie is running a Bookstore in Australia. She will be able to sell Karen’s book from her shop. Feel free to contact her if you live in Australia at

Artist’s Corner


When I heard that Karen had written a book about her experience living in Zimbabwe with the Turgwe hippos, I knew that the book will tell it as it is, not with convoluted sentences and sugar coating, but with words and meaning coming from the heart, coming from the soul. Wow, I was not disappointed! The book takes the reader on a journey into the harsh conditions of living and working in the African bush, the devastation that war has had on the human population but also on the wildlife population, the severe consequences of the elements when a drought almost wiped out an entire population of hippos, the sad reality of poaching and facing the arrogant evil of some humans. Karen’s style makes the reader experience it all, the highs and lows with poise and passion. Also, Karen has a way to describe the hippos, with love, compassion, empathy which makes the reader eager to know more about one of Africa’s most formidable creatures. The intricacy of their social structure, the way they behave with each other, the joy of a birth, the sadness and devastation of a death is all depicted in the book with words that hit in the right place, the heart. One cannot help but feel the joy and experience the sadness. One of the stories inter-weaved with the hippos, is the story of Arthur the warthog.  I must admit I shed a few tears reading about Arthur. The crocodile story was also very poignant  and I don’t know how Karen found the strength to keep going when so much darkness in people’s heart was all around her. Another element of the book which is really interesting is to see how Karen’s personal life was inevitably entangled with the lives of the hippos and other animals in Zimbabwe. One can only marvel at Karen’s strength and determination to keep going when everything seemed to be disintegrating around her. Jean Roger, her husband is also a very pivotal player in the story and one wonders how these two people found within themselves the strength to carry on and continue their valuable work under such harrowing circumstances, both personal and professional. This is a unique book, because it is written from the heart and it shows that love, dedication and belief cannot be destroyed even in the most horrendous of situations. As it says in the title, it is indeed a love story, a powerful and unique one ♥


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  1. That is a wonderful review from Annie – and every word of it is true. For those of us unable to visit the Turgwe hippos, Karen’s book is absolutely the next best thing.

    • Dear Hilary thank you so much for this vote of confidence it means so much to me and that you feel this way is an honour. Love all at the Turgwe Hippo Trust xxx

  2. Annie Gill

    Just finished your wonderful, wonderful book. I walked through the bush with you, I felt your heartbreak, your joy, it is a book that should be read for one to understand Africas beauty, its harshness at times, but above all your devotion to the wildlife and of course the magnificent hippos. You are an inspiration to all my dear friend.

    • dear Annie I am so pleased that you enjoyed the book and that it touched your heart and you got to know more about this crazy life this Libra lady lives. Love to you Karen and the hippos xxx

  3. Donna Fahrni

    it is indeed wonderful and such a complement that your book has received the accolades from other well known authors. Bravo Karen!!
    I may not be a well known author, but I certainly can agree with everyone of them…Your book is fascinating and truly inspiring.

    • karen paolillo

      Thank you Donna that means a lot to me. It is going to Australia in October and if it sells well there, then perhaps UK or/and USA if people like it and buy it then the hippos prosper so I hope that will be the case.
      Love Karen and the hippos

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