Tuesday, May 01, 2007

IN MEMORIAM: D.S.G. MacLeod - 30 years ago

In loving memory of
Derek MacLeod
Born 23.4.1944
Died 24.4.1977

Remembered and much loved
by his Luangwa friends
and his family.


WILLIAM ASTLE. 11 December 1932 – 2 March 2006

Bill Astle, Gaborone c.1977

Bill spent 17 years working in Northern Rhodesia and Zambia, first as an agricultural research officer in the Agricultural Department, and later as a biologist in the Department of Wildlife and National Parks – most of it in the Luangwa Valley, and finally, as Chief Biologist stationed at our HQ in Chilanga. He left in 1973, the early 70’s being the period when a corpse of men consumed with the passion of conservation departed the Game Department for ever: Frank Ansell, John Clarke, Phillip Berry, Barry Shenton, Johnny Uys…

Bill was a wonderfully eccentric man whose generosity of spirit was combined in such delightful ways: I well remember the saga of the jacket many years ago; Bill lending his only jacket to his malonda, pitying him for the cold nights of winter in the Luangwa, then, when it was time for him to go to England on leave, looking for the jacket in irritation, then remembering what he had done with it, and ‘borrowing’ it back for his three month’s leave. And before that, in the 60’s when he gone on leave again and had returned with a wife, a beautiful and exotic creature from Brazil called Mercedes, news of her arrival drawing us to his fence, peering though with binoculars to see if it was true. And how many are the Zambians, who, having worked as labourers or carriers in the bush for Bill, or taken under his wing as research assistants - and later assisted financially by him, rose to be university lecturers, senior civil servants and the first fully certified Zambian tourist guides.

Of course, Bill’s patch in life was the Luangwa Valley, a place which he loved deeply, where indeed I found him in 1966 – already a veteran bachelor and biologist it seemed in our beloved Game Department, already with a reputation as a plant ecologist with a deep knowledge of the miombo forest. In the early 1970’s, Bill became the Department’s Chief Wildlife Research Officer, he, Mercedes and their daughter, Marilia, leaving soon after in 1973. He then went into consultancy work, moving to Botswana to carry out ecological studies for F.A.O. in the Okovango and at a research station near Gaborones. In the late 80’s he was back in the valley, again doing some remote sensing work with Steve Prince, his former protege, moving back into the same research camp he had left long before at old Mfuwe.

Bill I saw as the quintessential Englishman of the north of England: careful with his money, generous, disdaining of affected ways, a man who found great delight in a quaint phrase, a humourous gesture…a man who loved a good laugh. Of that we had many. And of course there was cricket: we played together in many places: in Fort Jameson, on the old Mfuwe airstrip in the Luangwa amidst the calling cards of a herd of buffalo that had rested there the previous night, in Gaborone and in Lobatse, and had watched cricket at his beloved Old Trafford in the sun, and in the cold. He will soon be there again, or in the valley, striding rapidly along, the carriers struggling to keep up with him; Bill, our friend.

Astle, WL. (1969). The vegetation and soils of Chishinga Ranch, Luapula Province, Zambia. Kirkia 7, 73-102
Astle, WL. (1971). Management in the Luangwa Valley. Oryx 11, 135-139
Astle, WL, Phiri, PSM & Prince, SD. (1997). Checklist of the flowering plants and ferns of the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. Kirkia 16(2): 109- 160.
Astle, WL. (1999). A History of Wildlife Conservation and Management in the Mid-Luangwa Valley, Zambia. British Empire and Commonwealth Museum, Bristol
Astle, WL. (1988). Republic of Zambia, South Luangwa National Park Map, landscape and vegetation. Lovell Johns, Ltd, Oxford
Astle, WL, Lawrence, CJ, and Webster, R. (1969). Land classification for management planning in the Luangwa valley of Zambia. Journal of Applied Ecology, 6, 143-169

Barry Shenton on dealing with crop raiding elephant

Barry Shenton in 1952 protecting villagers


In order fully to appreciate the implications of these observations it is necessary to have a general idea of the elephant control policy in the Eastern Province over the past few years.

Until 1957 season, one elephant from the party actually raiding cultivation was followed for a maximum of three miles and destroyed, and then only after it was proved to be a confirmed raider i.e. the animal(s) had to visit the garden at least twice before any action was taken. During 1957, the Nicholson Theory was put into practice. In effect this entailed following the raider from the garden, and if only bulls were found, they were left undisturbed while a circuit was made to look for a possible breeding herd in the vicinity. If found, the leading or most mature female was shot. If not, one of the young bulls from the garden was destroyed.

This policy proved to be unsatisfactory due mainly to lack of supervision of the Control Guards, which meant that very little information was obtained, and the results did not seem to justify the continuation of the scheme.

Consequently this year the policy generally in the Province has reverted to that of pre-Nicholson years, except for one Chief's area in Lundazi, where the experiment has continued. This area was chosen because of the large number of breeding herds inhabiting the area and adjacent Lukusuzi, Nsefu, Luambe and Luangwa Reserves.

The results from this area and others are shown below, observed by Game Ranger, Lundazi, or, in some cases sifted from facts supplied by the specially chosen Elephant Control Guard stationed in Chief Mwanya’s area. It is intended to produce a second report at the end of this season’s operations, which it is hoped will serve as a useful basis for future control policy in the Province.

Observation 1. Chimpamba Village, Chief Chikwa, Lundazi.

Raiding by bulls in this group of villages was quite regular during March until 11 April, during which period one elephant male was destroyed on 17 March, and another bull shot on 31 March. Possibly two but certainly small female herd was in the vicinity during March/April. On 11 April after four consecutive days of raiding, the cow herd moved up the Luangwa from the area voluntarily, and all raiding ceased on that date, and has not recurred during the past month.

Observation 2. Simulemba group of villages at foot of escarpment, Chief Chikwa.

During February and March sporadic raiding by bulls took place, but it is not known definitely that any breeding herds were in the vicinity, though reported by local villagers. Raiding became more frequent however in early April, and on 16th a cow herd 20 + strong moved close to Simulemba Village, while three bulls actually raided the shambas. One of these males was shot the same day and the cows removed themselves, with the remaining bulls following to a point about 20 miles distant, where raiding took place during the following week. It is clear that the destruction of the bull on 16 April had nothing to do with the departure of the cow herd, as they had moved on some hours before the bull was shot. Later the cow herd moved to yet another area and raiding more or less followed this line.

Observation 3. Sam Village Chief Mwanya area, Luangwa Valley

On 14th March 1958, a female elephant was shot after bulls had raided, the latter having joined the females later the same day. Raiding by bulls was reported for several days previous to 14th. No further raiding has since taken place in this area.

Observation 4. Chief Mwanya's own village.

On 14 April, six females plus two immature elephant raided these gardens, one of which was shot. Eight days later, two bulls raided nearby Saidi gardens and one was shot. Here it must be pointed out that both raiding parties came from the nearby Lukusuzi Game Reserve and survivors returned there. It is likely that there was no connection between cows herd and raiding bulls in this case.

Observation 5. Changachanga Village, Chief Mwanya, and adjacent villages.

21 March, Mundu Village: bulls raided, 1 shot.
23 March, Changachanga Village: breeding herd of about 30 raided, 1 female shot. 15 April, Munyanga Village: bulls raided, 1 shot 23 April, Saidi Village, bulls raided, 1 shot.
24 April, Chiweka Village: bulls raided, 1 shot.

In all the above cases of bulls raiding, there were no females in the immediate vicinity of the bulls when shot, and apparently regular shooting of bulls had little deterrent effect. But the destruction of one female from a herd on 23 March kept the area clear for the following three weeks.

Observation 6. Tom Village, Chief Mwanya’s area.

For over a week a herd of nine females and young elephant raided this village regularly, except on the occasion when three bulls came instead. On 8 April, one cow was shot and all raiding ceased, and no reports were received for the rest of the month.


1. It would appear that in the majority of cases regular raiding by bulls in an area can be traced to a breeding herd in the vicinity. When these herds are removed by shooting one of their number (usually the oldest female, or leader), the bulls in attendance are drawn away and raiding ceases.
2. The shooting of one bull raider from a party does not necessarily clear the area of potential raiders (see observation NO.5 in particular) though the remaining bulls usually steer clear of cultivation for a time.
3. It appears that on the comparatively rare occasions when an elephant herd - composed mainly of females, raids crops, destruction of one of their number has the effect of removing the herd for some considerable time. This maybe due to the fact that the females have not been affected to any extent in the past by elephant control operations, and react more than do the bulls to punishment.

Ecology of the Sitatunga

Ecology of the Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei selousi Rothschild, 1898) in the Bangweulu swamps, Zambia, Central Africa
I.P.A. Manning

Research into the ecology of the sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekei Rothschild, 1898.) in the south-east Bangweulu, Zambia, was carried out between 1973 and 1976. The sex ratio for sitatunga does not differ significantly from 1:1, although 47.3% of the population are adult females and 25.6% adult males, 12.1% immature males, 4.3% immature females and 10.6% calves. Two conception peaks are related to the onset and cessation of the rains with breeding occurring throughout the year. Sitatunga occur singly (50%), in twos (22.2%) or in threes (16.7%). Females and their calves are the only group with any integrity. The maximum number observed in a group was 7. The minimum home range for males is 0.0363 km2 and for females 0.176 km2. Aggression and the mutual avoidance of dominant males suggests territoriality. Sexual dimorphism is marked. Pelage colouration is variable. The white facial markings are important in male agonistic displays. Criteria for relative age determination of sitatunga were derived from eruption and attrition sequences of impressions taken from maxillary teeth. Males reach a theoretical maximum weight of 106 kg at 8.1 years and females 51.5 kg at 7.34 years. Males are 54.6% heavier than females and maximum horn length is achieved at 7.5 years. Age is significantly correlated with weight, horn length and the length/weight index. The mean horn length for adults is 64.2 cm (measured according to Rowland Ward’s) and the mean front hoof length, for both sexes, is 7.6 cm.

John Barry Shenton. 30 April 1929, Eshowe, Zululand - 21 March, 2007, Mkushi

Front left: Barry Shenton, Johnny Uys on his right - with some of our guards behind, and members of the Natal Parks Board at a time when some black rhino were collected from Hluhluwe in 1961.

Barry Shenton, a quiet self-effacing man, served his adopted country for twenty years as an officer in the Game Department of Northern Rhodesia, ending his time in the Department of Game and Fisheries. At the time he joined the Game Department in 1950, there were only a few game reserves in the country, a populace struggling to defend itself against marauding elephant, baboons and wildpig, and little tourism to speak of. By the time he left in 1970, the planning was complete for the promulgation of 19 National Parks and a framework of 34 Game Management Areas, and the existence of a burgeoning hunting and tourism industry.

After a few years in the Natal Parks Board, Barry joined the Game Department in 1950 and was posted to Lundazi to join the newly established Government Controlled Hunting Scheme. This was the latest in the Provincial Administration’s efforts since 1946 to see that local people benefited from game cropping, paying hunters and properly organized and conducted hunting safaris. Barry joined Ranger Bert Schultz as one of the professional hunters, a man of great experience who had been hunting the valley since 1919. In May of 1949, the District Commissioner at Lundazi, Errol Button, suggested that it would be advantageous to nurture non-hunting tourism as well, saying that it would not interfere with the activities of local hunters. This was accepted, and the Director of the Game Department, T. Vaughan-Jones instructed Ranger Norman Carr to take over the Department’s camp in Nsefu, Chipera, and convert it for tourist use, with all revenue accruing to the Nsefu Native Authority. Senior Chief Nsefu, having been a willing partner in these important developments, then requested that his area be converted into a national park. This was refused. But with the assistance of Carr, Schultz and Barry, the move towards attaining game reserve status in 1954, and finally national park status in 1972, was inevitable. And it was Barry who laid out the boundaries.

Until 1954, Barry continued on with the hunting in the dry season, and in the wet season managed a number of crop protection guards. For this he developed policy guidelines - the same guidelines recently passed on to the Zambia Wildlife Authority as they now embark on a major new training of village protection guards, and in 1952, established a game guard training camp at Milyoti. Over the next five years Barry was a full time Ranger opening up the west bank of the Luangwa Game Reserve to tourism and also served at Kabompo, Kasempa and Lundazi, building the Nyika Lodge on the 8000ft plateau.

In 1958, Norman Carr was appointed Warden of the Kafue Game Reserve – until then run by Len Vaughan, former owner of the ranch which is now Lochinvar National Park, and was allowed to take two Rangers with him to develop the area for tourism. He was given a year to do it or see much of it lose its status. Norman chose Barry and Johnny Uys to assist him. In less than a year they constructed 900 km of road, built Ngoma Lodge and two safari camps. At the end of 1959, the Kafue was opened for tourists. In 1961, Barry married a Swedish national, Marianne, his first child, Rolf being born in 1963; and in 1964, he became the Warden.

These are some of the bare facts of Barry’s personal ulendo through his conservation life. What we are left with, apart from the existence of our National Parks, our hunting and tourism industry, his meticulous notes, photographs and correspondence - evidence of a life of reverential dedication and hard work, the orderly farm in Mkushi, is the remarkable family he has left behind: Marianne, Rolf, Allison, Derek and Clive, all, in one way or another, dedicated to conservation and the elevation of the rural poor, the selfless serving of the common good. Barry’s legacy to Zambia is immense.

Hoovering Africa’s rivers ……….by I.P.A. Manning

News that the wife of the President of the United States will shortly descend upon Zambia in order to personally deliver thousands more insecticide-charged mosquito nets, is cause for considerable alarm. In a harvesting culture, such a simple and deadly gift has already had a major negative impact on fish stocks, and obviously on other beasties like otter and crocodile who survive on fish. And where once we sat for hours escaping the midday heat in a river such as the Luangwa, safe in the knowledge that the local croc would not bother us – nourished as he once was by a plentiful supply of fish, it would be a foolish man to try it now. Everywhere the mosquito net removes the larvae and juvenile fish, the ubiquitous gillnet the rest, aided by the poisoning of rivers with easily obtained cotton insecticides. We even now, God help us, have developed a trade in vulture heads to supply traditional healers and the witchbound. Of course, such poisoning also accounts for the lion, the leopard, the jackal, the civet, the hyena…

Although Zambia has obtained an exemption from the Stockholm Convention for the use of DDT, there is not much sign of a carefully controlled programme of spraying getting under way in the villages of the hinterland. It’s all, I suppose, about the neurosis to give. Why not a net. Sounds good.