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With an Elephant Hunter in Africa

by Alfred Jordan

WHITE men had not cared to venture among the Wanderobos. Little was known of them, but this little was enough. It pertained to the tribe's wildness and its stealthy ways of fighting. On the rare occasions when a man of another tribe so far forgot himself in chasing game as to enter a Wanderobo forest he would find everything serene. There would be no unusual sound or movement. The stillness of the woods, broken only by the singing of birds and perhaps by the cries of animals, would cause him to believe that he was far from the haunts of man. But suddenly, seemingly from nowhere, would come a poisoned arrow; then another and another.

So it was that the forests and sweeping plains of the Wanderobo country on the highlands of German East Africa, six thousand feet above the sea, had been free from white invasion. It was ideal for hunting; every kind of game stalked its own prey in the scrub and belts of woodland; in the high grass elephants grazed quietly.

For me the elephants had a special interest, since at that time there were no German regulations to prevent a man from shooting a sufficient number of the animals on a single hunt to gain a small fortune from the ivory. I had been on a long cattle-trading trek among the Lumbwa, and was indulging in a bit of civilization in the towns along the Uganda Railway, but, growing tired of this, I made up my mind to go on an elephant hunt in Wanderobo land.

The project involved no great risk on my part, because, while the Wanderobos knew no other white man, they knew me. A year before I had come upon a band of them and had been able to win their favor by killing a lion which had carried off a Wanderobo girl. I had hunted with them and had learned their peculiar dialect, a rather musical jargon not unlike that of the Lumbwa, which I knew well.

With as little delay as possible after deciding upon the trip for ivory I left the railway and in ten days was in camp with twenty carriers on a grassy slope reaching away from the Magor River. In a dense wood a little way up the stream were some huts, made by bending the tops of saplings to the ground and covering them with grass and sticks, and so concealed in the underbrush as to be impossible to see until one was close upon them. These constituted a temporary Wanderobo village.

Because of the necessity of drawing to within twenty-five or thirty yards of game before they could kill it with their arrows, the Wanderobos were almost always hungry, so I fared forth each morning after the dew was off the grass to provide meat not only for my own men, but also for my savage friends, whom I expected to help me in my elephant hunt. Always on these tramps I searched for tracks of the big animals that were my special quest, and one forenoon I found them. The grass was much trampled and showed long streaks where the elephants had passed through.

When I entered the Wanderobo village that afternoon I sent my boy for the chief and informed him that many elephants were grazing along the Ronganda hills. This news caused excitement. The Wanderobos had not seen the tracks themselves because the Lumbwa, their deadly enemies, were known to hunt among these hills, and on this account my friends had kept away, but they were eager, of course, for information about the elephants. The moran, or warriors, clad in monkey-skins and armed with spears and arrows, gathered around me. To convince them absolutely of the presence of the herd I sent my boy back to camp for a saucer and a small tin of kerosene. When he had returned and had handed me these articles I drew back from the group of savages to perform a little witchcraft.

"Watch me," I exclaimed. "Into this saucer I am about to pour some water. I will touch the water with fire. If the elephants are still within our reach, the water will blaze up. If it does not blaze, the elephants have gone and we will have to be satisfied with poorer meat. We will see."

To the kerosene I then applied a match. When the Wanderobos, craning their necks, saw the flame, they raised their voices in a shout of joy. I motioned to the chief and witch-doctor, and we three withdrew to make our plans. It was arranged that four men start at dawn to locate the herd.

These runners came ...

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