National Geographic : 1931 Apr
UNDER THE SOUTH AFRICAN UNION Barberton, the Rand's predecessor as a gold-rush center, nowadays adds to mining the soberer interests of tobacco, cotton, citrus, and tree nurseries. But "nurseries" is, perhaps, too infantile a term to convey a picture of millions of straight, mastlike boles towering to 120 feet. This adapt able-I had almost said accommodating species of eucalyptus grows Io feet a year, conveniently sheds its bark and branches, and, when felled, repeatedly renews itself to full growth by shoots springing from its stump. Assuredly, instead of Eucalyp tus saligna, it should be called "Lumber man's Delight." ON A VISIT TO 500 LIONS The citrus-growing settlement at White River constituted practically our last glimpse for several days of man and his habitations. Ahead lay only rangers' iso lated camps or some cluster of lion-proof huts in a forest wilderness of scrub growth, stony kopjes, bowlder-edged gorges, reedy streams, and wild creatures' lairs. Our light car contained canned foods, blankets, and candles. Our only road con sisted of wheel tracks winding through cleared spaces, and our only weapon, car ried under the park authorities' seals, was a small revolver. Does that seem a slight armament with which to enter a reserve containing two main herds of elephants and something like 500 full-grown lions, not to mention buffalo, leopards, and hyenas? We ques tioned our chauffeur about it. He had had considerable experience in the reserve and apparently he knew by heart the useful list of Don'ts issued by the park au thorities. "There's nothing to worry about," he assured us. "A well-fed lion won't at tack anyone." "I see. But-but how can one tell he's well fed, by just looking at him? Should one shoot if ?" "'Don't,'" he quoted rather sternly, "'forget that if you fire at and wound a lion or lioness you are making unnecessary trouble for yourself. The animal, prob ably merely curious before, will- '" "I see," we murmured apologetically. "But how's one to know he's merely curious ?" It wasn't long after our roadside break fast that beasts aplenty began to appear. They are most frequently seen in early morning and late afternoon, because dur ing the noontide's heat they are apt to keep within thick shelter. First, there came into view a herd of zebra-fine, capering, glossy-coated crea tures, that made one's memories of caged zebras seem tame indeed. We circled around them at 40 paces distance; then in orderly fashion, they trotted off into the scrub. On we went, proceeding slowly, while curve after curve of the woodland track revealed successive herds of deer-reed buck, steenbok, the graceful impala, and the charming little duiker-standing at gaze in near-by brush. And once, on quite unsheltered ground, at an unexpected turn, we stopped dead not ten paces from a big, magnificently antlered kudu, who, sur prised as ourselves, stared long and inter estedly before rejoining his herd. Generally, indeed, the park's deer species will stand, more surprised than fearful, re garding your car sidelong, as if it were some strange creature. And that applies more or less to all the reserve's wild deni zens. Having lived there undisturbed, generation after generation, for a quarter C of a century, they do not mistrust man. Yet I don't know that such a clean bill of trustfulness could be given the troops of monkeys festooning themselves on tree limbs, or to the sedate baboons, holding family conferences among the rocks. The former seemed to jabber, "Who are you? Beat it or we will !" Which they promptly did. As for solemn-faced Old Man Ba boon, he appeared to issue retreat orders to his females, who thereupon would slink off in file behind the family rock haunt, with their babies riding upside down under their stomachs. But, as yet, no lions. At noon we lunched near a river bank beside some circular, windowless huts, visitors' sleeping quar ters, so strongly built of cement as to ren der them proof against any prowling man eater. Then we took another direction through the reserve. It was like turning a page in Nature's picture book of beasties. Hardly were we well away when a couple of giraffes ap peared. For a moment they surveyed us from an eye altitude of perhaps 20 feet; then they ambled off, "neck or nothing," as you might say.