This section is from the book "Wild Life In Central Africa", by Denis D. Lyell. Also available from Amazon: Wild Life in Central Africa.
The following animals described:
Lechwe (two varieties).
The following notes are the results of ten years' experiences, almost wholly spent in the wild places of Central Africa, where game is very plentiful if one goes to look for it in its natural haunts. As I have written before, some people imagine, because game is less seen in this country than it is in more open spaces in other countries, that it is very scarce. This is quite a mistaken idea, and Central Africa —Nyasaland, Northern Rhodesia, and adjacent countries— holds a most plentiful and varied stock of game.
In previous volumes I have already written a good deal on this subject, but I think a book on shooting would be imperfect without giving an assorted list of the principal fauna, and this is my excuse for adding this chapter to the present volume. I give information here on other subjects, such as the approximate weight of the animals, good average trophies, and two native names in different languages, all of which I trust will prove useful.
The mark ♂ is for male, and ♀ for female.
Chinyanja - Njobvu.
Chingoni - Nkhlovu.
Approximate weight, ♂ ......
Good average tusk, ♂ ... ......
Good average length, ♂ ......
This grand animal is still very plentiful in the countries I write of, although many of the largest tuskers have been thinned out within the last ten years. It is certainly unfortunate for the elephant that ivory is such a valuable substance, as otherwise his body is of little use, except in supplying an abundance of meat, which the natives are very fond of, as they believe eating it gives them strength. The best ivory comes from this country, it is known in the market as Mozambique quality, and it is seldom that ivory of bad quality is shot here.
The best tusks are called " soft " ivory, and the inferior ones " hard" ivory. The former brings up to 15s. per pound in the European markets for bull tusks, and the ivory of the cows is much more valuable, as it sometimes fetches £1 per pound.
The most remarkable features about the elephant are his enormous strength and his powers in covering long distances. He is certainly " The King of Beasts," and one stamp of his mighty foot would flatten out a lion as a man can a beetle which he treads on.
Elephants in their natural haunts cover an immense extent of country in their daily wanderings, and they are always at it, except when they may find a good feeding ground, such as a large maize garden, when they will spend perhaps two weeks hanging around. In the rainy season they do not travel so much, as water and feed are plentiful, and this is a trait unlike most animals, which scatter and disperse in the rains.
The largest bulls often wander about singly or with a comrade or two, and such friends may be quite small elephants, or they may be almost as large as himself. A fair tusker will have tusks about 4olb. each, though many grow bigger tusks.
A 70-pounder is an exceptionally good one, and I have not heard of any elephant being shot in this country with tusks over 120lb. each. In Nyasaland, where elephants are numerous in parts of Central and Northern Angoniland, the biggest I have heard of was a 95-pounder, but I have little doubt that a 100-pounder is wandering about somewhere in this country. The heaviest tusk known is one weighing 2351b., length 10ft. 4m., and 26in. in circumference.
The longest measures 1 ift. 5½in., with a circumference of 18½in.
The largest tusker known to have been shot by a white man was one killed by Major Powell Cotton in the Congo Free State, and the two tusks weighed 3721b., the larger tusk weighing 1981b., with a circumference of 25m., and 9ft. long.
That well-known elephant hunter, the late Arthur H. Neumann, never killed an elephant with bigger tusks than 120lb., although he shot many over 100lb. Selous hunted elephants in Southern Africa, where big tusks were scarce in his time, and his largest, I believe, was between 701b. and 80lb.
Sir Alfred Sharpe, who has killed more elephants in Nyasaland than anyone else, never got an 80-pounder, so such large tuskers may be considered very scarce in that country.
Certainly a pair of elephant tusks, if long and sharp pointed, are very nice trophies, and I may say the tail is a good trophy as well as the feet. The big front feet make nice receptacles for vases, etc., and the back feet, if cut long, make useful stick or umbrella stands.
The molars take a fine polish, and can be made into various articles such as paper weights. The best taxidermists make very pretty trophies out of feet and skin, though the latter is very apt to warp in changeable climates.
The most dangerous elephants to shoot are herd bulls, as the cows with calves often charge at the shot, and these young bulls are not such staid, easy-going fellows as their larger brethren, which usually prefer their own company or the companionship of one or two chosen comrades. In their old age they get morose, and probably do not wish to be troubled with family affairs. It is impossible to say how long an elephant will live, but I believe some must attain an age of over 150 years. An elephant is probably not full grown until he is close on fifty years, and his tusks probably keep on growing for a much longer time.
When a man has shot a really big elephant he has probably shot an animal that was roaming the wilds before he saw the light of day, and to see such an animal fall always reminds me of seeing some monarch of the forest sink down before the implements of man. Elephants drink daily, and they travel long distances for water in the dry season, and often do not drink twice consecutively at the same water where they are much molested. If an elephant is killed, the others will leave the locality for a time, as they seem to dislike the smell.