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Joan Root 

Alan and Joan Root filming spitting cobra

An adventurous filmmaker and lifelong conservationist, Joan Thorpe was born in Kenya in 1936. Passionate about wildlife, Joan joined her father on many of his tourist expeditions, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of East Africa's natural history and rescuing many orphaned animals.

In 1961, her successful rearing of a newborn elephant brought her to the attention of the amateur wildlife photographer, and renowned daredevil, Alan Root. The start of a formidable partnership, the couple quickly married and over the next twenty years produced a series of iconic films about their beloved homeland.

Throughout the early 1960s, the pair took on many photographic assignments but always had to send their footage back for others to turn into films. All this changed in 1967, when their award-winning portrayal of the Galapagos, Voyage to the Enchanted Isles, was released. A Survival Anglia production, it was given a Royal Premiere, became the first UK-produced wildlife film to be shown in America and its huge success enabled the Roots to become independent filmmakers.

1969 saw the release of Mzima: Portrait of a Spring and filming hippos underwater with no protection, Joan narrowly escaping death when a hippo bit through her diving mask. Using a variety of inventive filming techniques and a certain disregard for standard safety measures, the couple continued to build their reputation both for groundbreaking wildlife filmmaking and extraordinary risk-taking.

For 1975's Balloon Safari Over Kilimanjaro, the Roots became the first people to pass directly over Africa's highest peak and, in 1976, by hiding cameras in tortoise shells, they captured the raw energy of wildebeest migration for The Year of the Wildebeest. Receiving numerous awards for their work, their 1978 study of African giant termite mounds, Mysterious Castles of Clay earned them an Oscar nomination.

Alan and Joan separated in the 1980s and Joan, staying in their home on the shore of Lake Naivasha, became very involved in local environmental campaigns and conservation measures.

Joan Root died on 12th January 2006, murdered in her home by intruders.

WildFilmHistory Films

film-smallThe Enchanted Isles (1967)Sound Recordist 
film-smallSurvival Special: Safari by Balloon (1975)Appearance 
film-smallMysterious Castles of Clay (1978)Producer 
film-smallTwo in the Bush (1978)Photography 
Joan Root with hippopotamus, aardvark and fox
Joan Root with hippopotamus, aardvark and...
Alan and Joan Root filming spitting cobra
Alan and Joan Root filming spitting cobra
Joan Root with aardwolf
Joan Root with aardwolf
Joan Root with striped hyena
Joan Root with striped hyena