A. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) Dugmore.

Camera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life online

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 3 of 18)
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which proved to be a cow and a well-grown calf, stood up, having
presumably been warned by their friends, the tick birds. The
light was poor, but I made an exposure, and at the sound of the
shutter they immediately came for us. I tried to put in a fresh
plate, but did not have time. My companion, who was to do the
shooting, waited for me to give the word, so when I saw the two
animals were coming too near I called out to him to fire, and they
turned at exactly fifteen yards, just as I was about to draw the slide
from the plate holder. Fortunately the shot was not fatal, and
we were glad to see the stupid blundering creatures take themselves
off as fast as their short legs could carry them. On looking about the

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country we saw eight more rhinoceros. But the idea of working
among that number, where some would surely get our wind, did
not apppeal to us as a very cheerful proposition. However, I had
come to get rhinoceros photographs, and here were the subjects,
so there was nothing to do but ignore my feelings and get to work.
Accordingly we selected a large cow and calf as being in a fairly
good place, and off we went. The feeling was rather what one
might have experienced on going into battle. There was keen excite-
ment, and enough danger to make it extremely interesting. While
we were working our way over the parched grassy plain, where there
was no cover of any sort, a sudden snort behind made us turn,
and we saw the amusing sight of a large rhinoceros, not four hundred
yards away, getting worried over our trail. He had been walking
along in an unconcerned way, and had suddenly come upon our
scent. "Wough!" said he, "what's this, and where is it?" and
then, like the stupid old beast he was, he charged frantically first
in one direction, then in another, turning sharply each time and
snorting violently, as though disgusted at his inability to hit
anything. There was not even a bush on which to vent his indigna-
tion. It was about the best exhibition of utterly senseless rage that
I had ever seen, and showed clearly the curious disposition of the
rhinoceros, to say nothing of his rather low order of intelligence.
The fact that the wretched creatures have such poor eyesight must
account, however, for many of their idiosyncrasies, and this defect
in their make-up is probably due to their not having any enemies.
Man is the only creature they need fear, and if they have been
much hunted, the sense of discretion has usually developed in them
a strong desire not to come to close quarters. After having watched


our irritable friend work off his rage, we turned our attention once
more to the two we were after, only to find, to our disgust, that they
had been joined by some zebra. Stalking rhinoceros and stalking
zebra are totally different propositions, the latter being much the
more difficult. Crawling through high grass into which the animals
had taken themselves, we managed to get within one hundred and
fifty yards without being detected, but it was impossible to get
any nearer owing to a stretch of bare ground which we dared not
cross. The zebra, suspicious of our presence, moved away. Curi-
ously enough, without warning, the rhinoceros, which were feeding,
slowly came toward us. We decided to wait for them, trusting to
get their photographs when they crossed the bare ground. It was
interesting, but nerve-racking work watching the two beasts. Some-
times they would come toward us, then go farther away. Once
they evidently got a sniff of us, and with a snort rushed forward
several yards and we thought there was going to be trouble, but
they stopped, and after deliberating several moments returned to
their food. Suddenly, without any apparent reason, they bolted
as hard as they could, leaving us thoroughly disgusted and dis-
appointed. Even the delightful panorama of large herds of animals,
among which were zebra, oryx, eland, ostrich and giraffe, did not
compensate for the loss of the picture, for that old rhinoceros had
a splendid horn, and we had so confidently expected better luck.
As we were tired, and the animals were all far away, and in unstalk-
able country, we turned toward camp, arriving there about two

During the next two days we had very little luck and no excite-
ment; but on the third day we had almost more than we wanted.


We discovered two rhinoceros feeding about half a mile away, and
noticed that one had a very fair horn. We immediately moved
toward them, working in such a way as to get the wind in a favorable
direction, when we nearly ran on a single one about three hundred
yards away, almost directly down wind. Had we gone another
hundred yards he would probably have come for us, and we should
have been between two fires. Not wishing such an experience we
circled round, so as to put ourselves down wind of this last comer,
and in a short time got within one hundred yards of him, and suc-
ceeded in making two telephoto exposures without being discovered
either by the animal or by the birds standing on his back. While
we were wondering what next to do, we were greatly surprised to
see the old fellow get ready for his noonday nap. He found a suitable
bush which offered him practically no shade, and after smelling it
thoroughly, and turning several times, he lay down, and apparently
went to sleep in a few minutes. Such a good chance for close work
was just what I had been hoping for, and so after waiting until we
were sure he was quite sound asleep I changed the telephoto lens
for another regular quick one, and started forward with the utmost
care. My companion, with the .450 rifle, was immediately behind
me, and the camera bearer and Masai a little farther back. As
quietly as possible we stalked the sleeping creature until, at thirty
yards, we decided we were close enough for all practical purposes.
My companion stood slightly on one side, and I made some noise.
Like a flash the big animal was up, and without waiting a minute
he headed for us with tail erect and nostrils dilated, snorting as he
came. It was a splendid sight, but not one to linger over. I was
watching him on the focussing glass of the camera, and when he


seemed as close as it was wise to let him come I pressed the button,
and my companion, as agreed, fired as he heard the shutter drop.
The shot struck the beast in the shoulder, and fortunately turned
him at once. At the point of turning he was exactly fifteen yards,
but it seemed more like five. It had been very exciting work, and
as we sat down to recover from the nervous strain we could not
help thinking that photographing charging rhinoceros was great
sport, but not intended for people with weak hearts.

The shot had aroused the other rhinoceros from their quiet feeding,
and they were slowly making off, so, as we were anxious to secure
pictures of them, we had to bestir ourselves to follow. By walking
quickly we soon began to overtake the pair, and before long we
were within about one hundred and fifty yards of them. I par-
ticularly wanted to get a photograph of the two against the sky-line,
and I expected to have the opportunity as they reached the top of
the slight hill. But just before reaching the place where I wanted
them the birds on their backs flew off, and the animals turned sharply
round and faced us. Considering the fact that they were to wind-
ward, and about one hundred and fifty yards away, there seemed to
be no reason to expect trouble. We were therefore greatly surprised
when, after a little preliminary snorting, they came straight for us.
I quickly changed my plate, but did not have time to replace the
telephoto lens with a quicker one of shorter focus, before they
were within dangerous distance. I called out to my companion to
fire at the one which was clear of all bushes. He did so, but still
the excited brute, though hit, continued in our direction. In the
meantime the second one, which was the larger and had the finer
horn, cleared the bush not more than twenty yards from us. I


tried to get a picture of him, but the difficulty of rapidly focussing
with a telephoto on an animal coming with such speed proved too
much, so realizing the almost certainty of failure, and not daring to
let him come much nearer, as we still had the other one to reckon
with, there was nothing to do but to shoot to kill. This was done,
and the charging monster dropped instantly at fifteen yards.
Whether it was the sound of the shot, or the sight of her mate falling
I cannot say, but the second rhinoceros wheeled round and dis-
appeared with marvelous rapidity over the hill.

Photographically, the adventure had been a dismal failure, simply
owing to my not having had time to change the lenses, but from
a sporting point of view it was certainly worth having. Such an
experience leads one to realize the possibilities of keen excitement
which the rhinoceros offers when he happens to be in a bad frame of
mind. We were very lucky to have come out of it as well as we did,
for with two of the huge beasts coming together one would have
very small chance to dodge the charge, in the quite possible event
of the rifle missing fire or the shot not being well placed. As it was,
we were sorry for having had to kill the stupid old creature, but
under the circumstances it was the only thing to be done, as it was
a case of his life or ours. We measured the animal, and found
the complete length to be exactly twelve feet from tip to tip, while
the horn, which had appeared so long, was only twenty-four and a
half inches. As it had to be turned into the chief Game Ranger's
department, we had to hack it off, and a long job it was, as we had
only our hunting knives with us. These horns are of curious struct-
ure, being composed of hair or bristles closely compressed. Beyond
their value as trophies (and they are about the least attractive of


all trophies) they go to China, where they are pulverized and sold
for medicinal purposes. After our keen excitement we were tired
enough to be glad to start back for camp, the men loading themselves
down with rhinoceros meat, which some of them eat, and strips
of hide, which they polish and use for walking-sticks and whips.

On the way to camp we had our first good view of Kilimanjaro
that wonderful mountain whose snow-clad summit rises out of the
heated plains to the height of about eighteen thousand feet. Its
curious domed form with glistening snow is beautiful beyond words,
and appears even higher than it really is, owing to the haze which
nearly always conceals the lower part. It was eighty miles from
us, and we could see the great plains shimmering with the heat
stretching away, till at ten or twelve miles they were gradually lost
in the blue atmosphere. Beyond and far above this, as though
suspended in mid-air, was the great impressive mountain top, seem-
ingly unreal, almost ghostly in its lack of visible contact with the
earth. The photographs which I made, owing to the lack of color,
give not the slightest conception of the stupendous beauty which lay
before us, and it is with a feeling of shame that I reproduce one here.

By the way of change we devoted the following days to game
smaller and less exciting than the turbulent rhinoceros. A herd
of Grant's gazelles afforded no little sport one day, as they allowed
me to approach within about seventy yards. Then they kept ahead
of me, walking as fast as I walked, and giving me ample opportunity
to examine and admire their heads, some of which were unusually
large and well formed. For nearly half an hour we continued in
this way while I made several photographs, in some of which Kili-
manjaro stands towering over the beautiful scene, as grand a back-


ground as man could desire. Unfortunately, the haze made it
impossible to obtain a satisfactory photograph of the more distant
parts. Most of the smaller game I found extremely wild, and only
with the greatest difficulty was I able to get any photographs at all.
Try as I might, the graceful, timid impala always outwitted me,
and so did the few oryx, and the pair of lesser kudu, which I should
have liked so much to photograph.

Our next attempt at rhinoceros ended as on the last occasion by
having to shoot one. A pair charged us without provocation, and
at fourteen yards one had to be shot. In the next encounter we
tried using a shotgun loaded with buck shot, with which to turn
the creatures. It proved perfectly successful, and I was able to get
a fairly satisfactory photograph at close range without having to
kill. Later on, this success nearly cost us our lives, as it gave us
an unwarrantable confidence in the efficacy of the shotgun. It
might be well here to say a few words about rhinoceros, for fear
the reader will have a wrong impression of the habits of these strange
creatures which look like survivors of antediluvian days. People
who have known and hunted them in other parts of East Africa
will ridicule the stories I have told about having been charged so
frequently, but it must be borne in mind that the rhinoceros' habits
differ just as their appearance does with localities. In most cases
they will not charge even when actually teased, in fact they have
to be stalked with great care if one would get at all near them, but
in the region of the Olgerei, where we were working, it was almost
an exceptional case when a rhinoceros would run away without either
attacking, or at least wanting to make an unduly close investigation
of our persons. Had I left East Africa without having seen the


Olgerei rhinoceros my opinion of the animal would have been that
they were scarcely to be feared at all, and generally speaking some-
what difficult of approach. Had I seen only those of the Olgerei
I should have considered them decidedly dangerous, ill-tempered
beasts that could be only too readily approached, all of which bears
out what I have long considered to be true that a correct account
of any animal can only be obtained by observing the animal in
many places, under various conditions, and at different periods
of the year. To generalize on an animal after having seen a very
few specimens under one condition, and at one season, is to fall
into almost certain error a fault only too common, especially
in so-called popular writings on natural history. This applies
equally to the habit of criticizing by people who, having seen an
animal once, believe they know all about his habits, and when
they hear some fact about the animal which is not in accordance
with what they have observed, immediately jump to the conclusion
that it is wrong; so it is well to be careful in making statements to
qualify them properly, and be equally careful in doubting the state-
ments of others. The experience I had with rhinoceros of the
Olgerei was absolutely disbelieved by some people in East Africa,
who thought they thoroughly understood the animal and all his
vagaries. It required the photographs to prove the truth of my
account. After our last encounter with rhinoceros I decided to steer
clear of the cantankerous creatures while on the reserve, as photo-
graphing them evidently meant having to kill, or at least shooting
more often than not, and I was afraid the authorities would consider
I was breaking faith with them; so I devoted the remaining days
of my stay on the Olgerei to other game.



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One evening I had the satisfaction of seeing a herd of zebra come
on the dry sandy bed of the river not far from our camp. Up to
that time I had been unable to make a single picture of these exquisite
animals. It was therefore with great delight that after some careful
stalking I found myself within fair distance of them. The sun,
which was low and yellow, shone with full force on the zebra, and
the soft warm light made everything wonderfully beautiful. The
zebra, like many wild animals, often dig for water rather than drink
from the befouled water holes. They dig with their hoofs, making
holes sometimes as much as two feet deep in the sandy bed of a
river. How they know where to find water we cannot tell, but
presumably by their keen sense of smell and by past experience. It
is a kind of instinct that bears a wonderfully close resemblance to
reason. The curious part of it is that while a man will usually
dig many holes before he finds water, the animal seldom makes a
mistake, but seems to know exactly where to dig. I secured one
photograph of these zebra, but in my attempt to get nearer they
discovered me and went off, alarming, as they ran, a herd of five
giraffe, which, unfortunately, I had not observed. In vain I tried
to stalk the tall silent animals, but as they had been put on the alert
it was impossible, and I simply had the pleasure and disappointment
of seeing them cross the glistening sandy stretch and disappear
among the tall flat-topped thorn trees.

The following day I had my first really exasperating experience
with the hartebeest. On many previous occasions they had upset
my plans by their remarkable habit of interference, but until this
time it had always been apparently in a rather haphazard way.
This time, however, it was by carefully considered action that they


outwitted me. A herd of zebra across the river attracted my
attention. From the way they were working there was every
reason to believe they were coming down to a certain water hole,
the approach to which was such that one could easily conceal oneself
and get photographs of any animals as they passed. Accordingly
I found a place where I could cross the river bed without being
seen, so I reached the other bank and carefully selected my hiding
place, from which there was a splendid view of the trail which led
to the water. For an hour I waited patiently, then, owing to the
wind having shifted, I had to change my place of concealment.
Just as I started toward a clump of bushes a herd of hartebeest
came down the sloping bank. Waiting till they had passed and were
almost out of sight, I hurried forward, thinking that the zebra would
follow close behind their friends. The wretched hartebeest turned
at the critical moment, caught sight of me, and after looking over
the situation for a moment, decided that something must be done
to warn the zebra, so two of the herd deliberately came back, passing
within seventy or eighty yards of me as I stood in plain sight, and
going as fast as they could gallop straight to where the zebra were
just appearing over the bank, about one hundred and fifty yards
away. The zebra were informed by a snort, and off went the herd,
leaving me in a state of mind that can be better imagined than
described. From that day hartebeests were always upsetting my
plans. Had it not been for their continual interference I should
have secured many pictures of various animals. Frequently when
I thought I was doing some careful stalking and was getting near to
some desired animal, a miserable hartebeest would come along,
and seeing which way I was working, would go straight ahead,

- J




and warn every living thing within a mile of my presence. Their
habit of stationing themselves on an ant-hill, and keeping a lookout
over the entire country, is a well-known source of annoyance to
sportsmen, and many is the hartebeest that has lost its life to avenge
the indignation and disgust of the hunter.

One afternoon was spent in watching a herd of impala, the most
graceful of antelopes. It was interesting to observe how they refused
to allow a lame one to join their ranks. This cripple I had seen on
several occasions. One of its forelegs was injured, and the animal,
which was a buck, was rather undersized and thin. Never had I
seen it in company with others of its kind, and not until that after-
noon had the reason of its solitary life become evident. Probably
no wild animals care to have a weakling in their midst, whether for
fear of contamination by disease, or because any that are below
normal vigor are unable to follow them, or possibly for fear that
the "presence of a weakling will attract enemies, such as lion, leopard,
or other predatory animals, it is impossible to say. In the case of
this lame impala, he would no sooner work his way timidly into the
herd than one or more of the bucks would with a loud snorting grunt
rush at the unfortunate animal and drive it away. One time I saw
the poor thing walking across the sandy river bed in company with
a monkey. It was a strange-looking pair, but seemingly they were
good friends, and kept very close together so long as they were in

On February igth we broke up camp and started back toward
Kiu, going directly to the station instead of by the way we had come.
We had not proceeded more than a mile before we received an unex-
pected check. We were going through some rather high grass when


the Masai, who was leading, stopped with great suddenness, and
said in a low voice, "Kifaru," which means rhinoceros, and sure
enough directly before us, not twenty yards away, lay a large
rhinoceros fast asleep, his big gray back showing above the
waving grass. For some reason or other we had not loaded our
weapons that morning, and the importance of rapidity of action
was very conspicuous. C., my companion, loaded the shotgun
with a charge of buckshot and a ball; he also had his revolver.
No sooner had I seized the camera and moved a little to one side,
so as to obtain a better view of the animal in case he charged (unless
he charged me first!), than that rhinoceros was up and at us. Never
did I see anything so quick. It seemed incredible that so large an
animal could move with such rapidity. I focussed on him as he
rushed towards C. and the Masai and the two thoroughly scared
boys who were behind them. Almost unconsciously I released the
shutter, when at the same moment a shot rang out. C. was trying
to turn the animal with a charge of buckshot. The attempt, how-
ever, was futile, and the creature came on without even hesitating.
C., realizing that the shot had failed, fired a 12-bore ball from the
left barrel, and then, seizing his revolver, began firing right into
its head as it rushed past him not six feet away. It made straight
for the Masai, who stood quietly waiting the onrush, and jumped
aside when within touching distance of the big horn. Having
missed the Masai, it next turned toward me, just as I was endeavor-
ing to put a second plate in position, so that I might get a picture
of the actual encounter. In a hurry I did not put the plate holder all
the way in, as I afterward found to my disappointment. But for
the moment I had other things with which to occupy my mind,


and the camera became less important than the angry beast, when,
to my relief, the Masai, with wonderful coolness, drove his spear
into the side of the rhinoceros. That turned it toward C., who
quickly put another revolver shot into its head, and that decided
the bewildered animal to leave us alone, and off it went, heading
almost directly toward the badly terrified caravan. The wretched
porters, seeing the imminent possibility of trouble, dropped
their loads and ignominously bolted. The Masai chased the retreat-
ing animal so closely that when it once turned toward the porters
it saw an enemy within a few yards, armed with a long sharp knife.
That was too much for the rhinoceros, who thought it better to
continue its course.

The Masai soon returned, and picking up his spear, which had
fallen from the animal, found that it was badly bent.

No sooner had we started the caravan than we discovered another
rhinoceros about four hundred yards away. When I spoke of trying
to stalk and photograph it the expression on the men's faces was
truly ludicrous. They had had enough of rhinoceros for one day,
and were ready to chuck their loads on the smallest provocation.

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Online LibraryA. Radclyffe (Arthur Radclyffe) DugmoreCamera adventures in the African wilds; being an account of a four months' expedition in British East Africa, for the purpose of securing photographs of the game from life → online text (page 3 of 18)