Book Review: On Safari – With Africa’s German-speaking Hunters, From Alvensleben To Zwilling By Rolf D. Baldus and Werner Schmitz
October 2014, Volume 12-5-I

Finally a book on the lives and adventures of some famous and not-so-famous German, Austrian and Swiss hunters edited by Rolf D. Baldus and Werner Schmitz with contributions from a dozen authors, including Fiona Capstick and African Hunting Gazette editor Brooke Chilvers-Lubin and an array of excellent period black and white photos.

Germany’s colonial adventure in Africa lasted only a few decades starting with the 1894 Congo-Conference in Berlin during the “Scramble for Africa” and ending in 1918 with the Armistice in Europe. Rolf Baldus and Werner Schmitz collected information for more than five years and researched and identified over 200 hunting figures from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, who had penned down their adventures, or were mentioned by other authors. The two editors, with the help of 12 co-authors compiled 23 full-length stories. The book also contains the first comprehensive list of biographies and bibliographies of German-speaking 203 Africa hunters and huntresses, although probably many a manuscript has been lost in the bush or eaten by termites, as Baldus stated.

Vol12_5_I_art16The stories represent a colorful mix of motives, necessities, desires, passions, imperatives, or just coincidences for why people hunted in Africa. The early 19th century explorers hunted to feed their large caravans. Others hunted to collect specimens for natural history museums; some used research purely as an excuse to travel and hunt. Later it became chic for the rich and the nobility to go on safari to Africa; there was also the usual lot of settlers, ivory hunters, sportsmen, colonial administrators, and officers of the Schutztruppe, who hunted. A few made it to fame as professional hunters.

Amongst the better known are personalities like Alfred Brehm (1829–1884), author of the multi-volume Brehm’s Life of Animals, Hermann von Wissmann (1853–1905), later governor of German East Africa, a keen hunter and father of the Selous Game Reserve, was the first to cross Africa from West to East on foot. Carl Georg Schillings (1865–1921), naturalist, hunter and photographer, was widely known for his bestseller With Flashlight and Rifle, referred to by Teddy Roosevelt when he prepared his own safari. Schillings was also one of the earliest proponents of  “sustainable use” and saw it as the task of true hunters to engage in the survival of game.

Amongst the huntresses, Swiss national Vivienne de Watteville (1900 –1957) made an epic foot safari into the interior with her father and Margarete Trappe (1884–1957) turned into a well-known and gritty PH.

Turning to professional hunters, Paul Huebner, a former Nairobi Municipal Commissioner, was inside a Uganda Railway wagon near Tsavo waiting with two others for a man-eating lion. Instead of being shot, the lion jumped into the wagon and got away with one of the hunters.Ernst Alexander Zwilling (1904–1990) started his PH career in Cameroon then moving to Kenya and Uganda. Werner von Alvensleben (1913–1998), a former SS member, started Safarilandia in Mozambique after he escaped from internment in Rhodesia at the outbreak of World War II and apparently spied for the  United States according to OSS files. Anno Hecker (born 1928), taught at the Mweka College of African Wildlife Management. Other PHs include Count Meran (born 1924), and the flamboyant playboy Count “Alfie” Auersperg; Robert von Reitnauer (born 1933) and several Namibians of German descent. Hunting tourists like industrialist Karl Friedrich Flick (1927–2006), and long-serving Bavarian conservative state-premier, Franz Josef Strauß (1915–1988) are also mentioned.

If you have even a slight grasp of German, this is a worthwhile book to add to your library.