Kalgoorile Miner Wednesday March 10, 1920


Extend Your Car's Warranty! Save up to 60% on Auto Repairs.


Very jealously the jungle guards its secrets Pigmies, gorillas, all manner of strange animals are hidden beneath the tangled growth of East Africa, which man cannot penetrate on foot. The "Times" Vimy, bearing Professor Mitchell, has just passed over Jinga, and many amazing and thrilling sights its occupants must have witnessed.  To an American contemporary we are indebted for this accompanying story, written by Mr. C. W. Foster of Jinga, which is in Uganda.

After a ride on motor bikes lasting four days and a trek on foot of another ten days, and one day in canoes across Lake Kivu, my brother and I had arrived at Kissegne, a Belgian post in Ruanda — that part of German East Africa which since hostilities have ceased has been taken over by Belgium. After leaving Kobali, the last British post in Uganda, we had come through marvelously beautiful mountainous and forest country, but although we had heard of the beauties of Lake Kivu, were hardly prepared for such a tropical paradise.

The waters of this lake are tremendously deep and very clear and are free of the usual dangerous animals which are to be found in all other lakes and rivers of Central Africa. This is due to the absence of papyrus grass round the edges of the lake as the vegetation there does not afford any cover for hippopotami and crocodiles, being, for the most part, short grass and occasionally forest. The mountains in some cases rise up from the lake in a sheer cliff, in varying distances from the lake, and one can see several volcanic mountains (or to give them their native name, brillimi ya mota), some of which are periodically active, but at the time of which I write only one was actually in eruption. Back of these and about thirty miles away rose up the huge snow-capped mountains of Karisimbi and Mibreno.

The whole of this volcanic region is most interesting.  Large areas of it are one mass of solid lava without a vestige of vegetation in sight, and there is no doubt that there are caves and grottos that would be well worth exploration from a geological point of view. We, however, did not go further than the entrances to some of them. From some of these entrances, we could see the water of large subterranean rivers flowing away underground.

We camped that evening on the slope of a mountain, and while sitting outside our tent one of our carriers told us that he had seen two pigmies not far off. Later on, we saw them ourselves, and they gradually came closer to our tent, evidently being drawn by curiosity, and they eventually squatted down a few yards off. We knew that one of our carriers had a knowledge of their language, and after a time when we had persuaded them by a gift of food and salt that our intentions were friendly, we got on conversational terms with them. 

Next morning we got away early with the pigmies in attendance.  For the first few hours, we were interested in watching the tactics of these diminutive natives of Central Africa.  They were about 4 ft. in height, absolutely naked, and carried a spear apiece. They were very suspicious of any sound or action on our part which they were unable to account for, and on the slightest sign of danger would vanish into the surrounding forest so silently and quickly that if we were not looking at them we were quite unable to tell in which direction they had gone, but they would always reappear again in a few minutes, generally a few yards ahead of us. 

Guided by the Pigmies.

As we were making our way through the forest suddenly there was a great crashing of undergrowth. The pigmies, as usual, disappeared, and we stood ready for anything which might appear. However, we saw nothing and came to the conclusion that whatever animal it was made the noise had decamped. In a few moments the pigmies reappeared, and were standing quite close to us. When one of them suddenly made a dive into the middle of a thick bush which was growing about two yards away, emerging again, almost immediately, holding up a small animal about a foot and a half long which was squealing and kicking violently.  On examination, this proved to be a young giant hog.  We examined him with interest, as this species of pig is very rare and we had never seen one before. They grow to a great size and are very shy and difficult to get a shot at.

Up till now, we had seen nothing of chimpanzees or any large monkeys, but about an hour later we saw one on a large tree which had fallen. The pigmies saw it first and pointed it out to us. We did not shoot it, as we merely wanted to see one and make sure the pigmies had seen it, too. When the chimpanzee disappeared the pigmies pointed out to us in some nearby trees the habitations of these wild monkey men which, according to our interpreter, was what they called them. These consisted of platforms about 3 ft. square, built some distance up the trees of branches and sticks bound together with grass and a vine which we saw growing around some of the trees. 

We were now entirely satisfied that these were chimpanzees, so we decided to question the pigmies about the other "man monkeys" which lived on Mount Mibreno.  After some hesitation, they said it was well known among their tribe that there were a few even larger man monkeys on the big mountain, but they were so large and of such great strength that no pigmy dare go near them.  But as we had irons which killed all things in the forest at a great distance they would risk taking us to the place where they were on condition that we shot much meat for them.

Having come to terms with the pigmies, we turned back toward our camp, which we reached without incident, and spent the rest of the day in making arrangements for an early start next day toward Mount Mibreno.

Having tried in an easterly and westerly direction from our camp, on the fourth day after our arrival on the mountain we decided to explore that part of the mountain directly above us.  We found it very hard going and had to make long detours to avoid gullies and perpendicular cliffs which were too steep to climb.

Face to Face with Gorillas.

We came on some of the beds which the pigmies had told us the gorillas make out of bamboo twigs.  We found them to be as the pigmies had described, simply bamboo twigs headed up, on the tops of which the gorillas had sat and so flattened down the tops, which were now, about 2 ft. from the ground.  Each bed was about 4 ft. in diameter, and we could see that they were quite new, and from the spoor came to the conclusion that the gorillas had left only an hour or two before we arrived. 

Most of the beds were fairly close together, but one we saw was several yards away from the rest.  We examined the spoor close to this, and found that the footprints were larger than any of those of the rest of the family, and in comparison with our own were considerably larger. We both agreed that we were up against something rather formidable in the monkey line, and that hostilities at close quarters must at all costs be avoided. We, therefore, commenced to follow the tracks very cautiously.  Apparently, they had not been in any hurry, as they had been feeding all the way along on young bamboo shoots and a certain kind of weed which grew very plentifully hereabouts. We found the pigmies very useful now, as they had not the slightest difficulty in keeping on the track, which, of course, was plain enough; but, what was more to the point, we knew we could rely on them to let us know when we were close to the gorillas.

When the pigmies suddenly vanished we had heard or seen nothing, and after waiting a minute or two they reappeared and beckoned us to follow, which we did and after going a little further we could see in a clearing of the forest a party of nine or ten huge apes.  They were seated on the ground more or less in a circle and appeared to be resting, but one young one about half grown was facing directly our way.  I think he must have caught sight of one of us, as he got up with a grunt, which apparently put all the rest on the qui vive, as they all rose.

One gorilla, which was probably the old man of the party, as he was larger and appeared to have become partly grey with age, started to come towards us. We fired and killed him before he had advanced, many steps. The remainder probably surprised and frightened at the sound of our rifles and at seeing their leader fall hesitated and backed away, making a hideous noise, not unlike a frightened baboon, but much louder and deeper.

I noticed as they drew off that the gorilla, nearest us, was holding in her arms a very young one, so I fired and wounded her, and she came towards us, still clasping her baby.  We both fired again, and she dropped. The rest by this time were just disappearing and having shot two good specimens we did not attempt to follow them.

A Fifty-Eight Inch Chest.

We approached the female gorilla and found her lying face down, resting on her elbows and still clasping her young underneath, her.  She was evidently dying, and we took a photo of her in this position. We did not want to damage the skin more than necessary, so we waited for her to die, which she did in a few minutes.  Then we took away the young one,  which from indications we thought could not be more than twenty-four hours old. It was a female and quite uninjured. The old man gorilla had never stirred from where he fell when we shot him, and we now examined him with  interest.  We had seen before shooting him that he was a huge beast, but we were hardly prepared for the size and strength which the following measurements indicated: —  Height, 5 ft. 11 in. in ordinary
standing attitude.  Chest, 58 in.  Girth around stomach, 67 in. 
Fingertip to fingertip, with arms extended, 7 ft. Forearm in thickest part, 15 in. round.

The female gorilla was a good six inches shorter, and smaller in proportion; her color and that of the rest of the herd, with the exception of the old man, which, as I have already said, was partly grey and
black with in places, a dark brown tinge. While we were examining our bag, and for some time during subsequent skinning operations, we could hear the rest of the gorillas some distance away screaming and making noises, unlike any other animal we had heard. We thought they were about 75 or 100 yards off, but they did not attempt to molest us, and gradually drew off out of earshot.

We spent the rest of the day skinning the dead gorillas, and in cutting the bones out of them, much to the amazement of the natives, who could not understand why we; wanted the bones at all, and when we told them that we were going to cook and eat the flesh they were plainly disgusted, as apparently even they had never dared to eat gorilla meat. We had to wait several days at our present camp to dry the skins and bones, and during this time the baby gorilla kept very fit, although we only had canned milk to feed her on and a Worcester sauce bottle fitted with a piece of hollow stick and a small piece of rubber tubing for a feeding bottle.

However, she managed to empty it two or three times every day and was a great nuisance at night, as one or the other of us had to get up every two or three hours to heat milk and give it to her. When she
got hungry she used to cry, and when contented sucked her thumb like any human baby.

Our return journey belongs to another story as it entailed several elephant hunts, in which we were fairly successful, and we finished with a lion hunt on Rukshura Plains which ended disastrously, as I buried my brother there, he having been killed by a lion after we had shot three.

© 2018 Copyright. All Rights Reserved. Yesteryearnews.com