Wednesday, June 18, 2008

African Elephant Domestication #2

BaryForstElep-Juba, originally uploaded by bucklesw1.

The photo here shows one of Bary's five 1936 ex-Gangala elephants boarding the Nile ferry at Juba, Sudan. This one looks different to me than any of those which reached America so I figure it was one of the two that died en-route. Bary brought with him six cornacks from Gangagla. Their names were Gumete, Kisango, Wayapi, Gumboio, Beulema, and Mobesi, the last named being the sergeant in charge. They appeared with their elephants for a few days during the opener in the Garden in 1936. However, immigration/entry problems were raised, and they were soon on their way back to Gangala.


The Belgians were the first in modern times to domesticate African elephants though it had been done by the ancient Carthaginians and Numidians of Mediterranean North Africa some two millennia earlier.

The first Belgian station was established at Api near the Uele River in northeastern B. Congo. It was called the Elephant Domestication Center and by 1910 had 35 elephants. From all that appears they were mostly (if not all) forest elephants. In the early 1920s some Indian mahouts were brought in to teach the African natives how to handle work elephants. However, the Indians did not like Africa and soon left leaving the work to the local natives who would prove quite skilled at the task.

In the 1920s another station was opened at Gangala-na-bodio some 250 miles east on Api. Gangala is now in the Garamba National Park and is only some 50 miles from the Sudanese border.

In a report dated June 1930, Lt. Offerman, deputy commander of the Api station, said this - -

“Since 1927 the use of elephants is common in the agricultural operations of the districts of Uele, Itembiri, Uele Nepoko, and in Stanleyville. The domestication constitutes a local service assuring each year the capture and training of thirty young elephants that are then sold or put to use . . . The Service of Domestication is comprised of two posts. The first is the post of Api and the elephant hunting reserve of the Bas Uele, and the second is the post of Gangala-na-bodio and the reserve of Haut Uele.”

Another report by C. Huffman in March 1931 described the elephants as being used to plow, clear forest, and pull wagons loaded with cotton and other products.

In the 1940s and likely earlier, Castle Films, was a producer of home movies (16mm and later 8mm). They were sold in the camera sections of the major department stores around the country. Castle offered an Adventure Parade series, one of which was titled Wild Elephant Roundup. It was a one reel film about 200 ft in length, i.e. 15 to 20 minutes in length. The source of the film was Armand Denis’ Dark Rapture (Universal and 20th Century Fox, 1938), which was filmed during the Denis-Roosevelt expedition to the Belgian Congo in 1935-1936. The elephant sequence begins at the elephant training camp at Gangala-na-bodio. It follows an expedition from the camp that successfully captures a juvenile elephant. One of my boyhood chums had this film. We looked at it many times on his simple 16mm projector. It was quite thrilling and showed, inter alia, Commander Laplume on horseback directing the operation.

A number of elephants from the Gangala-na-bodio station were bought to the USA. In 1936, Howard Bary arrived here with three elephants for RBBB which were billed as “pygmy elephants.” He started with three but two died during the journey. Two of the three that made it were the genuine forest elephants (male Congo and female Pourquois). The third, a female named Sudan, was an ordinary bush elephant, the differences being readily apparent in photos showing them together. Then in October 1946 three more were sent from Gangala, these to the Bronx zoo. This shipment was also comprised of two genuine forest elephants (male and female) plus a common bush elephant. Finally, in 1947 Howard Bary brought back from Gangala a forest elephant named Abele (Emily) which was delivered to RBBB early in the season.

Bary’s 1936 Gangala elephants were marched some 100 miles from the elephant station to Juba, Sudan where they boarded a boat for the ride down the Nile River, eventually arriving in Alexandria where they left on the voyage to America. In contrast, the Bronx zoo animals exited the country via the Congo River to the Atlantic.


Anonymous said...

This is excerpted from a website: "Mark Twain called Leopold the slayer of 15 million Congolese and a "greedy, grasping, avaracious, cynical, bloodthirsty old goat." His dark and graphic satire, 'King Leopold's Soliloquy: A Defense of His Congo Rule' is published in pamphlet form by the American Congo Reform Association in September 1905." Another website said that Leopold II reduced the population of the Congo from 20 million to 10 million in 40 years.

Anonymous said...

I think that Bernard Heuvelmans, the father of cryptozoology and author of "On THe Track Of Unknown Animals" (1958) wrote about the supposed pygmy elephants in the Bronx Zoo. Forest elephants grow tusks when they are quite young and so they have been confused with pygmy adults. Bronx Zoo's pygmy elephants grew up. Also the Natives say there is a third variety of elephant in the forest and this contributed to the idea that a pygmy elephant existed, but the third type is the hybrid.

Anonymous said...

This is from the same website: In 1909 Arthur Conan Doyle published The Crimes of the Congo, his account of how under Leopold II's rule, the Congolese "have been robbed of all they possessed, debauched, degraded, mutilated, tortured, murdered, all on such a scale as has never, to my knowledge, occurred before in the whole course of history." http:/