HL Deb 13 July 1903 vol 125 cc377-9

My Lords, I beg to ask His Majesty's Government whether any steps have been taken, or are being taken, in co-operation with other Governments, to carry out the terms of the Convention of 1900, in reference to the preservation of wild animals in Central Africa. It will be in the recollection of your Lordships that about three years ago a Convention was entered into between His Majesty's Government, and, I think, seven other Governments interested in Africa, for the setting apart of a certain zone for the preservation of wild animals. The zone set apart is a very extensive one—it extends from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, and all the European Powers interested in Africa took part in that Convention. In addition to this zone, each Power, I believe, undertook that certain preserves should be set aside, not only for the preservation of these animals from destruction, but also for the encouragement of breeding. About that time, or shortly after, the war broke out in South Africa, and probably the attention of the Powers was diverted from that object, but it is one which I think your Lordships will agree with me is of very great importance. We know that many of these animals have absolutely disappeared altogether. I can recollect when elephants roamed all over many districts which are now thickly inhabited by Europeans. But what I want to ask is, whether any steps are being taken beyond the mere Convention for the promotion of these objects? It is obvious that a great deal more is required to carry out the real objects of the Convention, and that a considerable number of officers must be appointed to enforce the regulations, which are in many cases very stringent. They extend to the preservation of almost every species of wild animal that can be useful to man, and to the preservation, within a certain degree, of animals which might be hurtful but are interesting for scientific reasons. Many kinds of antelopes are mentioned; zebras are mentioned, and I may express the hope that, as science extends in those parts, many of these animals—zebras, for instance—will be found useful for domestic purposes. The African elephant, I believe, has never been used since ancient days for domestic purposes, but it is quite possible that when these districts become better known and inhabited by Europeans the African elephant may be found as useful as his congener in Asia. I beg to put the Question standing in my name.


My Lords, so far as this country is concerned, steps are certainly being taken to carry out the provisions of the London Convention of 1899, but I find, as regards the co-operation of other Powers, that the ratifications of the Convention have not been deposited. The reason is this. France made a special reservation to the effect that she reserved her obligations to ratify until the adhesion of Abyssinia and Liberia had been obtained. It appears that both these states are reluctant to give their adhesion, I believe, for the reason that they apprehend that they might not find it possible to enforce the provisions of the Convention. But so far as our Protectorates are concerned—I mean British Central Africa, East Africa, Uganda, and the Somali Coast Protectorate—the provisions of the Convention are carried out under regulations framed for the purpose. Under those regulations, for example, there is a prohibition of the export of any tusks weighing loss than 11 lbs., and our administrative and Customs officers are all instructed to do their utmost to see that these regulations are respected. Lately we have appointed an official with the title of "game ranger" to watch over the execution of these rules. I am glad to say that, so far as our Protectorates are concerned, we have no reason to believe that large game is in any way decreasing. The matter will continue to be watched, and we will do what we can to obtain the consent of other Powers to prevent the extinction of these interesting animals.


I do not know whether the noble Marquess is aware that before any destruction of game can take place licences are required from all the Powers.


Licenses are required from the Officials of the Protectorates.