It may even be possible to domesticate wild animals so that Africans can herd them like cattle. I have seen it done in an experimental program, the brainchild of a bright young veterinarian, Dr. John King. On a 1,500,000-acre ranch in eastern Kenya, Dr. King and his associates have caught and tamed 30 eland and oryx and a few buffalo.
I participated in the capture of a young female oryx and may well have been more frightened than the animal. We pursued it in two vehicles, one a light, fast truck contain¬ing a man with a noose on the end of a pole, the other a small jeep, maneuverable enough to herd the animal toward the man with the noose. At least, that was the theory.
For seemingly endless minutes we careened madly through the parched, bleached brush, skidding about in jolting pursuit each time the agile antelope wheeled and turned. We never did get a noose on the oryx, but finally she tired enough for game scouts to run her down afoot and seize her. Repeatedly the poor beast made guttural, barking noises.
But she was soon in a crate, in good health, headed for a life of ease and security.
How strange it seemed to walk among wild animals in paddocks or to see herdsmen drive them into pens like so many cattle wending their way home at milking time. They had grown so docile that they permitted them¬selves to be driven single file into a shiny metal crate to be weighed.
Wildlife + Cattle = Efficiency
But this program goes beyond the domesti¬cation of animals. Dr. King, a key staff member of the African Wildlife Leadership Foundation, planned the experiment in co¬operation with Texas A & M University and Kenya’s game department. They constructed four paddocks: one for eland, one for oryx, one for cattle, and a fourth for a mixture of all these animals. Dr. Christopher Field, of Texas A& M, heads a team that meticu¬lously notes what the animals graze or browse upon, and how much, as well as their water intake. Tests show that the mixed group of animals utilizes the range most efficiently—a powerful argument for mixed ranching of game and cattle on Africa’s marginal lands.