History is a funny thing. The status quo for one generation is often something of a puzzlement to one a little further down the timeline, and that’s probably the way it should be. If it weren’t, that would probably mean we hadn’t made any progress. This came to mind while reading about Frederick Courteney Selous, famous big game hunter and conservationist, and the namesake of the Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania. Yes, big game hunter and conservationist. While the description seems plain contradictory, particularly if we view the idea from a late-19th century state of mind, the two are not mutually exclusive; over 500 animal specimens in London’s Natural History Museum and over 5000 plant and animal specimens held at the British Museum were shot or collected by Selous. This was a time when conserving meant specimen hoarding, and not protecting it where and how it is, as we understand the term today.
It’s said that if not for the accounts of the old hunters like Selous, there would be no record of the Wildlife paradise Africa once was. However puzzling the idea is from today’s point of view, even by 1881 Selous had noticed that hunting had made elephants scarcer and scarcer, and by the turn of the century the game reserve was in place. Maybe it’s best viewed as something like the abominable snowman in the 1961 Looney Tunes classic The Abominable Snow Rabbit, who out of love squeezes Bugs Bunny nearly to death, or just to the tragic accidents of Lennie Small in John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, on whom that particular abominable snowman was based. In any case and lucky for us, there was enough left to save, and at roughly twice the size of Switzerland, it remains Africa’s largest protected area, uninhabited by man.
Also lucky for us, White Line Hotels edit The Retreat offers unparalleled access to this very special region with equally unparalleled respect for the power of ancient traditions, local communities, natural materials, and untouched nature — progress at its best.
Photos: Frederick Courtenay Selous in Africa with his Holland and Holland rifle and two shot large bustards, views from The Retreat