Wildlife then.


Wildlife is under a death sentence everywhere. Those giraffes (and ostrich, look closely) I saw in Kenya in 1969, fifty years ago (!) are being snared by poachers. What for? For giraffe hair bracelets? To turn their skin into a carpet? Pointless. As a teen, I was fortunate enough to see the last of the wild. Isolated pockets still remain with Game wardens practically turned into a military force. But who knows how long they will last?


This is how giraffes were seen in 1879. (In Mammifères, Louis Viguier). 140 years ago. This is yet another of my books falling apart. Major restoration in the works. The engravings are priceless. Many would tear the book apart and sell each engraving for 20 Euros on the banks of the Seine.



Warthog, 1879.


1969, Nairobi National park.


“In the jungle, the mighty jungle…”


“The lion sleeps tonight”. Masaï Mara, 1968.


Amboseli, 1968.


Hedgehog, 1969, at our house in Nairobi.



Yours truly, 1969. Hedgehogs are easy to “tame”. If you find one curled in your garden, pick it up gently with open palms so you don’t pinch yourself. Put it on the terrace or the lawn and wait quietly. Eventually they will uncurl. And wander about without fear. Mind the fleas though. Hedgehogs are plagued with them. (Pic already posted I think.)


Gnu, 1879.


Gnus, 1970, Nairobi Park. Unlike buffaloes, who are extremely aggressive, gnus are peaceful creatures.


1879. Waterbuck. I had a few “good” waterbucks somewhere. Couldn’t find them, so let’s have another giraffe:


Nairobi Park, 1970. This particular shot is one of my favourite. One of the first I took with a brand new Asahi Pentax I’d received for my birthday. Gone was the limited Kodak Instamatic. Welcome to the world of F-stop and zoom.


“Otters busy fishing”, 1879. See “Ring of bright water” for the magic of otters. Riou, the artist, (see signature on the left) did many an illustration for Jules Verne’s books in the 19th century.


Otters busy doing nothing. Nairobi Park, 1970.


Sorting through my Kenya files, I realise I don’t have “good” zebras. So let’s end on this one:


“A sunset in Serengeti”, by my father Cyril, c.1995. And to finish where I started: wildlife is an asset. Africa could bring in millions of tourists to watch the animals. It is a capital they have nearly squandered.

Happy Mother’s Day for those who celebrate next Friday.


94 thoughts on “Wildlife then.

  1. Such lovely photographs of these majestic creatures Brian. It’s heartbreaking to imagine that they may one day become e tinct at the hands of man. (sorry my keyboard is out for repair). Lovely painting by your father. ❤

    • Asante sana Memsahib. (I suspect my mother drew and he painted, but that will remain a secret) The engravings I found a nice “contre-point to the photographs. Let us remember how little Europe knew of Africa then.
      Hope all is well with you and Spring has come to stay.
      Kwaheri sassa.

      • The garden thinks it is spring, but to us humans it’s cold and grey and wet. We went from the hottest Easter on record, to the coldest May Day on record. But still, my climbing peas are starting to grow and beetroot seedlings are looking like they might grow some roots. Am trying a French heritage beet this year – Crapaudine – as in ‘Madame Toad’. She’s said to be remarkably ugly on the outside but delicious inside . As to remembering what Africa was like before Europe knew it, it’s also been one of my endeavours – to try and see how was when the first handful of Europeans set foot there. East Africa it seems was sky to sky plains game. We Brits soon made short work of that!

      • Such temperature variation is not good for plants. Vineyards in France were under frost attack again. 😦
        Yes, the Rift Valley was infinite “game” everywhere. Sigh.

    • Pleasure Janet. As for books, it’s an endless job. Just restored a 17th century bible. That was nice. But in many cases, especially second half of the 20th century, industrial glues are just breaking up in pieces. So I grab a book from the shelves, and Oh! Oh! Good thing is it’s relatively easy.

  2. Those drawings are excellent! I am always amazed at these old text books with the drawings of wildlife…so full of detail.Wonderful blog once again, Brian!

    • Dankie Dina. 🙂 That’s one of the reasons I like (and keep) old books. The quality of the binding, the paper and the engravings. Which were affordable then. You couldn’t produce a book like that today. Too expensive.

  3. The photos and drawings are priceless. I love them all, but am partial, I think, to the hedgehog. I am incensed by what humans have done and continue to do to the wonderful creatures that were here long before man was. I am enraged by men who pay to “hunt” in Africa when really, there is no contest, no sportsmanship … the animals are confined to a certain space and have no weapons that can kill from a distance of a mile or more. Such beauty … and we think it is here for only our own pleasure. Thanks for this post, though … I loved these pics!

    • Hedgehogs are cute little fellas. 🙂
      Greed is spreading. No need to go to Africa (Though the hunting is not the main cause of extinction) I understand there are places in Texas, where you can “buy” your game and shoot it. Don’t know where I read that.

      • I’m not aware of those places in Texas, but it would not surprise me in the least. 😥 Those men who think it makes them “macho” to kill animals who are defenseless against the big guns, they are delusional. Apparently they are lacking in other areas and need to find other ways to console themselves. Sigh. Mankind has destroyed so much, and given back so little.

      • True. On a funnier note, in Colombia a long-gone narc had hippopotamus in his private zoo in his ranch. The hippos have escaped and reproduced, and are now a few hundred and a safety hazard in rivers of Colombia. 🙂

  4. I feel so fortunate to have traveled to Africa and witnessed these magnificent creatures while they still exist. Wildlife is indeed an asset. I live in a very wild place now, see herds of deer on a daily basis, sometimes in the front yard. 🙂 I never get tired of it. Thank you for sharing these wonderful images.

    • You have been very fortunate. In addition, if I recall it was Namibia, which had stayed… a bit aside in the past 50 years, so more was preserved. I hear Botswana has done a good job too.
      Enjoy your deers. (I am so getting fed up with the city!)
      Avec plaisir mon amie. Bon week-end. biz.

  5. Dear Brian, the engravings are priceless and so are your photos! Enjoy the restoration process, book and animal conservation is, or should be a priority. Please have a terrific Thursday.

  6. Are you 160 or something? How can you have lived all of this? What an experience that must’ve been to grow up in Africa. I agree with you about the trophy hunting and will never wrap my head around how anyone could kill these big animals. Sick and sad. Great pics. Thanks for sharing.

    • I do feel like 160 sometimes. 😉 Truth is I saw a dying world that was closer to the 19th century than even the 20th. A unique experience. All that is gone.

  7. Amazing photos all round of the wildlife out there, especially the one with the Asahi Pentax. That was a well framed, giraffe centred and prominent in the shot looking right at you. Such a pity with what’s happening in the wildlife scene these days, from hunting to poaching and eradicating their natural habitats like it’s all some kind of competition. Thanks for the tip on handling hedgehogs. They sound like shy creatures 🙂

  8. Enjoyed this collection of wildlife snippets and shots…including the precious hedgehog nesting in your palms. You can almost make out its features. Fascinating! 🙂
    P.S.: I am glad your books shall not be taken apart to be sold along the Seine.

    • Haha! That’s one of the reasons I support some booksellers on the Seine (A few of whom I now know personally) and not others. (Those who rip books apart I do not buy from.
      Glad you liked the post. Have a great week Arundhatiji.

    • Absolutely. Now, thinking back to the engravings, it is well possible the artists had indeed anthropomorphised in the way they represented each animal. 🙂

      • Oh yes. Thinking about it, the mythical creatures sailors ‘spotted’ in the 17th and early 18th century often had humanoid characteristics – how could anyone mistake a narwhal for a young woman with a fish tail (must have been a long way from home)? I guess they zoomorphize us – the creatures that destroy their own habitat perhaps.

  9. The decline in animal populations in Africa is gut-wrenching. I feel blessed to have seen them on our recent sail through Southern Africa. Never did manage to find a hedgehog thought. Great to see your younger self make an appearance here. Your father was a talented artist.

    • You are one of the last to see that wildlife. It may be gone in a few decades at most.
      Younger self? That picture is fifty years old. Scary.
      My Dad made great progress in later years. I think he had a hand form my mother.

  10. There is much that has been squandered in Africa dear Cecil and usually not by the Africans. And aren’t you quite the Gerald Durell in that pic? Once the lottery has been won I will be setting up a business where one can hunt hunters. Rather than charge a fee I will PAY the contributors and the selling point (apart from the cash) will be that it is for conservation and to keep the numbers down. I somehow see a lot of disenfranchised Africans signing up for this. Are you in?

    • Jerry Durrell? Haha! True. British haircut and all. (Though the hair is gone I’m afraid) Now that’s a perfect illustration of what I call “living inside the book”. I bought the Durrell series of books at Woolworth on Kimathi St in Nairobi. And the books told of his adventures in Africa and elsewhere looking for animals. I would close the book and there would be a cobra in the garden. Or a monkey, or what have you. So there was no boundary between the book and the “real” world. As would be the case for a European child in Sussex. Closing the book would have brought him/her back to reality.
      I’ll suscribe to your plan entirely provided you include poachers as well.
      Yours truly, Malcom.

      • Sounds like bliss although depending on the type of snake a bit dangerous!! I remember taking a snooze in West Africa and waking up from a mid afternoon nap to a load of shouting and commotion.
        I had been resting on a bed by an open window and yelled to someone to ask what was going on. They nonchalantly said ‘Oh there was a snake crawling in your window and we just killed it’ Based on the height of the bed and the edge of the window we are talking inches….Yikes!

        Plus….poor snake. I would have made good lunch!

      • Snakes are -were- a part of everyday life in Africa. And I understand thousands still die every year in India from cobra bite. (I really need to write that story…)
        I think you had mentioned your being in Africa before, dear Prudence. Whereabouts? The name Accra pops into my mind? And on what errand?
        Yours truly,

      • I was selling military telecoms systems I had designed. Presentations to the Nigerian Army. Staying in Lagos, locked up in the hotel for security reasons. Practically an armed convoy to go to the airport… I don’t like Lagos. 😉

      • So let me understand this…are you saying you like Lagos or not? 😉

        In all seriousness often a whole country is judged by the experience one personally has there and the small selection of people one happens to meet. I did this too when I first went there, but this was down to the wack crowd I was with and where they took me more than the place. Once the hosts changed so did my view of the country.

        But also, as I was not selling military telecoms systems I had designed to the Nigerian Army I had quite a good time.

        Also Lagos does not = Nigeria. There is the quiet lush countryside, horseriding on the beaches and depending on what year you went (when was it btw?) there is a new (less bustling / crazy / stiflingly hot) capital.
        Having now done my tourism sell for Nigeria I also recognize the side of it you have described.

        But also… “I was selling military telecoms systems I had designed.”…Gulps tea. Do tell more! How did they work? You designed them? Er…Wowsa Cecil!

      • Haha! You are quite right. Paris is not France. Not all French are as… shall we say, grumpy as Parisians. But Lagos was unpleasant. And I remember Lagos had a bad reputation in Africa ever since the early 60’s. I do hope the rest of Nigeria is better.
        The year? ’89. I was product manager in the French Defence industry, selling, not weapons, but the systems that commanded the weapons. For five years. I resigned after a dinner in Kinshasa with Colonel whatever, Chief of the Signal Corps who spent the better part of the evening telling us how he hunted gorillas from a helicopter with a big machine gun. That was the last straw. And I went into civilian consulting. Doing Market research for IBM, GM, Bull, L’Oréal, P&G, etc. Capitalists are much nicer than Colonels. 😉
        Yours ever, Arbuthnot

      • Wowsa you got stories lol! But also I do so hope that Colonel Shit For Brains developed a terminal disease and died slowly and gut wrenchingly painfully since then. Do get back to me and confirm.
        Yours ever,

      • We sort of got out of touch with the Colonel. Thank God. Which reminds me: I forgot to ask: what on earth were you doing in Nigeria?
        Yours truly,
        Albaster. (Or is Alistair?) Not Boris. I’m sure. Where are my memory pills?

      • A “show”? “Charity”? For the Prez? Of the US or Nigeria? “Wot?”. Spill the beans, Edith. Names. Dates. Circumstances. You will not get away so easily.
        One or two lumps of sugar in your tea?

      • Soz matey! I will be a back soon! Yeah it was a charity event with acres and acres of food that went to waste in a country full of ultra poor.

  11. Very nice feature and pictures! And in fact this wild life used to stretch till the Mediterranean Sea only 2,000 years ago. The very nice Bardo Museum in Tunis shows old Roman mosaics where you can still see lions and giraffes from that North-African area those days (the bread basket of the Roman Empire). But the warming period and climate change of the last 2,000 years created the huge Sahara which is still growing and growing, such making life critical in the Sahel. I do not know where this will lead when the African population will double as predicted in the next decades ahead. So one must seriously doubt that our human species is really intelligent as usually alleged and assumed. Bye, bye.

    • You are quite right. Lions became extinct in North Africa around the end of the 19th century I believe. Persians and Assyrians depicted lions 3,000 years ago. Lions stretched East all the way to India. I think there may still be a few hundred lions left… Not to mention a few thousand tigers. Not enough to maintain those species. Sad.
      Au revoir.

  12. Those photos could be worth some money one day, when future generations look at those gorgeous giraffes like they were aliens… sad. Very sad.

  13. Thanks Brian. This chimed with me as I’m just watching the David Attenborough series, Our Planet. There’s not a lot of joy to be taken out of it. Every sequence of remarkable filming ends with the quiet reminder that in a decade or two none of the things you’ve just watched will likely be there. Surely the greatest outrage of human history?

    • Surely it is. In a history already ripe with massacre and slaughter… I’ve “noted” that series as a thing to watch on Netflix, but have demured a bit, fearing a bit what you’re telling me… The human race design is clearly faulty. I want to have a word – or two – with the project engineer!

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