ERNA WALRAVEN in conversation with TARA DIVERSI

For more than thirty years, Erna spent her life in zoos. No, not like that; as a zookeeper and later as the Senior Curator at Taronga Zoo, Erna developed her passion for animal conservation and insights into the ways of the wild. 

Erna’s books take a zoologist’s view of human behaviour and use humour to compare and contrast with animal behaviour. Considering the recent Federal election, her book on Wild Leadership – what wild animals teach us about leadership is of particular interest. She wrote that because she used to mumble ‘A chimp could do a better job’ whilst watching our politicians on the TV. In that book she also describes how female chimpanzees take control of the normally male-dominated society if they are displeased enough. Plenty of parallels with the rise of the Teals in the last election! 

Now, she has undertaken a new adventure restoring a long-forgotten villa in Spain and shares more of this warm (and funny) book.  Sunset in Spain is a poignant story of a couple’s new challenges and the joys to be had in ramping things up when most of us would be happy to start winding down.

ABOUT ERNA WALRAVEN: Erna Walraven was born in the Netherlands and moved to Australia via Spain, where she stayed long enough to develop an appreciation of tapas and good red wine. She’s been a translator and interpreter of Dutch, German, French, Spanish, and English, as well as a kennel maid, zookeeper, petrol pump attendant, waitress, aged care worker, farmhand, conveyancing clerk, debt collector, and a dog washer. After many different jobs, she actually finished university, and settled for zoology to become the Senior Curator at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia, for over two decades where she was responsible for the care of some 400 wild animal species. Erna’s career inspired her to write many nonfiction books about animals.  Erna’s book, Wild Leadership – what wild animals teach us about leadership, was published by New Holland in 2019, then published by LangenMüller in Germany in 2020, and Delachaux et Niestlé in France in 2021. Wild Fathers – what wild animal dads teach us about fatherhood, was published by New Holland in 2021. Erna’s long-harboured dream of living in Spain again came true when she and her husband Alex returned and bought a falling-down villa to make their home. An adventure resulting in her latest book Sunset in Spain which was published by Affirm Press in 2022.


Tara Diversi and Erna Walraven