The subject of hunting today is a volatile one and, like politics, one that is sensitive to discussion. However, my varied career included a stint as a professional hunter in Tanzania, and I feel privileged to have grown up as a hunter’s son in a very different era. Born in 1918 in Nairobi, my father Reggie commanded great respect as an elder in his profession, and the younger hunters eagerly sought his experience. As a boy, I recall our home being frequently visited by these individuals and, looking through Brian Herne’s book “White Hunters,” I can recall almost all of these characters from that era. But guests were not limited to this cadre, as we were very close family friends with Myles Turner, Jack Barrah, Peter Jenkins and Bill Woodley, all iconic game wardens through the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. And to note that most game wardens throughout these decades were previously professional hunters.

The game warden’s life may have been shown as somewhat romantic on the silver screen, but they had little outside communication, with the necessity of having to send their children off to boarding school at an early age. Isolated in the Serengeti where Myles Turner was Warden, his children endured long summer holidays on their own. Myself and sister Petrina were whisked off for a number of glorious holidays as playmates for their children, Michael and Lynda. Counting back, that tallies 55 years that I have been going to the Serengeti.

But weaving back to the tale, little is remembered about how the Serengeti came into being through the effort of a hunter, Denys Finch Hatton. In the 1920s, Denys was disturbed by the impact that motoring was making on the Serengeti, and those who have visited the place can recall that the level grassy plains are easily traversed by car. Unethical shooting from vehicles was causing harm to the wildlife population and Denys insisted on taking Edward VIII, then Prince of Wales, to show him the damage being done there. A positive light on this man, remembered for his abdication and for being a Nazi sympathiser, is that he managed, after the safari, to have parliament decree the Serengeti as a protected area, the first of its kind in East Africa.

One of the last game reserves to be formed came about entirely due to my father. In the mid 1960’s, he led a safari for the Smithsonian down the Tana River in Kenya to collect bird specimens for museums. Round the campfire the conversation between the zoologists turned to the demise of the Tana River Mangabey, a monkey species that had not been sighted since the 1930s, and therefore was considered to be extinct. Reggie had exceptional knowledge of the lower reaches of this river and a couple of days later he produced specimens of a male and female mangabey monkey that he had gone out and collected. Naturally, this caused a huge stir in the Smithsonian group. My dad loved telling this story, particularly when it came to being pressed to give the location of the mangabeys, which he refused. The monkeys had existed happily for decades in isolation from humans, so why should he change that? But this was a calculated move, and with the weight of the Smithsonian, he suspected the story would not rest there. After the safari, he unsurprisingly was handed a subpoena to disclose the location. A deal was struck that the location of the monkeys would be divulged on the condition that the government would guarantee their protection. And so the Tana River Primate Reserve was created.

There was roughly half a century between the creation of these two protected wildlife areas, made possible by two passionate conservationists.