Adelino Serras Pires, one of the great names in African safari hunting has left us. He died in Pretoria on 10 August 2015 at almost 87 years of age. He was one of the early, vigorous pioneers throughout the 1950s and 1960s into the early 1970s in the eco-tourism development of the Gorongosa Game Reserve in Mozambique. He was one of the very first to bringing foreign tourists to the Park and he invested his own time and money in developing the Chitengo camp in 1954. The symbol of the Park – a golden lion’s head – was chosen by Adelino from the big game hunting book by Marcus Daly (1937) that Adelino received as a prize at Prince Edward School in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia. That symbol continues as the ‘face’ of the Park until today.
Throughout his life Adelino was known for his humility and kindness. His generosity knew no bounds. He was the great gentleman of the traditional African hunting safari, quietly spoken, beautifully mannered and charming to the core of his noble soul.
A man of translucent integrity and relentless courage in the face of corruption and cowardice, Adelino suffered greatly in his life because of his unshakeable convictions about what was right and what was wrong.
Born in Ponte de Sor in Portugal, Adelino arrived as a tender 8-year old in the port of Beira on the Mozambique coast. A few weeks later, his father took him to pursue a pride of man-eating lions; this rite of passage sealed Adelino’s destiny: he would hunt for a living and live for adventure.
And an adventurous life he had indeed – as a young lad he met John ‘Pondoro’ Taylor in 1940 in front of a notorious bar in Tete on the Zambesi River. After matriculating at Prince Edward High School in Salisbury (now Harare) Adelino returned to Tete in 1947 and took on a prospecting job with Goldfields.
The Serras family farm at Guro, in the area of what later became known as Coutada 9, was the core area from where Adelino started to arrange hunting safaris in Mozambique. In 1959 Adelino went to America to promote tourism and hunting in his country. This met with little success initially, but, on his return trip, he stopped over in Spain and met Max Borrell. The first safaris were planned and Adelino never looked back. As the international marketing force of SAFRIQUE, Adelino helped propel the company into the largest and best organized outfit for hunting safaris in Africa by the late 1960s.
Adelino walked and hunted the African wilderness in Mozambique, Sudan, Angola, Zaïre, Tanzania, Rhodesia, South Africa and Central African Republic with European royalty and aristocracy, state presidents, American generals, astronauts and entrepreneurs, Weatherby Award winners and indeed hunters from every walk of life.
Together with his friend, soulmate and beloved wife, Fiona Claire Capstick, Adelino penned a lifetime of adventures in the monumental book Winds of Havoc: A Memoir of Adventure and Destruction in Deepest Africa in a moving portrait of a life and time that are now gone forever. They describe not only childhood and hunting, but also how the forces of post-colonial African upheavals caught up. Adelino, his son, his nephew and a fellow hunter were abducted in Tanzania and turned over to the secret police in Frelimo-controlled Mozambique. In hair-raising detail, Adelino recounts months of torture and interrogation, which almost cost him his life, and the treacherous circumstances that landed him in that hell. Yet, despite enduring unimaginable suffering, this iron-willed man refused to give up his fierce yet critical love for Africa, Africans and African wildlife. This gentleman pioneer truly lived between two fires, and fought havoc.
Only a couple of months before his death, Fiona and Adelino came over for an extended lunch at our home in Rivonia. His warrior spirit alive and sparkling as ever, Adelino talked about hunting and conservation. His relentless and determined conviction that well-regulated hunting can contribute immensely to the conservation of African wildlife permeated the conversation. When we parted with the traditional Portuguese abraço I had no inkling that it was a final farewell to this icon of African hunting and to a friend with whom I unfortunately never shared a campfire in the bush.
José Flávio Taveira Pimentel Teixeira from the Eduardo Mondlane University in Maputo and columnist in ‘Canal de Moçambique’ wrote a fitting farewell to Adelino on August 11th:
Morreu-me hoje um grande amigo. Homem grande de coragem e integridade feito. Envolto em polémicas e controvérsias assim as confrontou – sem medo e seguro das escolhas que fez, mesmo em desagrado da maioria.
Morreu hoje um cacador apaixonado, para quem a ética da caça era ainda um valor a respeitar. Conhecia o mato como ninguém e com ele aprendi que aparentes opostos de podem casar num homem com rectidão.
Morreu-me hoje um amigo com quem nem sempre concordei, mas que sempre admirei e respeitei. Morreu-me. Deixou-me as memórias dos momentos comuns e a lembrança da amizade que nos uniu.
Morreu-me hoje um amigo.
Morreu o Adelino Serras Pires.
Farewell my friend, and good hunting in the eternal hunting grounds.
Author: Gerhard R Damm