WILD ANIMAL LIFE IN THE
AN ADDRESS BY SIR CHARLES DELME-RADCLIFFE,
K.C.M.G., C.B., C.V.O., ETC.
12th February, 1931
PRESIDENT STAPELLS was in the chair; he introduced SIR (CHARLES, who spoke as follows: I have been asked to speak today by the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire, of which the Prince of Wales is Patron, and Lord Onslow is President. The Society has sent me a number of slides, which I will show you. In the short time that I have spent in Canada I have learned many gratifying things. The National Parks Department of Canada and the Canadian Forestry Association have done wonderful work in the direction of the preservation of wild life, which is not known abroad. In Quebec I was told, at a lecture given under the auspices of the Literary and Historical Society of Canada-the oldest learned society in the British Empire outside England-that valuable work has been done there by the Society, encouraged by the Hon. Frank Carrel.
I have here a remarkable paper, published in the Empire Review of 1911, by Col. William Wood on the subject of an Animal Sanctuary in Labrador, which I think should be reprinted with the subsequent official statement. I also have a little pamphlet of the Provencher Society of Quebec, a society for the protection of birds, which contains beautiful colored illustrations. This also should be broadcast all over Canada. We hope that there will be a coordination of these societies and others to work with us for the preservation of the Fauna of our Empire. The English speaking people have long been noted for their consideration of domestic animals; they have led the way in the civilized world as regards humane treatment of all animals associated with mankind, either as servants or pets. This spirit has now been incorporated in the legislation of most Western countries, and the ethics which govern behaviour in the relations of man with dumb creatures no longer depend on the law" but have become ingrained in the minds of all decent people. There are hosts of quite ordinary men today who would be provoked to anger if they saw a horse ill-treated, and who would, without hesitation, risk their lives to save a dog from death. It is not generally known that over two million souls annually visit the London Zoo. This is indisputable evidence of wide-spread interest in wild life, although it is to be feared that few of those who visit the Zoo realize the increasing dangers which beset these animals in their natural haunts, and it is feared that many who would undergo sacrifice to prevent ill-treatment of a domestic animal may read an account of indiscriminate slaughter of wild animals, under conditions of unspeakable cruelty, with no more than a passing qualm. An old proverb runs "What the eye does not see the heart does not grieve for"; this may, or may not, be the reason, but the fact remains that experience has shown the difficulty of stirring public imagination regarding the fate of creatures of the wild. Only the verdict of the people can decide whether wild life is to be annihilated during the present age or conserved for the benefit of future generations. If the only comment invited by a description of ruthless slaughter is "What a pity", wild life will disappear. Something more is needed-a wide-spread determination that it must be saved, and I am here to make suggestions as to how you can help. Let me first explain the situation as it is in various parts of the world.
During the last twenty-five years the economic development of the British Empire overseas has made great strides. Our countrymen are now making their homes in countries which our fathers had barely heard of. Since the war these activities have increased, and material and political progress is everywhere evident. All this is in accordance with the colonising instinct of our race,, and the supply of raw materials resulting from this penetration is essential to our manufacturers, and for our food supply. The development of distant regions has, therefore, brought into being a set of conditions which must be faced without delay. "The pioneer stage" is invariably a period of great danger to wild life. During this stage incredible herds of Bison became annihilated in North America. In South Africa the great assemblages of wild life described by early travellers have been swept away, and one can travel for hundreds of miles in country practically uninhabited, without seeing a single wild creature. In 1899, as I was travelling toward Uganda, crossing the plain between the river Athi and Nairobi, I witnessed a great migration of various animals which could have been counted literally by millions-so dense that a shot could not be fired in any direction without hitting several. That was a sight such as will never be seen again in this history of the world.
Farther North in Africa, matters are not quite so acute and the reasons are easily seen. First, the area is vast and the pioneers fewer. Second, in the early days, soon after any government was instituted in those regions, the Fauna Protection Society induced the home government to promulgate Game Laws and to set aside certain areas as sanctuaries. This example was copied by the Germans and in what is now Tanganyika Territory a number of sanctuaries were created. These have been of great service, but, today, they are not very safe. Any sanctuary can be cancelled by an order of the local government and, periodically, pressure is exercised by colonists to abolish such reserves in order that the land may be thrown open to settlement. In fact, one colony is reluctant to declare any sanctuary, in case the area so dedicated might be required for colonization in the future. This shows by what a slender thread the future of the wild life hangs and how necessary it is for the public opinion to exercise its weight. The Game Ordinances have proved of service in controlling reckless slaughter, but only where the local government has appointed a special officer and staff. This has been done in Kenya,, Uganda, Tanganyika and Nyasa, and the expenditure has been fully justified. In fact, the revenue derived from the game in these colonies far exceeds the expenditure. Where active colonization is in progress the situation is aggravated by the depredations of wild animals. Human efforts directed towards the production of crops is the fundamental basis of our existence. In our African possessions this is recognized by the local Game Departments and, where the agriculturists are unable to deal with ravages of wild animals unaided, it is the function of the local government to come to their assistance. The larger beasts can do great damage. In Uganda, elephants often destroy native cultivation, herds of zebra chased by lions will crash through fences, and antelopes will invade fields of maize. In most places more damage is done by baboons and pigs. Native gardens, consisting of isolated patches surrounded by bush, are attacked by baboons in the daytime and by pigs at night. These species are not protected by law, but they are difficult to deal with; as their meat is not considered edible, the natives do not make many efforts to reduce the menace, which could be remedied by closer settlement, and clearing of the bush.
None of the difficulties of the situation must be suppressed or ignored. A defeatist type of mind maintains that nothing effective can be done, and that the wild life 'has to disappear before the advance of civilization. Such people fall back on the premises that the natural course is for wild life to be decimated to the point of extinction; only when that moment arrives will the people of the country become stirred and take steps to save the remaining wild life. The sequence of events in America, Canada and South Africa is an historic example. The very truth of this makes it all the more specious and thus very dangerous. The larger mammals must be pushed back from the immediate vicinity of planted crops, but in all our dominions and colonies where large assemblages of wild life still exist, there are extensive areas where settlement is next to impossible. These territories are so vast that there is ample room for both economic development and assemblages of wild life. No dominion or colony now exists in which the main routes of railway development and the areas suitable for settlement are not known. Further, the areas in native occupation and those available for future extension are well defined. There is" therefore, no reason to postpone the settlement of this matter, for a satisfactory solution will become increasingly difficult, and in some countries impossible. Areas suitable for national parks will then be found to be completely isolated, and will provide potential foci for unscrupulous poachers and skin dealers, and are likely to be impossible to control by any Game Department. We urge public opinion to support us in demanding, therefore, that this question may be faced immediately. As years go by colonial residents will come to cherish the assemblages of wild life in a sanctuary, and to realize their value as a public asset. To promote the growth of this spirit those responsible for the care of these sanctuaries must give the public easy access to these areas. Roads and rest houses must be provided; some control over the movements of the public will be necessary, but it need not be burdensome. If this policy is initiated the public will soon grow to value parks, in which wild life abounds, as national assets, and will keep alive the interest in wild life. Apart from the pleasure which accrues from visits to well-stocked sanctuaries, there are many signs in some colonies of a growing interest in the conservation of wild life, and efforts are being made to stimulate this spirit. Its growth, however, is slow, and irreparable damage may be done before humanitarianism becomes dominant in any overseas territory. Everywhere there exist groups of individuals whose one idea is to avoid continuous work, who look upon poaching and illicit trading in ivory and trophies as an adventurous occupation. The advent of the motor has facilitated the operations of these gentry and rendered their control more difficult.
Every country where wild life exists to any extent has its own problems, and everywhere there is a powerful section of opinion adverse to wild life. In Malaya, for instance, we meet with resentment on the part of the rubber planters against depredations by deer, and the antagonism to wild life is astonishingly acute. Poaching by native races is also a menace and in some areas a serious one. The advent of the Pax Britannica has facilitated movement, and natives can now roam with safety for greater distances from their homes, and communal drives, similar to those so graphically described by Dr. Livingstone, have been far too common in parts of Africa. On one occasion, in the Nile Province of which I was in charge, the natives got up a drive of elephants, and in one day killed over 200 by surrounding them with a ring of fire. All the elephants were burned or speared to death, and the result was a fearful gorge on the part of the natives. 'The danger is not confined to Africa. In India the increase of firearms among the peasants has been the means of reducing the stock of wild life to an unbelievable extent. In Assam and Malaya rare species such as the Asiatic rhinoceros have practically vanished. European sportsmen come and go, a few shoot excessively, the majority do not, but the native is always there, and he never discriminates; female and immature beasts are all the same to him, the life of the animals has no meaning, its rarity has no significance, it is only so much "meat". As regards posterity, the sentiment resembles that expressed by a gentleman who was reproached for having killed animals too freely, and told that he ought to think of posterity, but he replied, "What the Hell has posterity ever done for me?"
Some well disposed persons at home plead for disregard of native hunting, on various grounds. Some urge that the natives have a right to kill because they did so before the advent of Western control. Others urge that it is wrong to check the native races on the ground that they are normally ill-nurtured and the slaughter of wild animals is their only means of obtaining a supply of protein to supplement a cereal diet. We cannot, however, admit that any native has a prescriptive right to kill as he likes; we take the standpoint that the wild life is the property of the State just as much as the forests or mineral deposits, and should be administered by the State. With regard to the importance of a modicum of meat; doubtless large numbers of natives are indifferently nourished, but we maintain that a periodic gorge of meat, much of which is, by the time it reaches the recipient, in a state of semi-decomposition, can be no solution of malnutrition. Rise in social progress is the prescription; instruction as to how better results can be obtained from the soil. As success on these lines is attained, so malnutrition will recede.
Another factor which complicates the situation in parts of Africa is the occurence of the tsetse flies. These flies carry a microscopic organism called a trypanosome which is communicated to cattle causing a deadly disease called "nagana"; certain species of the fly carry a special variety of trypanosome which produces "sleeping sickness" in man. It will, therefore, be realized that the tsetses are more dangerous than the house fly which is so often the agent for the spread of typhoid. In the course of ages, the antelope, buffalo, etc., have developed an immunity to this deadly organism. The tsetses mainly depend on a supply of blood, and in a tsetse-infested country these insects follow the herds of wild animals and feed on them. In consequence the cattle owners claim that wild game spreads the tsetse. A few years ago an experiment was tried in Tanganyika Territory; a considerable area was, as far as possible, cleared of wild life, and the tsetses, deprived of the food usually supplied by game, concentrated on the natives living in the area; within a few months an epidemic of sleeping sickness appeared, and several hundred people died. In S. Rhodesia a double line of fencing was erected on the edge of the settled area. with a space of a mile between the fences. All wild life between the fences was driven out or killed, but even this scheme failed to protect the farms. The question of dealing with the tsetse menace is proving more difficult than was ever suspected. In Tanganyika some success has been attained by systematic clearing and burning, but this require-s the services of large numbers of men" and when an area has been cleared it is essential to keep it cleared by intensive cultivation. Teams of scientific workers are now studying various aspects of the problem, and it is hoped that something concrete will emerge. It has, however, been demonstrated that the solution will not come from blind measures of wild life destruction.
Before I close I will refer to an aspect of this question of wild life preservation which is somewhat contentious. There is a rising wave of humanitarian sentiment with which one cannot fail to have sympathy. One manifestation is definite antagonism to what is known by the horrible term "blood sports", which may be interpreted as meaning any sport which entails the shedding of blood. It is a difficult question, and depends on the conditions prevailing in each country. In closely settled countries like the British Isles, fox-hunting has been recognized as a commendable sport. For centuries it has done much for the development of the horse, has had a beneficial effect on human character, and has perpetuated the fox. It is now becoming an expensive pastime and is probably doomed, and five years after it ceases there will not be a fox left in Britain. The same will probably apply to deer-stalking; declare it to be illegal and, except in a national park, the red deer in Britain will disappear. In Africa, India" and other places only partially occupied, the greater mammals must be kept under control by man, or they will drive him from the field. In these countries regulated shooting will have to be permitted. There is no sign of public disapproval, and such feeling is unlikely to appear. As long as the Governments o£ these territories-maintain adequate sanctuaries where wild life can live undisturbed, and if shooting outside the sanctuaries is strictly controlled, little harm would appear to result. Further, as the wild life is a source of revenue to a number of our colonies, there is reason to believe that the local governments will not allow such an asset to be destroyed.
The advent of cinema-photography is welcomed, for it is undoubtedly weaning many travellers from the rifle, and recent examples have shown that it is comparatively easy for an intelligent amateur to obtain first-class results. This is to the good, for the people who photograph wild life will add to the force of public opinion against wanton destruction. I may remind you that the Prince of Wales is a real sportsman, both in spirit and deed. (Applause.) On his last trip in Africa he did more photographing than shooting. In fact, on two or three occasions he was taken up to elephants for the purpose of shooting them" but he laid down his rifle, and photographed instead.
While sympathising deeply with any movement which will check slaughter, one must not lose sight of the relationships which exist in a natural assemblage of wild life; man is by no means the only enemy animals have to contend with. It is a thrilling experience to camp at night in a region where a profusion of game exists, and to hear troops of terrified creatures galloping to and fro, the thud of their hoofs being punctuated by the coughing grunt of lions. It is pathetic to see the banks of a river strewn with numerous carcasses of beautiful animals stricken down by an epidemic. Nature's own methods are not pleasant. In 1898 when first I went up country in Africa it happened that a terrible epidemic, the "Rinderpest", destroyed all the buffalo in the country. On each side of the road, in all directions, I saw skeletons of buffaloes, but not a living buffalo until I reached the banks of the Upper Nile, near Soudokoro, 200 miles north of Lake Victoria Nyanza. This is no argument why man should devote his skill to the destruction of wild life, and what has been said demonstrates, I think, the necessity for the construction of a definite policy in all the countries concerned" one which will take account of all the difficulties and which must be arrived at by the consent of those whose real interests are involved. If it is delayed, many species will disappear within the next decade and once a species goes, it can never be replaced. Many will ask how they can help. You can help by adding to the mass of public opinion which is represented by the Society for the Preservation of the Fauna of the Empire. This Society studies the problems as they arise in various countries and takes such measures as it considers applicable. It is directed by a Committee of wide experience, who realize the difficulties which arise from the development work being carried on by man. It has correspondents all over the world and is thus in touch with facts. It has many achievements to its credit and it has laboured untiringly for twenty-five years for the attainment of a reasonable "modus vivendi" by which wild life will be spared in each region and man's legitimate efforts will not be impeded. The Society has now about 800 members, but it needs 8,000 in order to carry out all there is to do. May I ask you to come and help in this good work? (Loud applause.)
Brigadier-General Mitchell voiced the thanks of the Club to the speaker for his interesting address.