An Evolution of a Hunting Hub

Book ID 864

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An Evolution of a Hunting Hub,

An Evolution of a Hunting Hub

Arusha town is beautifully set in a landscape of rolling green foothills at the Southern base of Mount Kilimanjaro’s sister mountain called Meru. This frontier-like town with a hint of western flavor was, from its origins, as is still to today, an important center for all sorts of hunting and photographic safaris.

The town originally grew around the “Boma”, (Swahili word for a cattle corral), a German Fort built in the late 1800’s. Throughout the years Arusha has remained a relatively small town with a predominant safari and farming community; characterized as a melting pot for a variety of international settlers ranging from Asians, Germans and Greeks to South Africans and British.

A German captain, Kurt Johannes, one of the town’s first foreign settlers approached the WaArusha people, in 1896, in an attempt to secure diplomatic relations with the local chiefs. The WaArusha, were a long established tribe of pastorialists and farmers originating from a mixture of the Maasai and Meru tribes. Their social structure, heavily influenced by their Maasai ancestry, was based upon warrior class and status according to age. Kurt’s efforts at diplomacy failed due to attempted previous German raids on the area and two of the missionaries in the group were killed. An infuriated Captain Johannes returned to his base in Moshi, on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and there persuaded Chief Rindi of the Chagga people to mobilize troops and join forces with him in the take-over of the WaArusha, who were actually Rindi’s allies in many previous local battles.

So by1898, the betrayed WaArusha were easily defeated by the punishing onslaught of the two forces. Their weapons and food supplies were confiscated, their houses destroyed and they were finally forced to bow down to German control. The colonists moved into the area, and in 1899 begun the construction of the Boma’s strong fortification, forcing the local WaArusha and Maasai to build. The WaArusha still remember the humiliation of this task. Their spears were turned into digging tools, shields served as crude wheelbarrows and machetes were used to cut down trees. Young women and children had to carry thatching material whilst older men and women had the task of stamping barefoot on the wet mud used to join the stones of the construction.

One Maasai recorded the growing resentment towards the Germans and their acts on the people. They used to take pleasure in riding around on a laborers backs, egging them on with whips. One day while crossing a river a laborer became enraged with the particular heftiness of his charge, lost his patience and tossed his “master” into the water. Fearing the consequences many of the Maasai went into hiding until a chief went to find them. He told the mutinous group that he was acting as a mediator and that all would be forgiven if they returned to work. The 400 or so runaways headed back into the newly emerging Arusha town and as they marched up Boma road the entire troop was gunned down in the street – one of history’s many warnings never to trust a “safe conduct”.

Another Arusha Maasai elder remembers, “when employed on this construction work, six of us were called out to climb a very tall tree to cut the upper branches. We climbed using a locally made rope, such as the one for honey hunting. Whilst we were up the tree the Nubu askari (watchman) pulled the rope away. Meanwhile another party was cutting the trunk of the tree with a saw. The tree started to fall with us still in it, powerless as the rope had been removed. We all came down with a crash. Of the six of us, three died on the spot and three escaped with nothing more than bruises and scratches.”

After many such incidents the bloodstained fort, built mostly of stone rag (uncut stone), was completed in 1901 and initially became the barracks for 150 Nubian soldiers. The structure endured and throughout the years, it served as a police station and jail till 1934, as regional government offices till 1965 and finally as the Arusha Museum of Natural history as it still remains today.

The Boma formed the nucleus of Arusha as it remained under rigid German rule. The town slowly grew with German staff quarters mushrooming to the east of the Themi [Temi] River, which flowed past the Boma. Beyond the Boma the town’s first commercial area developed with the establishment of about 30 Indian, Greek and Arab owned shops selling cloth, trinkets, soap, enameled plates, bowls, beads and copper wire. One shop even had a sewing machine that produced jackets and trousers for the German soldiers as well as the “more progressive natives.” The township was spotlessly clean as the Germans had the natives walking around with little baskets picking up any litter lying around. The streets were laid out with fine sidewalks and cemented gullies.

The European settlers came in initially as missionaries, then as Government officials and finally as settlers. Most of the immigrants were, of course, Germans and this prompted the German administration to conceive an “idealistic” vision of a vast white settlement of their own construction. At first they imported South African Boers, of German origin, as farmers but found them too uncouth for their “ideal community” and consequently squeezed them out. They then imported German peasants from the Volga Basin and Caucasus in Southern Russia but the test families which came soon discovered that Arusha did not have 4 harvests, as they were led to believe, so they made their way back to the port begging to return home. In the end Arusha ‘s international medley of settlers moved in at their own accord, with the South African Dutch as farmers, the Greeks initially as railway contractors and then farmers and, the Asians, as traders, clerical and professional workers.

Kenyon Painter, an American millionaire banker from Ohio, enchanted by Africa, arrived in Arusha by ox wagon in 1907 to go on a 3 month hunting safari. He was one of the first paying clients to come out on a safari to Tanganyika. At this time the town boasted only one tiny hotel bearing the name of it’s Jewish owner, “Bloom’s”. As Brian Herne put it, “Bloom’s was nothing more than a whitewashed, mud-brick building with a roof of corrugated iron sheeting. It had a dozen bedrooms, a chintzy lounge, and a bar cum dining room overlooking a fast snowmelt stream called the Themi [Temi] River.”

Right next to “Bloom’s’ hotel was John Mulholland’s store. This was a grocery store with a twist as the owner “dealt in everything from rhino horn and ivory tusks to trophies of every sort, along with the best groceries in town”. One could also buy pistols, rifles, tents, bedding, pots and pans and saddles there. Other than this, the town was made up of a few other modest dwellings, that included the original Indian owned “dukas” (shops) around the “Boma”, a telegraph office, a blacksmith and livery stables. There was also “half a dozen shops owned by Germans, Greeks and South Africans trading in farm implements, seed beans and cattle”, as farming was becoming a fast growing industry.

The influx of professional hunters and hunting clients started at around 1913. Their safari adventures mostly took them to the Serengeti where the wildlife was plentiful, especially the lions. Seven years later an American arrived with a strange new contraption, known as the Ford motorcar, and the news that the wonders of the Serengeti had reached the outside world. The first game laws were introduced in 1921 where a Game Preservation Ordinance demanded that any and all hunting should be on a license for which fees were laid down. Certain methods of hunting were prohibited but still, at that time, there was no special regulations pertaining to either the Serengeti or the Ngorongoro, which could be hunted over just like anywhere else. As lion, at that time, were classified as vermin, they could be shot without restriction.

Later in 1921, however, the British authorities decided to turn the Serengeti into a partial Game Reserve, with restricted hunting on lions in fear of them becoming scarce. It was turned into a full Game reserve in 1929 and with the growing awareness of the need for conservation it was upgraded to a National Park in 1951. The neighboring Ngorongoro Crater, another hunting destination, was declared a Complete Reserve where all hunting was prohibited in 1928. However, about one third of the crater floor was in the private ownership of Sir Charles Ross, so that area had to be excluded from the order. This said, there is no evidence whatsoever that Sir Charles, or any of his friends, ever took advantage of this position of privilege. On the contrary he was one of the earliest to regard the crater as a Game Sanctuary. Ngorongoro was finally turned into a Conservation Area in 1959.

Kenyon’s first safari, back in 1907, had led to an astonishing collection of animal and bird species thus resulting in a total of 31 extended safaris to Tanganyika in the time period of 1907 to his death, in 1940. He was guided by various “white hunters”, (a term used in those days to describe the men that operated “in a professional capacity taking out hunting parties for a living”), ranging from George Outram and Ray Ulyate too little known hunters, like Thompson and Noadi.

After German East Africa became Tanganyika and Arusha was taken over by the British on March 20th 1916, Painter became one of the town’s most significant investors, having invested over a million dollars in the area. He built Arusha’s first post office, church and hospital. In 1927, Painter acquired land on the south side of the “Arusha Clock Tower”, (donated by a Greek, Galanos, and still standing, today), and started building the “New Arusha Hotel” as there already was an “Arusha Hotel” , previously known as “Bloom’s”.

In 1928, Ray Ulyate, owner of Meru Estate farm at Lake Duluti, leased the newly finished “New Arusha Hotel” from Kenyon, as world recession and coffee market prices made it virtually impossible for him to carry on farming. During the same period, in return, Painter purchased the 11,000 acre Meru Estate and gradually developed it into a premier coffee estate.

The opening ball of the New Arusha Hotel was attended by the Prince of Wales, Edward the eighth (the uncrowned King). The hotels’ renown grew and Mr. and Mrs. Ulyate managed it efficiently for many years. Its dining room was unique, from the wainscoting to the ceiling, the walls were covered with a painting of the Great Rift Valley depicting all the familiar peaks and lakes. This was designed by Ray and painted a by a down and out painter looking for work. In the lounge and dining room hang original photographs taken by wild life naturalist Cherry Kearton, including the first ever flash light photographs depicting a Lion and Rhino. The verandah of the Hotel overlooked the car park that was often full of safari trucks and farmers vehicles, especially at lunch times and on Wednesdays, which was farmer’s market day. The hotel’s hype was further intensified by its location, In the front of the hotel the sign explained:

THIS SPOT IS EXACTLY HALF WAY BETWEEN THE CAPE AND CAIRO AND THE EXACT CENTER OF KENYA, UGANDA AND TANGANYIKA

New Arusha Hotel was sold to the African Tours and Hotel group in 1947 and their decision to re-build it in 1953 was met with certain sadness by the numerous Arusha residents. The sadness was because of the disappearance of a “piece of history” - thousands of tourists and VIP’s had passed through the New Arusha over the years and numerous dances and dinners had been held there. “How changed life would be when it was no longer possible to sit on the verandah of the “New A” and watch the world go by”.

Arusha town grew slowly and surely with an expanding farming and safari community. However, “even at its zenith of prosperity in the late 1950’s, Arusha was never a large town”. It only had a total population of around 8,000 people, this inclusive of about 1,000 white settlers that were not actually resident in the immediate township but on outlying ranches.

Another noted landmark addition to Arusha in the late 1950’s was the “Safari Hotel”. “Newer and fancier that the New Arusha it lacked the trout river frontage, lovely grounds and the old-world charm of it’s rival”. However, it was masterfully managed by an Englishman, Ben Benbow, who was on a first name basis with every white hunter as well as with celebrity actors such as Robert Taylor, John Wayne and Harry Kruger that visited and stayed, during the filming of “HATARI” in 1961. The place had a beautiful copper bar and “the walls were decorated with framed and signed photographs of white hunters with their clients and trophies”.

Arusha town over the years has grown immensely in population size, with a large influx of natives moving from the bush to the town, searching for jobs, as well as foreigners, of many nationalities, looking to make their fortunes. This has led to an expansion of the town, on the residential side, with houses mushrooming all over its immediate surroundings. However, funnily enough the actual town center remains unchanged, the “Boma’ still stands as the Natural History Museum, New Arusha Hotel, with a new owner and recently rebuilt, welcomes many travelers, and the Clock Tower, still standing marks the center between Cape and Cairo. One sad thing is that The Safari Hotel, even though still there, has lost its bronze bar. The town, much to it’s resident’s frustration, still only has one main road through it!

On the safari side, in the early 1930,s Ray Ulyate’s formed the first official photographic safari company known as “Tanganyika Big Game and Tourist Organization” operating out of the New Arusha Hotel. He was the first person to organize six day long trips, by road, to the Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. On the hunting side the “white hunters’ were numerous and Tanganyika attracted a large share of celebrity and other tourist hunters.

The first Tanganyika Guide for Hunters was published in 1929 and in its descriptions it described a safari starting from Tanga, the port of arrival on the Tanganyika coast, through to Lake Victoria, where the game was most prolific. It says that “there is an abundance of the commoner antelope, and in certain parts the rarer species such as the Greater and lesser Kudu, Gerenuk, etc…are still fairly plentiful. Big Game like the Elephant, Rhinoceros, Lion and Buffalo, all of which hold for the hunter a new thrill and experience, are to be found in this area in such a variety of country and cover that the Hunting of no two animals is ever alike.”

The Hunter’s guide continues to say that “game animals that inhabit the northern area are well protected and their existence is assured to prosperity by great game sanctuaries and regulations which govern the hunting or photographing of game”. In the Northern areas, at that time there was six complete reserves and two closed areas – Kilimanjaro, Mount Meru, Lake Natron, Northern Railway, Ngorongoro and the Serengeti. The closed areas were “Pienaar’s Heights”, near Babati and the “Sangressa Steppe” in the Kondoa district.

Licensing ranged from a Visitor’s license to a Resident’s license with extra licensing fees charged and stipulations set on a Giraffe and an Elephant license. Additionally, to hunt the Black Rhinoceros in the Northern province one was required to hold a Governor’s license, as well as pay an extra fee, and this would entitle the holder to hunt one male Rhinoceros.

The revised Tanganyika Guide of 1948 had a typical safari starting from Arusha town, that could now be reached by air, road or railway. The safari route was also a bit more adventurous. From the Rift Wall and Lake Manyara going northwards along the Rift Valley to Engaruka, to visit the stone ruins and Maasai Bomas, and to hunt the Kitete swamp and forest belt for buffalo, rhinoceros, elephant and hippopotamus. At Engaruka plains one could collect a general bag of the commoner antelope. From there the trail would take one to the “Maji Moto”, (hot springs in Swahili), which is described as “a game photographer’s paradise”. Following we return to the old route, a visit to the Ngorongoro Crater and a stay at the “Ngorongoro Crater Rest camp”, (now the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge”), where one could enjoy beautiful views and great concentrations of game on the crater floor. Then on to the Serengeti plains where “it is not uncommon for visitors to photograph as many as fifty different lions in a stay of only a few days, and the masses of game have to be seen to be believed”. Finally you were invited to finish off your safari with a visit to Mongalla, situated to the west of Oldeani mountain, Basotu Lake, Hanang Mountain and Babati Lake, for a bit more hunting of hippo, rhino and other big game before your return to Arusha. This was a month long trip “which for a lover of wild life could not be surpassed, and it was only one of many that could be made in the game areas of Tanganyika Territory, the finest hunting ground in the world”.

In 1965 safari hunting in East Africa was forever changed by the “masterly blueprint of Brian Nicholson, a former white hunter turned Game warden”. He came up with a plan for administering Tanzania's expansive wildlife regions and changed most of the vast former “controlled hunting areas” into hunting concessions, that could be leased by outfitters from the government for a period of two or more years. In the same instance he also demarcated the Selous Game reserve’s 20,000 square miles into 47 separate concessions. Each concession was assigned a limited quota for each game species and outfitters were expected to utilize quotas as fully as possible, but not exceed them. Trophy fees were set so as to provide government revenue for anti-poaching, development and research. This form of hunting management continuous to govern the hunting industry of today.

This plan gave the outfitting company exclusive rights over the hunting land that it was allocated providing a powerful incentive for them to police it, develop tracks, airfields, camps and, most importantly, preserve the wild game in the area. Once the system was in effect, it was only the larger safari organizations and outfitters, that could muster the resources to bid for the most desirable blocks of land and who had the clientele to fulfill the trophy quota requirements, set by Nicholson, that got the concessions. The smaller companies and operators, that could not compete, ended up forming alliances so that they too, could obtain hunting territories.

The only hiccup, in all the years of Tanganyika/Tanzania hunting occurred on 7th September 1973 when, overnight, the Tanzania government issued a ban on all hunting and photographic safaris in its territory. Authorities “moved quickly to seize and impound all foreign registered Land Cruisers, supply trucks, minibuses, aircraft and equipment.” They bundled up all the safari clients, mountain climbers and bird watchers that happened to be visiting the country “at the time of the inexplicable edict” and summarily escorted them to Kilimanjaro airport, just outside of Arusha, and to Namanga, the Border post to Kenya, to await deportation. All tourist businesses were closed down and no government refunds were ever made to the local or foreign outfitters, or the deported tourists.

Extract ID: 4994
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