Naturalists, Early Travellers & Hunters

Naturalists, Early Travellers & Hunters

Captain R. J. D Salmon was always called “Samaki” – meaning fish. He acquired the name in the present Tanzania during World War 1 when under enemy fire he jumped into and crossed the crocodile infested Kagera river to rescue his men who had been surrounded and out-gunned.

W.D.M Bell, a tough Scotsman, was always out of town, in Karamoja hunting elephants, hence the name “Karamoja Bell”. He is best remembered for developing the brain shot that is most humane and drops the elephant instantaneously. He was concerned about the elephant mourning process called by the Acoli – “dipo lyec.” He wrote in “Wanderings of an Elephant Hunter” (Neville Spearman. Suffolk 1923):

“The deadliest and most humane method of killing the African elephant is the shot in the brain, it causes instantaneous death, and no movement of the stricken animal communicate panic to others in the vicinity”
But he added:

“he thing that did the most for my rifle shooting was, I believe, the fact that I always carried my own rifle. Constant handling, constant aiming, constant Swedish drill with it, and then when it was required there it was ready and pointing true.”

The third situation changing event was the paradigm shift away from elephant control to recreational and economic value of wildlife. In 1953, Acoli tribal elders, meeting in Gulu, accented formally to the creation of Murchison Falls National Park in their ancestral land north of the Victoria Nile. Christopher Powell-Cotton became the new Provincial Commissioner for the Northern Province, as Rennie Berre left the province to become the first Chief Game Warden of Uganda.

In 1903 -1904, Christopher’s father, Major Percy Powell-Cotton, a naturalist, anthropologist and a world traveller got married in Nairobi and decided to honeymoon trekking through Uganda and the Congo. On the western bank of the Nile he identified the white rhino species and named it – “Ceratoherium simum cottoni, which Christopher became very familiar with during the many administrative safaris he carried out in the Province under his charge. The grand old elephant that lived in the Tangi Gate area had tusks weighing 198 and 174 lbs respectively was collected, in 1909 by Major Powell Cotton, and now mounted in Powell-Cotton Museum in Quex Park in Kent. UK.

The objective of Powell-Cotton Museum resonates perfectly and harmoniously with the heritage concept and principles. The belief is in seeing what is held in the Museum: BBC Inside Out 2005 opined:

“500 stuffed African animals preserved for posterity and lovingly displayed in reconstruction of their homeland”
The museum’s benefits far exceed the recreational value. It provides vital conservation tool for today’s endangered species. The results of DNA analysis of samples of the stuffed animals inform and support wildlife breeding programmes worldwide.

Major Powell- Cotton’s recorded keeping was meticulous:
‘even the lines of latitude and longitude where the animal was found were recorded”
Collecting the animals became less of s sport and more of a science. At the apex of his noble activities is the extensive collection of over 100 years old traditional crafts and articles from areas travelled, all are housed and open to the public at Quex Park Museum.

The 19th & 20th Century – Risk and Opportunities

The management of “Tim” through Acoli traditional practice of devolved responsibility to “Won Tim” was no hunky dory affair. The juggernaut of the nineteenth century brought threats as well as opportunities. The ruthless, gun welding, and irascible slave and ivory traders posed overwhelming threat to both human and wildlife. The opportunity for modernisation as the spin- off the quest for the source of the Nile was the countervailing force. Naturalist travellers brought dedication, enthusiasm and shoots of scientific enquiry to the wildlife theatre. The Protectorate and Independent Uganda Governments instigated the much needed professional management informed and supported scientific evidence and legal framework.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.