Shooting as an argument for conservation

The chief problem for conservation's advocates at the start of the 20th century was one only too familiar 100 years later: conservation cost money. When Theodore Roosevelt became Governor of New York in 1898, he set about establishing policies for forests and wildlife that reflected the ideals of the Boone and Crockett Club, strengthening and reforming the management of the Adirondacks and the Catskill mountains. When he became US President in 1901, he did the same on a national scale, passing the Reclamation Act of 1902 to establish the Bureau of Reclamation, creating the United States Forest Service in 1905, and establishing the National Conservation Commission in 1908, headed by his guru Gifford Pinchot.123

In the United Kingdom, the SPWFE urged the Secretary of State for the Colonies towards greater efforts on conservation. When he met their first deputation in 1905, the Colonial Secretary made clear that there was to be no money from the Imperial Exchequer for conservation. However, he made protestations of sympathy, and followed them up by the practical step of becoming an Honorary Member of the Society. Lord Elgin, who succeeded him, likewise promised 'sympathy, consideration and assistance', but no

money.

The issue of funding for game reserves and protection was urgent. Buxton's view was that game preservation was important even if it cost money — in 1902 he urged that 'all necessary sacrifices' should be made to preserve game 'while there is yet time'. Game should be viewed as 'a precious inheritance of the empire, something to be guarded like a unique picture, 'something which may easily be lost, but which cannot be replaced'.125 Buxton preferred to present a business case for preservation, arguing that a share of the revenues from hunting licences could help pay for effective game protection by well-qualified staff. He argued that reserves could even create a profit and that hunting also provides an outlet for the energies of young officers, isolated in the field.126

To conservationists, game preservation seemed not only a thoroughly worthy thing for the colonial state to invest in, but a prudent one too. In presenting their case to the Colonial Secretary in 1905, the SPWFE contrasted the expenditure of 6 million pounds on the Uganda railway in the sanguine hope of economic return to the need for modest expenditure on game reserves: 'is not the preservation of animal life of which nature has been so lavish in these regions, also an imperial object? Is nothing due to this inheritance of the Empire?'.127 The return from game hunting was considerable, far more than the sum spent on preserving it.128 In 1906 Rhys Williams argued that State preserves 'would not only tend to protect animals from wholesale destruction, but would, if properly managed, bring in large and constantly increasing sums to the Protectorate exchequer'.129 To win that income, early action was needed, before herds became rare as in Transvaal or the United States.

The Colonial Secretary asked whether they proposed that the 'Imperial interest' meant that they believed that these costs should be borne 'from home' (by Britain itself)?130 Buxton replied that they should, that conservation formed part of the responsibility of empire, arguing 'the nation has 'pegged out claims', and must bear charges'. Seton-Karr agreed, suggesting that a reserve in South Africa should be 'an imperial claim', and not paid from local pockets.131 In asking the Secretary of State for the Colonies to seek to have influence on the Chartered Company in Rhodesia ('conspicuous by its absence' in the Blue Book) in its destruction of game, Rhys Williams said 'we regard this as an imperial question, and we ask the Colonial Office to claim a voice in it, and not allow this sort of thing, at least without reference home, and a case being proved for such

strong steps'.

Again, Henry Seton-Karr concurred. Wild animals (and particularly the larger big game) not only made the Empire attractive to sportsmen, naturalists and travellers, but contributed to its material wealth and revenue. He argued that the fauna of British East Africa were 'an asset of large pecuniary value', estimating that the direct revenue from licences at between £8000 and £10,000 a year, while the indirect annual revenue from the visits of sportsmen was over £20,000. These figures were not to be despised in 'a young and sparsely populated portion of the Empire'.133

Others were more cautious — the Saturday Review quoted Lord Curzon's view that preservation should not be seen as a matter of financial gain and loss. He preferred that 'more patriotic' view that it should be done 'as a duty to the empire and to posterity'. The newspaper doubted if the nation could make money out of reserves, and it should make up its mind 'to spend more than it makes'. It noted that the Americans responded to the near-extinction of species like the bison by spending freely on what remained, and it expressed it shameful that Britain should lag behind America, Germany and even Norway.134

The SPWFE's 1906 deputation to the Secretary of State quoted estimates from F J Jackson of the game department that £2344 was needed to protect the fauna of British East Africa. The issue was followed up later in the year by the MP Samuel H Whitbread in questions to Winston Churchill, then Under Secretary of State for the Colonies in the House of Commons. It was eventually announced, in 1908, that the budget for the game staff in British East Africa had been raised by the Colonial Office from £300 to the £2300 per year asked for by the SPWFE deputation. By this point, the society noted in an editorial that it was urgently needed due to a dramatic increase in the 'white development'

of East Africa (as reflected in the increase in the net railway receipts from £2639 in 1904-5 to £76,150 in 1906-7).135 The man appointed as chief of this new game staff was SPWFE member (and member of the Society's deputation to the Colonial Office) Colonel J H Patterson, author of the book Man Eaters of TsavoP6

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