The slaughter on a big scale is not attributed to sportsmen who visit the country on hunting trips, and are for the most part men of culture and lovers of nature.
Nor is it due to collectors of specimens for legitimate scientific purposes, neither of these classes causing any appreciable diminution in the number of the game.
The touring sportsmen who spend from two to six or more months in the country are, indeed, an advantage to the country, for they bring and spend a large amount of money, which is much needed.
The real culprits are those who shoot for the purpose of obtaining record heads, and the professional hunters, who sell their trophies, and shoot every living thing they come across, from elephants to the smallest birds.
Many of these professional elephant hunters belong, it is said, to an extremely undesirable class, who in many instances have left their own country for urgent reasons. Worse even than these are colonies of South African Boers, who get their living by shooting rhinoceroses, elephants, and other animals yielding spoils of commercial value. Many of these Boers, it appears, were settled in the country at great expense by the Government in order to act as " pioneers of civilisation." Whereas the European sportsman, whether scientific or otherwise, travels with a big train and a large amount of impedimenta, the Boer goes about accompanied only by a single negro, with little more than his rifle and blanket, and lives on the flesh of the game he shoots and a handful of maize. Thus lightly equipped, he gets far away from the haunts of Europeans, and for some ten months in the year shoots to his heart's content without fear of interruption.
The remaining two months are spent oh his small farm or field, which he pretends to cultivate to a certain extent, in order that he may figure as an industrious settler.
As the result of the destruction inflicted by hunters of the above types, Professor Bein states that whereas in a district in the heart of the Masai plateau, which he visited in 1907-8, elephants were then abundant, when he revisited it in 1909-10, scarcely a single elephant was to be seen. The Boers, it appears, had been hunting in the district during the interval, and from a single herd had obtained no fewer than sixty pairs of tusks. During a five months' march through the same country, only five rhinoceroses were observed. Again, he states that in Lake Mweru district, a noted locality for rhinoceroses, where Schillings only a few years ago saw as many as twenty in a day, he could find only a couple of old tracks, but not a single living individual.
During the whole of his five months' journey in German East Africa, Professor Bein had only one opportunity of shooting elephants, and this was not due to any incompetence on his part, as he was accompanied by two experienced sportsmen who knew the country well, and were adepts in detecting game.
In Umbegwi it is stated that a Boer within a period of three weeks, shot nine elephants and sixteen rhinoceroses in an area of only a few square kilometres. In a single week a professional English hunter killed one elephant and nineteen rhinoceroses, to say nothing of other game, in the Morogoro district; while, when Professor Bein was in the neighbourhood of Lake Mweru, a German hunter shot six elephants, which had been specially protected by a planter from the pure love of nature, despite the damage they inflicted on his crops.
All this, and more, goes on in spite of protests by the author, by the Duke of Ratibor, Prince Solms-Baruth, Paul Niedick, Professors Sarasin and Matschie, and Geheimrat Waldeyer.
Unless something effectual is done, and that speedily, German East Africa will be denuded of its big game.
The above interesting article shows that in certain districts in German East Africa a great deal of game slaughter has taken, and is likely still taking, place.
One point I can hardly follow. It says that a Boer, accompanied by one negro, will go off for ten months with only his rifle and blanket.
One negro could not carry sufficient food and cartridges to last for ten months, and how could the Boer transport the horns, skins, or tusks with one negro ?
A good lot of exaggerated matter is written about the extermination of game in parts of Africa; but at the same time there is much truth in the statements given. Unless a Government is prepared to spend money on game protection, and provide sufficient game rangers to patrol the country, the game will be slaughtered. However, the exportation of skins can be prevented by legislation, and the Boers and other game butchers would stop killing the game to any great extent if they found that their trouble was useless, and, moreover, they can be caught with efficient supervision.
Of course, settlers object strongly, as a rule, to game destroying their crops and plantations, and no game reserve should be made near settlements, as it is not fair to men who spend money in planting concerns to have their fields devastated by wild animals.
More especially is this the case when stringent regulations disallow a beast to be shot, and no compensation is given for the damage it causes.
It behoves sportsmen to be open-minded in the matter, and also Governments ; and, after all, there is an abundance of room in the wilder parts of the country where game reserves can be made. It is better that such reserves should not be of too large an area, or it will be impossible to supervise them efficiently without going to great expense.
Game reserves act as feeders for surrounding country that is getting shot out, and this has already been proved in the United States of America; and they also form nurseries for the supply of specimens to zoological gardens and parks, although personally I think it is a shame to keep wild creatures in such confined quarters, where they only pine and die under the unnatural conditions of their lives, spent generally in a climate that does not suit them.