James Stevenson-Hamilton served as the first warden of South Africa’s Sabi Nature Reserve, a conservation project championed by Paul Kruger, the President of the South African Republic. Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1867 Stevenson-Hamilton first travelled to South Africa as a soldier, and after serving in that capacity for a number of years, was appointed into the newly formed (and rather unusual) role as warden of the new reserve. In what was a revolutionary move for the time, he immediately announced a ban on all animal shooting within the boundaries, understanding “that if there were no shooting, if animals were left to live in the veld as they had lived before man came on the scene, they would lose their fear of human beings and flock to an area that had once been described as ‘red with impala’”. To enforce the new rules, he recruited and trained a body of rangers to patrol the reserve and it was not too long before hunters understood that shooting would not be tolerated. One of his biggest achievements was to petition companies and individuals in Johannesburg, Pretoria and the local area to buy and donate additional land within the Transvaal, allowing him to vastly expand the reserve. He also called for the transformation of the privately owned reserve into a national park, leading to the creation of Kruger National Park in 1926.
Pete and I have long loved our safari holidays – seeing animals in the wild, in their natural habitats, and behaving as nature and evolution dictates – is utterly thrilling and an enormous privilege.
These days, shooting with a camera is far more prevalent than shooting with a gun – though trophy hunting still goes on in some locations. But in the early 20th century, it was a revolutionary idea to ban such hunting and Stevenson-Hamilton no doubt faced stiff opposition from those who gloried in the so-called sport.
I believe this image was taken in South Africa’s Addo Elephant National Park, which we toured as self-drive visitors back in 2004.
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