HL Deb 21 November 1929 vol 75 cc625-50

THE EARL OF ONSLOW had the following Notice on the Paper:—To call the attention of His Majesty's Government to the alleged destruction of wild fauna in certain parts of Africa, and to ask the Secretary of State for the Colonies—

  1. 1. What steps may be taken to make the enforcement of the law against hunting in motor cars more effective;
  2. 2. That no alteration be made in the game laws of African Colonies, Protectorates 626 or Mandated Territories without allowing those interested in the preservation of the fauna of the Empire an opportunity of expressing their views;
  3. 3. That generally His Majesty's Government will use every proper and reasonable effort in their power to further the preservation of game throughout the Empire, especially by encouraging the establishment of national parks and reserves;
and to move for Papers.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I make no apology for bringing to the notice of your Lordships' House this matter of the preservation of wild game throughout the Empire, because it is a subject in which I know that a great number of your Lordships are very deeply interested; indeed, it is one with which many of your Lordships are intimate and familiar and on which you have much expert knowledge. The interest which I take in it is largely due to the connection which I have the honour to enjoy with the Society for the Protection of the Fauna of the Empire, and it is after consultation with my fellow members of that society that I have ventured to bring this matter to the notice of your Lordships' House. I am not asking your Lordships to take an interest in this question of the preservation of the wild fauna on any special ground. For example, I am not appealing for the preservation of game entirely for sporting purposes, although nobody would deny the great service which the preservation of game for sporting purposes has done to the preservation of game in general. You have only to look around this country to see its results. Had it not been for the preservation of game for sporting purposes here, I do not suppose that the red deer or the fox would be any more common than the wolf and the wild boar are at the present time.

I read the other day in a volume of collected speeches of the late Lord Curzon some words he used at a meeting of the Burma Game Preservation Association, when he was Viceroy of India. He said this:— The question of game preservation is one that may appeal not only to the sportsman but also to the naturalist and friend of animal life. It is certainly not through the spectacles of the sportsman only that I would regard it, though I yield to no one in my recognition of the manly attraction of chikar. Such consideration might be suspected of a selfish tinge, and I should think that in approaching the matter we should, as far as possible, put our own predilections in the background and view it in the public interest at large. It is in the manner described by the late Lord Curzon that I should wish to bring this matter to the attention of your Lordships. In times gone by the preservation of game in unsettled countries was not looked after at all. Nobody paid any attention to the matter whatever. There is one instance which will occur, I think, to everybody; that is, the case of the bison in North America. Not very many years ago, sixty or seventy years perhaps, the bison existed there in very large numbers, but in a very few years it became almost extinct. When you think of the havoc wrought on those masses of animals in days when methods of communication were far less advanced than they are at present and when modern weapons of precision were unknown, I am sure your Lordships will see that unless timely and strict preservation and protection of wild animals is insisted upon, then, under present conditions, they have not any chance but must disappear altogether.

There is another lesson which I think we can learn from the case of the bison, and that is that with a very little care the animals which have become nearly extinct can be got up again. Now, after the bison has had protection in Canada and the United States, there are large herds of them in both those countries. The value of game preservation, I think, has been recognised not only in Canada and the United States but also in all the great Dominions, and in a great many other countries, including, of course, the Colonies and Dependencies of the Empire. There is a national park in Switzerland, and in Sweden and Norway steps have been taken to preserve the elk, which are now comparatively numerous though they were at one time almost extinct. We have also had suggestions, which, I hope, will materialise some time, for the construction of national parks in this country for the preservation of fauna. I understand, however, that my noble friend Lord Bledisloe has a Question on the Paper in regard to that, and I shall not deal with it now.

When I address your Lordships on the subject I will not be so unwise, or, I may say, so insane as to suggest that the preservation of game fauna should be allowed to interfere with proper cultivation or with the natural or ordinary development of new countries. It need not do so. I think the experience which has been gained in other countries, the Dominions among them, shows clearly that this need not be the case, that the protection of wild fauna need not interfere with development, and that the preservation of the wild fauna is in itself a great asset to any country. One of the reasons why I venture to bring this before your Lordships is that public attention has been called recently to the question of game preservation. It has been felt, rightly or wrongly—I am not saving it is right myself—that this question of game preservation in the Dependencies of the Empire has not had that attention that has been given to it in the Dominions and elsewhere. I would bring forward one or two instances which no doubt are familiar to many of your Lordships, for they have been ventilated in the Press, and I would ask the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he can give us any information on these points. I hope also that he will be able to give us his assurance that he regards the preservation of game generally as an important matter, and one to which he will devote his attention to furthering in those Dependencies for which he is responsible.

I would first like to draw attention to the reiterated statements in the Press that great damage has been done to game by people who are too lazy or too cowardly to pursue the game in a sportsmanlike fashion, and who think they are sportsmen if they can return home after having slaughtered a large number of beasts by the use of motor cars. I have also heard that aeroplanes have been called into use in these pursuits. I do not think that has gone very far, but certainly the statement has been made that animals have been shot from motor cars in a most unsportsmanlike fashion, and great damage and destruction have been done. I do not suppose there is anybody who does not condemn this practice except the people who themselves follow it. What we were a little disturbed to see was a statement made by Mr. Jardine, who is a responsible official of the Colonial Government, in a letter he wrote to The Times a little time ago, in which he said the facilities at the command of the Colonial Government for stopping this disgraceful procedure were not at the time he wrote sufficiently adequate to deal with it. I would ask the noble Lord if he could give us a little information upon that point. It seems to me that the steps required to be taken to stop this sort of thing are really police measures. You have to increase your game wardens and your methods of protection, and if you do that this shooting from motor cars can be stopped altogether. I believe additional game wardens have been appointed. I saw in the Press, yesterday I think, that steps have been taken by the Colonial Government in the direction which I have indicated. So much for the question of the massacre of game from motor cars.

I come now to another point which arose in the correspondence that took place last summer on this subject—namely, the destruction of game by natives. It was stated, whether truly or not I do not know, that the Colonial Government regarded the game as the property of the natives to do with it as they like, that they were entitled to destroy game as they choose. I do not know whether there is any truth in that, but I have heard that a great deal of destruction has taken place by natives, and that the method used was that large numbers of natives spread themselves out in a great line with their flanks advanced and drove the herds of game forward into pits, where they were killed. The result was that the majority of beasts killed were females or young, immature animals, while the more active and stronger bulls probably escaped. It is said, too, that a number of giraffes were killed simply for their tails which command a certain price in their market. The same was said of antelopes.

I want to emphasise this fact. Nobody would deny for an instant the right of natives or anybody else to protect their crops against the depredations of game. It is natural they should do so. Nor would anybody—I would not for a moment—deny the right of a person to protect himself from dangerous game; for instance, from the charge of a rhinoceros. Naturally, reasonable protection must be allowed to everybody, but what we have been told—I hope it has been exaggerated—goes beyond reasonable protection, and amounts really to a licence to the natives to kill game as they like. If we accept the premise that the wild fauna of a country is an asset to that country, it must be an asset to the natives themselves, and if they destroy game in this way they are really destroying their own wealth. They may not understand it, they may be foolish in that respect, but in time their descendants will find that much damage has been done to a natural asset of their country. I therefore submit that it is the duty of the Colonial Government to protect game and to prevent this sort of thing taking place, if indeed it does take place.

I come now to the third point to which I specially want to draw attention; it is a small point. As your Lordships are aware, we march in East Africa with Belgian territory, and the Belgians have established in a small tract of county called Kivu a sanctuary for gorillas; it is absolute sanctuary and not only protection; and they ask us if we would on our side of the border, which I believe is only a very small area, introduce similar regulations for the protection of gorillas in British territory so that there would be a complete sanctuary in the country which the gorillas inhabit, whether it be Belgian or British territory. I know gorillas are protected under existing law, but there is a difference between protection and absolute sanctuary, an area which is declared an absolute sanctuary. I hope very much that we shall be able to fall in with the wishes of the Belgian Government and institute on our side regulations similar to those that they have made on their side, because the gorilla is a very rare beast now, and is, I think, perfectly harmless. I have never heard that it is in any way dangerous, and I submit that if the noble Lord is able to state that it will be possible to devote this very small area—it is only 23 square miles in extent, I think, and it is high country not used for cultivation—for this purpose, it would be a very useful and valuable step.

I have only one other matter to deal with, and that is the question of Malaya, on which I am asking for information. It is quite different really from the question of Africa and one does not know whether similar regulations in that part of the world would be equally useful, but I would like to ask the noble Lord if he can give any useful information, because we have had communications from members of the society to which I belong who are residents in the Federated Malay States, in which it is stated that the Colonial Government there is not so careful as it might be in regard to the protection of animals. It is said that they are allowing unnecessary destruction of animals. I am not saying that I agree with that statement, but that is the information I have from some sources. On the other hand, I have been told that the steps which have been taken regarding the destruction of elephants and deer are not unnecessary, but that, on the contrary, they are necessary for the protection of cultivation. It is also stated, and that is good news, that it is proposed to establish a national park in the northern part of the country. I hope that is true. I do not know whether it would be possible also to establish some kind of reserve in the southern part of the Federated Malay States, because I understand there are certain species of animals there which would not be protected by a national park in the northern area. I hope the noble Lord will be able to give me some information either now or at a later stage if he has not the information to hand at the moment. Those are the points I wish to bring forward on which I should be glad to have any information from the noble Lord. I beg to ask the Question standing in my name and to move.


My Lords, with your permission I should like to suggest that we owe a certain debt of gratitude to some of the larger wild animals, notably the buffalo or the bison of North America. The prairies of North America have been grazed and manured for thousands of years by millions of buffaloes. I saw it calculated the other day—I am sorry I have not the reference with me and cannot check it—that during the last 150 years over thirty million buffaloes have been killed in one way or another on the plains of North America. Those plains have been grazed and manured by these huge herds and are now producing bountiful crops on the Western Prairies from Canada right away to the Mexican border. That kind of thing has not only gone on there but in South Africa, where, for instance, the Karoo has been grazed and trampled by countless myriads of springboks and now has become valuable sheep pasture. The game warden of South Africa, Major Stevenson-Hamilton, has mentioned in his report the Kruger Game Reserve or the Kruger National Park, and has called attention to the benefit to the soil caused by the action of the larger animals, especially the wildebeest. Those animals, by wallowing and stamping in the same places, make lodgments for the rain which hold water in the wet season, so that moisture soaks into the ground when otherwise it would run into the river beds carrying with it the soil which produces the pasture, with the result that the country would become denuded not only of soil but of trees and would become practically a desert.

The same thing has been pointed out by Sir William Willcocks, the great irrigation authority of Egypt, in writing about the denudation and dessication of Sinai. He points out that wild game range widely and their tracks cross and intermingle and are pitted with small hoof marks. Domestic herds, however, make straight, clean cut tracks from their folds to the watering places, and these become rivulets of water which carry off the surface soil. The water runs away too rapidly, with the result that the rivers become torrents in the wet season and sandy beds in the dry season, whereas before, in the days of wild game, these river beds contained rich alluvial soil covered with bush and grass which held the moisture in the soil, improving the climate and conserving pasture for hard times. He quotes from the South African Blue-book of July, 1902, to the effect that the Karoo bush is steadily diminishing in some areas. Goats, sheep and donkeys are eating the good bush. Their sharp tracks lead away the flood water in little rivulets so that the veldt is drained of water. He concludes by saying that the Karoo is threatened with the fate of Sinai.

The wild animal unmolested will keep up the balance of nature and aboriginal man can hold his own amongst them and does no great harm unless he gets modern weapons. Even those pits which he digs to trap wild animals, although they are very cruel, do not result in the destruction that is done by civilised man. Civilised man goes out and upsets the whole balance of nature with his rifle. Now his motor car carries him to places he could not get to before. Places which it took the old hunter a month or more to reach can be reached by the modern hunter-tourist in a day or two. Moreover, the old hunter sought to kill. He shot for trophies or for meat. The modern tourist-hunter in a hurry will shoot sometimes just for fun. A rifle and wild game raises a sort of blood lust in some natures. I was looking the other day at a recent book of travel by a man I knew very well. He is not alive now. He was a quiet, kindly gentleman, but in talking about a trip along the Upper Nile some years ago, he said:— Hippo is hard to kill; though when he opens his cavernous mouth to laugh at you, you have no excuse if you do not land a millet in the scarlet tunnel that is called his throat. That was written by the father of a family, a kindly English gentleman. I once heard a man who had been after elephants in East Africa say:— I did not get an elephant, but I left some of them feeling pretty sore, I think. As the noble Earl has said, wild animals must disappear before the advance of civilisation, but there are still vast tracts where these animals haunt and abound that are as yet unfit for civilisation, and in these areas wild animals are not only harmless but, as I have tried to point out, they do actual good. The Israelites in the wilderness, according to Sir William Willcocks, found plenty of wild tamarisk and sweet manna, but there is none of it now, or hardly any. That is caused by the destruction of wild game and by replacing it with sheep and goats. The goat is the worst of all. Nothing can live where the goat is. I think Vergil or some other writer talks about the "poisonous tooth" of the goat. Unless the situation is watched very carefully we shall end in spoiling instead of saving the great pastures of the world which the wild animals have to a great extent preserved for us.


My Lords, it is really only as a former Colonial Secretary that I have any claim to say a word in support of the view which the noble Earl has explained. My firsthand acquaintance, such as it was, with the fauna of Africa goes back, I am sorry to say, to forty years ago. I think your Lordships all appreciated the manner in which the noble Earl introduced his Questions and felt sympathy with the views that he expressed. I am sure also that the contribution of the noble and gallant Viscount on the Cross Benches, in which he pointed out what, I am sure, had not occurred to many of your Lordships—namely, the practical service which big game of various kinds has rendered to civilisation and cultivation—greatly interested your Lordships. I am afraid it has to be admitted that the advance of science in different respects can only be regarded as hostile to the preservation of wild fauna. In the first instance, we have the improvement in firearms. Even as regards deerstalking in Scotland, I am quite sure that a great many old stalkers look back with regret to the days when to kill a stag at 200 yards or more was a feat of which anybody might be proud. This was before high-velocity small-bore rifles had been invented, and still more before telescopic sights had been invented. Now, as the noble Earl reminded us, people go out to shoot big game in motor cars, and even, as he told us, in aeroplanes. One wonders how long it will be before people will produce poison gas for the destruction of wild beasts.

What is to be done? I think it is possible to deal with the situation as it exists at the moment only by strengthening regulations, varying, of course, in different parts of the world, and bearing in mind, as the noble Earl did, the necessity of safeguarding crops from undue ravages by wild animals. In the latter part of his speech the noble Earl asked how far the authorities are considering an increase in the number of reserved sanctuaries. Of course, we may come to a time—I hope it is far distant—when no wild animals will exist outside reserved areas, but, as the noble Viscount pointed out, there are still large tracts in different parts of the world which remain in such a condition that there is at present no question of turning them into reserves. But at this moment I think it is wise to take time by the forelock and to set apart areas as large as possible in suitable districts where game can be preserved under proper conditions. In such areas, of course, dangerous game has the same chance of surviving as the more harmless kinds. I sincerely hope that the noble Lord opposite will be able to give a friendly and satisfactory reply to the Questions of the noble Earl.


My Lords, I should like, if I may, as one who has some slight knowledge of African game, to support in a word or two the speech of the noble Earl who initiated this debate. I think your Lordships must all have felt very great sympathy with what he said. After all, there is a very great responsibility in this matter upon the British nation. We have in Africa a country probably richer in the most magnificent forms of animal life than any other part of the world, a region in which, so far as we know, from time immemorial—perhaps a million years—all these magnificent animals have lived and survived. Now, in the time in which we are temporarily in charge of these regions—it may be for a short time, and there are some people who think and hope that it will be a very short time—it will be a very serious thing if, during our brief period of administration, we allow all those magnificent forms of life to disappear. I have never heard any one suggest that where game stands in the way of human civilisation, black or white, it ought not to disappear. Where game destroys crops, those of black or white, it must go; where game interferes with cattle grazing, after due consideration of all the conditions it must go; where game, by means of propagating tsetse fly, causes further harm, we all admit that it must go, but only after due consideration, for the matter of the tsetse fly is very far from being decided at present either one way or the other. But when you admit all that, you have not really touched the great danger to the wild animals of East Africa.

There are, if I may venture to say so, three great causes that threaten this wild life. The first is what I may term "swank." That is, I think, the cause of this motor game hunting, which goes on now. If any of your Lordships have read the excellent articles in The Times written by Mr. Finch Hatton, which must arouse in the minds of every sportsman, every naturalist and every decent-minded person nothing else but disgust, you will understand what I mean. These motor cars have been introduced by people who want to be able to shoot animals and then go home and say: "I really killed one of these magnificent creatures at the peril of my life, and here it is." The second cause is a worthier one. What has happened in Abyssinia, where the game has been killed off at various times? For instance, I think you will agree that there is some excuse in a way where a man who has killed a lion in single combat is entitled to wear its head skin on his head. I think your Lordships will feel some sympathy with that ambition. Then, of course, comes the question of the destruction of egrets and such things, and I am afraid that even those sportsmen who, like myself, have what are described in Punch as the "heads of several valuable pets on their walls," cannot plead entirely guiltless on this score.

Even that is of less danger to our animals than the second cause, and that is the cause of meat. More animals have been killed to fill the native stomach than have been killed from the previous cause, without any doubt. Those of your Lordships who have done themselves fairly well upon a couple of chops and a woodcock will be astonished to know that the native is perfectly capable of eating 14 to 16 lbs. and even 20 lbs. of meat straight on end, and it does him no immediate harm, although whether it does in the long run I venture to doubt. No doubt eating with the native becomes almost a craze, and if you gave certain native tribes the right to kill, and the arms, they would kill off the whole of the animals in their neighbourhood—bucks and females and young—and then blame the Government who allowed them to do it, and very rightly so, in my humble judgment.

The third cause, and the greatest cause of the whole lot, is the matter of profit. That is what has killed more of the big game of the world than all the other causes combined. That, as has been pointed out by the noble Earl, was what finished the bison in America, and is responsible for much of the diminution of the game in Africa. I can recall that some twenty years ago, in one area in Southern Rhodesia, the game was destroyed there really in order that it might be converted into biltong and sold. Again, when you go to ports like Aden, you are besieged by natives with magnificent heads of game, which they offer for sale. That is the cause which has really exterminated more game than anything else in the world, and I venture to suggest that where, as it sometimes must be, it is necessary for game to be exterminated because they are getting too numerous, then that game should be killed off under the orders of the Government and by Government employees, and the profits that arise from the slaughter of that game should go to the Government rather than to private individuals. I venture to suggest that if that is done you would have less outcry about the slaughter of game than at the present time.

I want to suggest one thing more. I dare say some of your Lordships read what I think was a very admirable letter to The Times by Mr. Hatton, an old Government servant, some time ago. He suggested that the time was coming when it was right that we should have some definite policy or formula with regard to this game question. It is a big responsibility, and it ought not to be a haphazard matter. It ought not to be possible for one Governor, who may be an exterminist, to have free will in the matter, when his successor might be a protectionist. It should not be a matter of chance, but of policy, and although I know that committees are mere weariness of the flesh, I think that in this matter it might possibly be of great and permanent advantage if the Government were to set up a small committee to investigate this matter, both at home and on the spot, and to help set up some formula which would justify our position in regard to what I for one look upon as a very great responsibility of our nation.


My Lords, I have nothing to add in detail to what has been said, and I hesitate to say a single word after the speech of the noble Lord who has just sat down. He has spoken from his exceptional authority and practical experience. His speech was full of interest, and I only intervene for one moment, before the noble Lord replies on behalf of the Government, as one of the principal trustees of our Natural History Museum. It is a matter in which the trustees are bound to take a very special and constant interest. We have received representations from time to time from all parts of the world, and we have been in communication, I think, with the Government upon that particular question of the Belgian boundaries to which the noble Earl referred. Continually it is with us a matter of duty that we should do our utmost to preserve interesting specimens, not only of big game but of fish, and birds and reptiles. The noble Lord who will reply will realise that this is a matter which concerns very deeply those whose responsibility it is to preserve all interesting specimens of animal life in the interest of science, and therefore I express the hope that the noble Lord will not only give a sympathetic reply to the Questions, as I am sure he will, but that the Government will do everything possible to secure the preservation of interesting and rapidly diminishing specimens of animal life.


My Lords, I may be permitted to say that I think that the House is specially indebted to Lord Onslow for the very interesting speech with which this discussion has been opened. I myself wish particularly to express my thanks for his courtesy in giving me long notice of his intention to raise the question, because otherwise I am afraid that I should not have been able to reply upon it to the extent that I hope to do to-day. I am equally indebted to other speakers for their singularly interesting testimony, based on personal experience, from different points of view. The protection against the extermination of wild animals—because that is the real problem which underlies the discussion—I am afraid is a subject on which one could go on for a very long time, because it opens up such a wide vista. The noble Marquess referred to poison gas. I am afraid that we might have to come to poison gas in dealing with locusts, but that would take us too far afield in what we have to consider, and I hope the House will forgive me if I try to confine myself, within the limits of order, to what, if I may use the metaphor, I may call my reserve.

The particular subject which we have all seen in the newspapers for some weeks, and which has been referred to several times as almost the cause of this discussion, is the destruction of animals from motor cars or even aeroplanes. The noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, suggested that this was due to "swank." That may be so; it may be due also to indolence. But that is predominantly an African question, and indeed it concerns practically only one small corner of East Africa, I am told, the Serengeti Plain in Tanganyika, which is just across the border from Kenya, and therefore easily within riding distance for the travelling sportsman on the new roads with motor cars. Undoubtedly it is the fact that in this area parties of so-called sportsmen have used motor cars to hunt down animals which—shall I say?—it is inconvenient to approach in another way. I cannot give any information as to the extent to which this has taken place. It is clearly a criminal offence definitely against the Tanganyika law, and that law, like the law in other African territories, quite clearly strictly prohibits this practice. But the difficulty has been for the Tanganyika Government to put these wealthy criminals into gaol.

The fact is that the districts there are very large. Tanganyika alone, I am told, is one-third of the area of British India, and these territories taken together do not fall far short of the entire area of British India. Consequently, as they are extremely sparsely populated on the whole and of course administered by an extremely minute force of officers of any kind, it is not easy to enforce the law. The Serengeti Plain, I am told, is so remote, so difficult of access, so sparsely populated that to round up offenders who can slip away in motor cars is a very difficult thing. I need hardly say that I share the noble Lord's view that contraventions of the law in this area are deplorable, but I am very glad to inform him and the House that when the prevalence of these offences was reported the Governor of Tanganyika at once took measures with a view to checking them. He sent an additional game ranger to patrol the area, with special motor transport. Although I have not received any official information, I understand that a large part of this area has been already declared a game reserve, in which hunting is absolutely prohibited. Moreover, legislation is being introduced in the Session of the Tanganyika Legislative Council which will take place in about a fortnight, under which any one found guilty of hunting game from a motor car will be made subject to much more severe penalties than at present.

The penalty in future, I think we may hear—a point of instruction for our own practice—is to be imprisonment without the option of a fine, and the motor car with all its equipment is to be confiscated. That is making the punishment fit the crime in a sense, but of course I must warn your Lordships that it leaves the difficulty of catching the offender not quite solved. But—what is more important, perhaps—no one in future will be allowed to shoot animals, even in the manner permitted by law, in the Serengeti Plain, or in any other area which may be specified by the Governor, unless a permit is first obtained from the Provincial Commissioner by personal application. In that way it is hoped to check the organising of expeditions by motor cars from Kenya, which go and come before the Tanganyika Government may even be aware of their appearing. And, finally, the number of lions that can be shot under one licence in this area is to be drastically cut down.

That represents an energetic and a prompt attempt by the Local Government to deal with that special and, I hope, quite ephemeral evil, due to a particular form of "swank," from which apparently we have been suffering; though I should like to suggest to your lordships that possibly the actual number of those criminal enterprises may have been a little exaggerated. Sir Donald Cameron, the Governor of Tanganyika, is confident that these measures will put an end to offences of this kind, aided, he hopes, by the public disapprobation which has been so freely expressed on all hands. And he has assured me that his Government will watch the matter very carefully, and they will be ready to take further measures at once if there is any continuance or repetition either of that offence, or of some other inventions in the way of offences which may arise. Aeroplanes have been mentioned. I should like to tell your Lordships that as far as I can ascertain, as far as is known in the Colonial Office, no actual case of hunting from an aeroplane in Africa has ever been reported. There was a rumour that an attempt would be made, but that does not seem to have actually taken place. Possibly it is not quite easy to do, but at any rate I am informed that hunting from an aeroplane is specifically forbidden in some of the East African Dependencies under the clause of the game ordinances that forbid unduly destructive methods of hunting; and action would be taken in other places if it became necessary.

I should like to add a word before leaving East Africa on some of the wider questions which have been raised; for instance, the allegation that unrestricted slaughter of these wild animals by the natives themselves is a common and an unhappy feature in East Africa generally. Here again it is Tanganyika—that large territory one-third the area of British India—which is chiefly mentioned as the country where this practice is said to be common. We have been told that the natives are accustomed to kill large numbers of animals by digging pits and shooting them down with arrows in drives participated in by vast numbers of persons. Any such indiscriminate or cruel slaughter is already forbidden by the law of the land, and I am informed that the administration has no evidence that it takes place illegally to any extent. Of course, they have heard of cases. Sir Donald Cameron has reported—and this, I think, is a very satisfactory feature—that the native administrations, which are a feature in the government of Tanganyika, where we depend very largely on what is called indirect rule, are co-operating most actively with the Government in stopping any such practices.

Another statement has been made—not here this afternoon, though it has been mentioned as having been made—that the Tanganyika Government propose solemnly to declare game to be the property of the native, so that it can be shot at will for food or any other purpose. I may say at once that the Tanganyika Government have done nothing of the kind. They have no intention of making any such declaration or of departing from the policy of protecting these animals against extermination wherever possible. What the Tanganyika Government have done —and I am confident that your Lordships will agree with the noble Lord who introduced this discussion, and with myself if I may say so, that this action is not unreasonable—is to lay it down that no native shall be prosecuted in the Courts if he kills animals which attack his crops, or if he kills them (other than elephants) for the legitimate needs of food. It has been suggested that these misguided natives eat too much sometimes. I am afraid it will be very difficult to try to enforce any sumptuary legislation of that kind, which would put a limit to the occasional gorge, in which young people, at any rate, of other races also are apt to indulge. The natives are seldom able to indulge in those excesses because they do not possess arms of precision, and their appetites are checked by the absence of the repeating rifle and the given ammunition; but I think that statistically these actual excesses in food do not really amount to very much, provided that we take care that there is no cruel or indiscriminate slaughter by means of drives or pits, or anything of that kind, and provided we do not supply them with rifles. In the great majority of cases the natives have no rifles and very little ammunition, and I think that the freedom that is given them to kill for food does not really result in any wholesale destruction.

I will now turn to the noble Earl's second main point—the question of possible alterations in the game laws in the African Dependencies. I can assure the noble Earl and your Lordships that no amendment will be made in those laws without the fullest possible consideration of all the factors concerned. I may say with reference to what fell from the most rev. Primate, that the Colonial Office as a matter of practice almost invariably solicits the advice of the authorities of the Natural History Museum before any important action is taken with reference to these laws or with respect to the preservation of species generally. I am sure we shall go on doing that. That is one of those customs or practices of the Department which do not rest on the slender security of the necessarily ephemeral Secretary of State. The Office did that before I came there—not before I came there first, but before I came there recently—and it will go on doing it, I can assure your Lordships, after I have passed away. Moreover, there is another safeguard. The Colonial Office has been very fortunate in receiving the valuable advice and co-operation of bodies who are interested in the prevention of the extermination of any of these species, and not least from the society of which the noble Earl who opened this discussion is the Chairman. I am sure that the Colonial Office will always be glad to give the fullest weight to any representations from that quarter or, indeed, from any other person or associations who are interested in the prevention of the extermination of any of these species from the earth.

Now I come to the final general question of the noble Earl, that about the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to the preservation of these species. I think your Lordships will have gathered from what I have already said that His Majesty's Government are anxious to encourage the preservation of these animals in the Colonies in so far as this is not contrary to the interests of the natives or of the settlers in those parts. I do not want to pretend that the duty of reconciling those two considerations is at all an easy one, or that it is one which can be disposed of by any formula or any general principle applicable to the whole of the country. The noble Viscount who spoke from the Cross Benches said that civilisation upsets the balance. It does. It upsets the balance constantly in different ways, and we must adopt the expediences and devices which are necessary to the particular place at the particular time. The noble Viscount gave us an extremely interesting and to me absolutely novel notion of the inconvenience, the zoölogical inconvenience practically, that results from the substitution of the soft feet of the domestic flocks and herds for the more virile tramping of the wild animals. That is one of the inconveniences of the spread of domestic flocks and herds, and though we may object to the evil consequences, I am afraid we shall have to devise some expedient by which the soft feet can extend.

As I say, the task of reconciling the two interests is not an easy one. I do not think that His Majesty's Government will be able to persuade the lamb to lie down alongside the lion in this matter, and as the lambs increase the sphere which can be left for the lion will necessarily have to be continually curtailed. But I think the noble Viscount himself said that there were still large spaces where the actual contact of the two did not exist and was not really imminent. Therefore, there is time still to take action to ensure that these species shall not be actually exterminated. On the other hand, wherever any species of wild animals constantly destroys crops or endangers human life, I am afraid there is only one solution—that the animals must somehow or other be got out of the way.

An interesting suggestion was made by the noble Lord opposite that in those cases where slaughter has to take place it should be made a monopoly of the Government, a sort of nationalisation of the slaughter-house, and that it should be done by Government officers in the way of trade, as it were, and not by sportsmen for pleasure. That is a suggestion which, I think, ought to be considered if the time came for any such adoption of general Socialism in the matter. But I do not think that we can get to that line of heroic remedies for a long time to come. On the other hand, I do not think we can afford, either, to impoverish the natives through the destruction of their crops. I would remind your Lordships that is becoming a very serious question in some parts of Africa and in some parts of Asia. There is a very serious destruction of crops by some of these animals, though some are not so destructive as others. But, of course, there is the danger, and we cannot afford to hold up the development of the Colonies by allowing these destructive animals to roam about in the neighbourhood of human settlements or in the neighbourhood of land under crops. Those, I suppose, are common-sense limitations on the policy of the Government in trying to prevent the extermination of these animals.

To meet that difficulty, reserves have been established and, as your Lordships are aware, they are a common feature in our Colonial Dependencies. Their maintenance is a cardinal feature of the policy of Government after Government. The noble Earl who opened the discussion referred to national parks, and I think the example of Switzerland has been mentioned. Switzerland, of course, has a very interesting, small, museum specimen of the kind of thing; but the Kruger Park in the Union of South Africa is more relevant as an example. There the land is given over for ever to the animals which it is desired to protect against extermination. It is controlled by trustees independent of the Government. That is an arrangement which we may have to come to; but I should like to mention incidentally that it is rather expensive. It requires fences in one way or the other, and the areas are so large that this in itself is a great expense; and, of course, it requires guardianship. We may come to that; but it seems for the moment unnecessary in the present circumstances of East Africa. We have not yet come upon a time when the preservation of the crops or of human life makes such a demand upon the Government that it must restrict the wild animals to these limited ranges which can be declared national parks. It may come to that; but it is undesirable, perhaps, at this stage of development that these Governments should tie their hands irrevocably as to the particular areas which would have to be set aside in this way, so to speak, for ever. I should shrink from having to mark out these national parks because we cannot foresee the future sufficiently yet. We may have to come to that as a way of preventing the extermination of these species; but I think there is not any reasonable chance of those animals being exterminated in the near future.

Perhaps I may be permitted to interpose a few words about the preservation of animals in two other parts of the world which the noble Lord mentioned. First I will deal with the Federated Malay States. The position there is that the late High Commissioner, Sir Hugh Clifford, who has just come home on retirement, which I am sure we all deplore, decided that it was necessary to recommend the removal of elephant and sambur from the list of animals protected outside the game reserves. They remained protected in such game reserves, of course; that is part of the purpose of the reserve. Subsequently we were able to withdraw that recommendation as regards the elephant, provided that an agreed policy could be framed for the defence of property. That attitude of Sir Hugh Clifford was governed by the interests of the agriculturists of Malaya, especially the native agriculturists, because, he said, their very livelihood had been in the past endangered by attacks made on the crops by roaming animals of various sorts. Sir Hugh Clifford thought that it was intolerable that human lives and human welfare should be sacrificed in that way. I am bound to say that I agree with him, and I hope your Lordships also would agree with him, given the facts as he saw them.

I think I may assure your Lordships that there is no danger of the extermination of any species whatever in Malaya, because, apart from ample and extensive game reserves, there are forest reserves in the Federated States exceeding one-fifth part of the whole country in area, a considerable portion of which inevitably constitutes a sanctuary, as indiscriminate shooting is not allowed in forest reserves. The noble Lord asked me about the possibility of making some special reserve in the southern area. My belief is, though I cannot be quite sure, that some of this area, the forest reserve, is in the southern part of the country, but I will have that looked into. I may also mention that the High Commissioner has undertaken not to enact any further legislation affecting game or the game reserves in the Malay States, until the Secretary of State has had an opportunity of considering in detail any Steps contemplated, so as to be sure that the steps are properly taken.

I said I would say something about Uganda which comes next to Tanganyika in regard to the preservation of the gorilla. In Uganda the question concerns the preservation of the gorilla found in the Protectorate. In the Kivu district of the Belgian Congo the Belgian authorities have established a national park—the Parc Nationale Albert—and it has been suggested by the Belgian Government that the Uganda Government should declare the area in Uganda adjacent to this park a reserve so as to protect the gorilla and other wild animals found there. We have referred all these representations to the High Commissioner in Uganda, who, in the ordinary course, has reported that he is considering the question of declaring a reserve over the area referred to, but in the first instance he thought it desirable to send a game warden to pay a personal visit to this district. These districts are so large that the officials cannot get there except for the purpose of special visits. A special visit has taken place, but I have not yet received the report from the Government. I am quite sure the question is in hand, but I may point out that the gorilla is a strictly protected animal under the Uganda Game Ordinance, and during the last five years (since 1924) only one permit to collect a specimen has been issued. The gorilla, moreover, is pretty well protected by the very nature of its habitat. There are no motor roads there, but chiefly thick bamboo forest in remote and inaccessible country lying at an average altitude of 10,000 feet. I think those of us who are interested in the gorilla not being exterminated may feel fairly happy that it will not happen quickly, and that steps are being taken and will be taken to do something there, probably at an early date, to declare the necessary area a reserve in which no shooting will be allowed.

I trust I have covered all the points raised in the debate. I need hardly say that I realise the sincerity and enthusiasm with which this question has been debated, and I think I can assure noble Lords that His Majesty's Government are quite alive to the importance of the problem. They are sensible of the desirability of preserving as far as possible all the varied fauna of the Colonies—I mean all the fauna which is not positively and directly disastrous to ourselves and our wards, the natives—that is, protecting them in time against extermination, whether at the hands of the natives or at the hands of white sportsmen or otherwise, provided always that we must have regard to human welfare and human lives, and especially the welfare and the lives of those native races of which His Majesty's Government have declared themselves to be in the position of trustees.


My Lords, before the noble Earl replies I would like to draw your Lordships' attention to the suggestion which has been made and to which the noble Lord the Secretary of State has not responded. I refer to the important suggestion made by Lord Cranworth that a committee should be appointed of competent persons to go into this question. There should be upon such a committee not only game hunters who have great knowledge of vast areas of the country, but also a number of people who have knowledge of the geography of the different parts of the world in which we have interests. The information they could give would be very valuable. I have hunted big game both in South Africa and in America. I think I was there in 1884 when there were only 100 bison, 10,000 having been killed the year before. Their slaughter in the United States of America was almost entirely due to the value attached to their skins and it was only the establishment of reserves which eventually secured the preservation of this species.

Many of us read books connected with natural history. I have read a great number, including all the productions of Selous and also the works of a great number of others written in different parts of the world. Those of us who have read such books realise that certain animals are becoming extinct, and that only by preservation can we retain them in their natural habitations. It is the natural reserves that I think are so important for the preservation of the animals, and it is only by getting competent authorities to work that the Government can be properly guided as to the areas which should be set aside for the natural preservation of animals. I press the Government to consider whether it is not possible to get together a committee of experts to advise the Government as to the right course to pursue to preserve the fauna of the world, especially in the Colonies and Dependencies over which they have jurisdiction.


My Lords, may I thank the noble Lord opposite [Lord Passfield] and all the noble Lords who have spoken on this subject. I think the words which have fallen from them show that there is complete unanimity of opinion in all sections of your Lordships' House, and I hope that unanimity may be shared by the public generally. I am sure we have listened with the very greatest interest to all the speeches and we are specially indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Cranworth, and the noble Lord who has just sat down for the suggestion that a committee should be appointed. I hope that may be accepted by the noble Lord the Secretary of State for the Colonies. It seems to me an excellent suggestion and one which, if carried out, would be most beneficial. I think every point has been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Pass-field, in his reply, and dealt with, if I may say so, most satisfactorily. I hope the rigorous steps which he has taken to catch swankers in motor cars will be productive of many confiscations, and that when the cars have all been confiscated the practice will cease. I am specially obliged for what was said on the subject of Kivu and its sanctuary. I do not think I need press my Motion for Papers unless the noble Lord has any Papers he wishes to lay. Therefore with your Lordships' leave, I will withdraw my Motion while expressing thanks to those of your Lordships who supported it and to the noble Lord for his reply.


May I in thanking the noble Lord for withdrawing his Motion say that as far as I know there are no Papers which could usefully be given. The suggestion with regard to a committee shall be considered. I would like to say that, of course, the Government are in possession of the local advice which is so necessary from the various Governments and the Government officials, but the suggestion for a committee of your Lordships' House shall be considered.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.