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Front Matter 1
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Table of Contents
The Uganda Society
The major pests of the cotton plant in Uganda
A guide to the snakes of Uganda
Back Cover 1
Back Cover 2
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"f4t," t "t
Nw- I W,
'roik o IK
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THE SOUTH AFRICAN MUTUAL
LIFE ASSURANCE SOCIETY
(Incorporated by Act of Parliament in the Union of South Africa).
BRANCH OFFICE FOR EAST AFRICA:
Stanley House, P. 0O. Box 359.
Hardinge Street, NAIROBI.
KAMPALA LOCAL AGENCY:
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The Uganda Journal.
THE ORGAN OF THE UGANDA SOCIETY.
Vol. III. JULY, 1935. No. 1.
Kiganda Drums ... ... ... ... ...
The major pests of the cotton plant in Uganda
A guide to the Snakes of Uganda (Part I.) ...
A stange, story about Elephants
Recovery of ringed White Storks
K ibo ... ... ... ...
... by A. J. Lusu.
by G. L. R. HANCOCK.
CAPT. C. R. S. PITMAN.
Medals and Decorations ...
An interesting hybrid ...
Minutes of a Special General Meeting of the
"Uganda Society" held on 27th February 1935.
E. A. TEMPLE PERKINS.
CAPT. C. R. S. PITMAN.
by DR. R. Y. STONES.
.... by Lt. COL. H. F. STONEHAM.
... ... ... ... by DR. R. VAN SOMEREN.
THE UGANDA SOCIETY.
His EXCELLENCY SIR B. H. BOURDILLON, K.C.M.G., K.B.E.
E. J. WAYLAND, ESQ.
P. L. FENTON, ESQ.
Honorary Vice-Presidents :
SIR ALBERT. R. COOK, KT., C. M. G.,
THE RT. REV. BISHOP E. MICHAUD, C. B. E.
MRS. H. H. HUNTER.
MRS. C. G. MooDY.
MARK WILSON, ESQ.
DR. A. T. SCHOFIELD.
H. JOWITT, ESQ.
OMw. E. S. W. KIRONDE.
Honorary Secretary, Treasurer, and Editor:
JOHN SYKES, ESQ.
Representative in Great Britain :
E. B. HADDON, ESQ., (outgoing).
A. R. MORGAN, EsQ. 0. B. E. (incoming).
A. W. DEVAS JONES, ESQ.
THE UGANDA SOCIETY.
1. There are no restrictions as to membership of the Uganda Society.
Membership is open to all races and to Institutions and Clubs. No entrance
fee is imposed. The annual subscription, which is payable in advance on ist
July of each year, is Shs. io/- for single membership and Shs. 15/- for double
members. The double membership is introduced for the convenience of families
and entitles two members of a family to all the rights and privileges of a full
member except that they receive only one copy of each number of the Journal.
2. Additional copies of the Journal may be obtained from the Uganda Book-
shop, price Shs. 3/- per copy.
A few single copies of each of the first two numbers may also be obtained
from the Uganda Bookshop, at Shs 3/-. The bound Volume II may be obtained
from the Uganda Bookshop at Shs. i5/-, and single numbers of that Volume
at Shs. 3/- each.
3. Arrangements have been made with the Uganda Printing and Publishing
Company Ltd., -Kampala, to bind Volume I of the Journal at a cost of
Shs. 2/50 and subsequent Volumes at Shs. 3/- per volume.
4. A limited number of 'separates' of each article are printed, and may be
obtained on application to the Business Manager. Prices of these vary according
to the length of article and the number and nature of illustrations.
5. Blocks of illustrations may be purchased on application to the Business
Manager. The price of these is usually half the cost of production.
6. Subscriptions should be sent to the Business Manager, P. 0. Box 410,
Kampala, from whom Banker's Order Forms may be obtained, Members are
particular requested to pay subscriptions by Banker's Order, if possible.
7. Contributions to the Journal should be sent to the Editor, P. 0. Box 262,
Kampala. No guarantee is given to return any MSS. submitted. Articles
should be typed in double spacing on one side of the sheet only and should not
contain matter likely to cause political or religious controversy. Those submitted
by Government Officials must comply with Colonial Office Regulations; they
should either be submitted u.f.s. the Head of Department concerned or they
should be addressed to the Editor, with a request that he will obtain the necessary
permission for publication.
Those sending photographs should send glazed prints if possible.
8. The postal address of the Secretary, the Treasurer and the Business
Manager, and of the Society generally is P. 0. Box 410, Kampala, and that of
the Editor, P. 0. Box 262, Kampala.
9. The postal address of the Society's representative in Great Britain is A. R.
Morgan, Esq., 0. B. E., 66 Brodie Avenue, Mossley Hill, Liverpool. Members'
resident in the United Kingdom may send their subscriptions to him.
10. The Society's Bankers are the National Bank of India, Ltd., Kampala.
The present number inaugurates the third year of the Society's resurrection,
and finds it in a flourishing condition, with the membership well over 5oo. We
would nevertheless repeat the warning of our predecessor that a membership of
500 is only the minimum required for the satisfactory continuance of the Journal
on its present basis, and we would therefore urge all members to do their utmost
to enlist recruits, and in particular to draw the attention of all new arrivals in their
Districts to the advantages of joining the Society.
The Balance Sheet for the financial year 1934-1935 is not yet available but it
is anticipated that it will show satisfactory progress during the year and that we
shall probably be able to increase our Reserve Fund, invested last year.
It is hoped to hold the Annual General Meeting in July, when members will be
able to review the financial position.
Since the publication of the April Number, a Special General Meeting of the
Society has been held. At this meeting the change in the Society's title from "The
Uganda Literary and Scientific Society" to "The Uganda Society" was approved
as also was the new Constitution, for the drafting of which the members are greatly
indebted to Mr. Mark Wilson. The meeting also approved the appointment of Mr.
A. W. Devas Jones as Business Manager, it being understood that, while the Editor
remained officially the Honorary Secretary and Honorary Treasurer, the work of
these two officers would be carried out by the Business Manager.
The minutes of the meeting are published at the end of the present number,
and copies of the new Rules will be distributed with the Annual Report.
We would take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the work done by our
predecessor, Mr. E. F. Twining. It was very largely through his enthusiasm and
untiring energy that the Society was not only refounded but attained in a compa-
ratively short time such a large membership as to confound the pessimists and even
to surprise the optimists. He was also responsible for making the Journal an
accomplished fact, and took on his shoulders all the laborious and detailed work of
negotiation with printers, block-makers, etc., in addition to that of enlisting contri-
butors, and keeping them up to tbe mark, and attending to the thankless task of
getting proofs corrected. Truly the Society was more than usually lucky in having
Mr. Twining as its first Editor, Treasurer and Secretary, and, may we add, its Hitler.
We trust that we shall continue to receive the support that was given to Mr.
Twining, and that there will be no falling off in contributions. We would repeat
that it is essential for the Editor to have in hand sufficient copy to plan for two
numbers ahead, and that this applies not only to major articles but also to "Notes".
We hope to retain the latter as a permanent feature of the Journal, but so far our
experience has been that they are more difficult to obtain than longer articles. A
"Note" should be anything of such a length as to fill from half a page to two pages
of the Journal, and should surely be within the compass of a large number of
members who have no time to write long articles. Photographs or drawings to
illustrate such "Notes" will always be equally welcome. If possible, glazed prints
should be sent.
On May 24th, the President of the Society gave a lecture on "Past Climates and
Some Future Possibilities in Uganda" to an audience of about fifty members. This
lecture, which was also the Presidential address for the year, will be published in
the October number of the Journal.
We would take this opportunity of congratulating Mr. Wayland on his being
awarded the Victoria Medal of the Royal Geographical Society.
On June i9th, Mr. W. C. Simmons gave a Lecture, illustrated by some excel-
lent lantern slides, on "The Purbeck Coast of Dorset."
We are of opinion that the attendance at the two lectures was by no means
as large as it should have been and that it is not fair to ask people to lecture unless
members of the Society are prepared to give a greater measure of support.
We thank those members who have sent in their subscriptions for the year
1935-1936, and note with satisfaction that many have taken advantage of the
Banker's Orders sent out in April. If all members paid by Banker's Order, the
work of the Business Manager would be much simplified.
In no circumstances will copies of the Journal be sent to those whose subscrip-
tions are outstanding.
We would particularly draw attention to Capt.C. R. S. Pitman's article on
"The Snakes of Uganda," published in the present number. This is the first of five
instalments, .which will together form a comprehensive treatment of the subject, and
will be plentifully illustrated. The illustrations will include several coloured plates.
We regret to have to announce the resignation of Mr. Ernest Haddon, as our
representative in Great Britain. The Society owes him a deep debt of gratitude
for his work in bringing the Journal to the notice of various learned Societies, and
scientific bodies, as also to that of former residents of Uganda, now living at home;
for acting as collectorof subscriptions from members in Great Britain, and undertaking
any work on behalf of the Society which could not conveniently be performed by
the Honorary Secretary in Uganda. He now finds himself too busy to continue to
perform these services.
Mr. A. R. Morgan, O.B.E., has kindly undertaken to act as his successor.
We desire to call attention to an omission in the Index to Volume II, P.309,
where the name of Lubogo Y. K. should appear as the author of the article on
"Basoga Death and Burial Rites."
We have to acknowledge the receipt of the following:-
Lt. Col. H. F. Stoneham. "The Birds of Uganda."
E. D. Tongue. "The Contact of Races in Uganda" (from the British
Journal of Psychology, General Section, Vol. XXV. Part 3,
Bulletin of the Imperial Institute.-Vol. XXXII, No. 4, 1934.
Museum and Art Notes.-Supplement No. 1 2 and President's Report.
(Art, Historical, and Scientific Society, Vancouver, B. C.)
Journal of the Royal United Services Institution.-February 1935.
"The Spiked Wheel Trap and its Distribution" (Ethnographical Museum
Bantu Studies.- March 1935.
Man.-February, March, April, 1935.
Any member may borrow these publications on application to the Business
By ALLAN J. LUSH.
'Le tambour nous l'avons entendu presque partout, au course de nos voy-
ages A travers le continent africain. C'est I'amusement cher au noir, et on ne
trouve guere l'un chez lui sans l'autre.
Accompagnateur indispensable du chant, de la danse et de toute les ce-
rdmonies, il rit aux joies des vivants et pleure aupres des morts; il frappe
le premier les oreilles du nouveau-nd et conduit le veillard a son derniere
demeure; le tambour fait parties de la vie courante de l'indigene, et ceux
qui sont accoutumes au noir n'y font pas plus attention que lui. Mais, ils
ne comprennent pas comme le noir, les batteries differentes qui constituent
son language A lui, language qu'on entend A de grandes distances, tandis que
les autres instruments paraissent muets A quelques centaines de metres. Un
indigene reconnait au tambour ce que fait son voison; il peut dire exacte-
ment, sans guere se tromper, A quelle edrdmonie, A quel passe-temps se livre
ce dernier, et Dieu sait si la variety en est grande: ce peut-etre l'initiation
d'un enfant, de jumeaux, I'arrivee d'une jeune fille A la puberty, la prise
d'armes d'un jeune guerrier, un marriage, un deuil, une lutte, une investiture. Ou
bien, enfin, c'est simplement une des nombreuses danses et rejouissances locales
don't la liste est toujours ouverte. Pour chacune d'elles le tambour varie ses accents
et announce au loin ce que fait son maitre'. (1)
This concise, yet comprehensive survey of the importance of drums to
the African in general, is equally true in the particular instance of the Baganda,
who, in one of their many proverbs, say, 'Tezirawa ngumba' ('They-the
drums-are not beaten without reason,).
Drums played a great part in the life of the Baganda in the past, and
are still used considerably to-day, but the adoption of the western ideas and
the discontinuance of- rule by a despotic king and pagan religion have already
ousted them from their paramount position. To-day, some of the important
drums of the past are no longer beaten, and the majority of the young Baganda
are ignorant of their names and history.
Although ranking as musical instruments, 'drums are put to a multitude
of uses quite apart from music......and they have a place in the most solemn,
and in the most joyous ceremonies of the nation'. (s)
In the past 'there were literally several hundred different beats for the' drums,
and each rhythm was known by the people, and conveyed a definite meaning to
them. One rhythm conveyed to the hearer that a certain chief was passing, another
that a certain dance was taking place, another a call to war, or a fire alarm and so
forth. In the case of any urgent call or claim, it was the duty of the first person at
a distance who heard the rhythm to repeat the message, and thus in a few minutes
a claim or call was carried hundreds of miles'. (s)
As a general rule the drums ('ngoma) belong to the Kabaka, and when he
pr sents a chief with any office, he confers upon him a drum. A person so promoted
is said to have 'eaten a drum', (alide 'ngoma). Or, if a son takes his father's place
he has 'eaten his father's drum' (al/ide 'ngomaya kitawe), Similar expressions are
used of the Kabaka when he comes to the throne -he 'eats Buganda.' (4)
Children of the Kabaka, born while he is actually in possession of the throne,
are known as 'Abantu b'e-ngomn' (Children of the drum), as they are considered in
the direct line of succession.
It is evident, therefore, that the word 'Ngoma (drum) indicates power or
authority, and is comparable to the English word 'sceptre'. This is borne out by the
Kiganda proverb, 'Abanlu magonta gavugira aliwo'-(The drum beats for the
Office, not for the person who holds it).
Kiganda drums are of two kinds. The first is made of a hollowed block of
wood, tapering towards the base, and having skins stretched over the head and
base. The skins are laced with thongs of hide. The drums appear to be named
according to their size and use, and the important ones are also given names-a kind
of personification. The other group of drums, known as Ingalabi' is, again, made up
of drums of varying sizes. They are long and slender, and taper gradually to the
base, but widen out to a flange which forms the bottom on which the drum stands.
The top is covered with a skin, usually that of the big water lizard (Varanus;
Luganda, nswaswa) which is pegged on. The bottom of the drum is left open.
They are graceful and elegant in appearance, and frequently are engraved with
geometrical and other designs. A large 'ngalabi is usually about four feet high. (5)
The following description of drum-making is by Roscoe. Although it is written
in the past tense, it may be taken that the process is essentially the same to-day.
'Drum-making, another branch of woodwork, required also a knowledge of
leather-working, in order that the hides might be prepared for the tops of the drums
Two kinds of drums were used; one for ordinary purposes and one for dances or as
a musical instrument. The latter was a long drum, having one end covered with
skin and the other left open; the skin used was frequently that of a water lizard.
The drum was three or four feet long, and seven to ten inches in diameter. A suitable
tree was felled, and the portion cut for the drum was hollowed with a gouge, which
had a long handle, to enable the workman to reach through the drum. The top or
head of the drum was larger than the lower part; it was four or live inches long;
and the remaining part of the drum gradually tapered to the bottom, where there
was a flange to finish it off The skin was stretched over the top, after being first
wetted and pegged, so that it became taut as it dried; it was pegged down with
wooden pegs which were cut off even with the skin, when it had dried. Drums used
for dancing were engraved with geometrical designs near the top and bottom, they
Were oiled with vegetable oil and the skin was kept well greased with butter. In
finishing off any woodwork, the leaf of a particular species of tree (Lwawo) was
used as sandpaper; as the upper surface of the leaf was covered with short, strong
spikes, it made an excellent substitute for sandpaper. The other kind of drum was
also hollowed .out from logs of wood, and the bottom end tapered. These drums
varied in size, from the small drum, used at the birth of twins, which was ten inches
high and five inches in diameter, to a drum five feet high and four feet in diameter.
When the log had been hollowed out and was ready for the skin, it was smeared
over with cow-dung to keep it from cracking. No pegs were used in fastening the
skin on this kind of drum, but it was stretched and laced to a second skin which
covered the bottom; the laces consisted of twisted thongs of hide, and they were
laced so closely that they enclosed the sides and protected the wood. Almost all
the drums had a fetich inside. Only a few men knew how to make the fetiches. The
skins were kept soft and elastic by being rubbed with butter'. (6)
In the past the ceremonial of the Court was intricate with the use of a large
number of drums belonging to the Kabaka. Each drum or group of drums was named
and men wcre specially appointed to take up residence at the Lubiri for the purpose
of beating the drums. To-day, for two main reasons, there are far fewer drums in
use. Firstly, in civil wars, battles and fires during and subsequent to Mutesa's
reign a great many drums were lost and have not been replaced. Secondly, modern
life is more exacting than the past in its demands upon the pockets of all classes of
the nation, and so the Kabaka is unable to maintain an army of drum-beaters, and
the drummers themselves prefer more profitable occupations. Hence, a large
number of drums have fallen into disuse either from reasons of economy, or from a
lack of drummers with a knowledge of the special beats attached to their use, and
in most cases even the whereabouts of such drums is unknown.
The drums set apart for the sole use of the King contained fetiches, some of
which have been examined and prove to be of phallic origin. It was thought that,
when beaten and heard by the King, his vigour was increased. Such drums were
considered sacrosanct and were used at specified times of the day or night for the
benefit of the King (7). 'No woman might touch a drum when she was menstruating,
lest it should kill her, and she should defile the drum.' (8)
Among the Royal drums the most important battery is that known as Mujaguzo.
It is believed to have originated in the reign of Kabaka Mutebi, and to begin with
there was only a single drum of the 'ngalabi' type, supposed to have been handed
down from.the time of Kabaka Kimera. This drum is called -Timba, and is highly
venerated. It gets its name from the design of a serpent which stands out in relief
round the body of the drum. The chief Sekalala of Sese is the hereditary keeper of
this drum., The Kabaka himself beats *Timba at his enthronement to declare that
he has become Kabaka. When Mujaguzo is sounded *Timba must beat first.
Kabaka Mutebi made another very big drum, called Kawuluhtgumo, and other
small ones, which together with Timba formed Mujaguzo. Each successive Kabaka
increased the number, until, in Mutesa's reign, they numbered many hundreds. But
to-day Mujaguzo has only about fifty drums, the main sections being:--
T mba .................................... One ngalabi
Kawulugumo ..........................One large drum
Namanonyi............................ One large drum
Nkonys..................................Four medium sized drums
Nj'awuzi................................. Five medium sized drums
Njuyi..................................... Twenty-five small to medium
Kawuluhgumo is beautifully decorated with cowrie shells, and is beaten by Lu-
kungo Kawula of the Lugave Clan, and members of this clan beat the other drums
associated with Kawuhlgumo. Kawula is the chief drummer of the Royal drums.
Namanonyi ranks next and is also decorated with cowrie shells. The accom-
panying drums are called Ndubi (comprised of drums from Njawuzi and Nkonyi
mentioned above). They are beaten by members of the Butiko Clan, Namanonyi
being beaten by Kimomera, the assistant chief drummer.
There were several occasions on which Muijaguzo was sounded, apart from the
Coronation day. It was beaten when the Kabaka went off on a big expedition; it
was beaten at special feasts. If the son of the Kabaka himself died, Mujaguzo was
sounded, but not in the case of other princes. It was sounded when the Kabaka
went to confer with the Spirit Mukasa (God of the Lake). It was always taken and
beaten at the place where the Kabaka intended to visit; and when the Kabaka's
relatives, who lived in Busiro, came on a special day to pay homage, it was also
beaten. Thus the Baganda realise that something of importance is happening when
they hear the sound of Mujaguzo.
The noise of the whole battery at close quarters is deafening, and nothing but
a confused medley of sound, but at a distance the qualities of each drum may be
distinguished, and to the native ear, at any rate, it conveys music of delicate charm.
The following description translated from Sir Apolo Kagwa's account of
the Coronation of the present Kabaka, H. H. Sir Daudi Chwa II, shows the use of
Mujaguzo in the ceremony:-
"Then the Mugema introduced the Royal Drum saying, 'This your drum
is the chief drum which rules all your drums'.
Then Kawula of the Lugave Clan brought the drum-sticks and handed them
to Kasu'ju and Kasu'ju handed them to the Kabaka. Then the Kabaka beat on
Muj'aguzo. And also Kimomera of the Butiko Clan, assistant of Kawula, took
(other) drum sticks and handed them to the Kabaka, and he beat on the second
Muiaguzo which is called Namanonyi." (9)
Fhe drums of Mujaguzo are made from Muvule (Chlorophora Exce.lsa), but
other drums are made from any suitable kind of timber according to the size
of drum required. Light wood, not readily attacked by insects, is preferred.
There are many other drums and groups of drums, some of which are still in
use. On some of these opinions vary as to their original use and it is difficult
to arrive at the truth, and in other cases no information beyond the name has been
obtainable. The notes which follow are, therefore, in some cases very fragmentary.
Drums -announce the death of the king and also the end of the period of
mourning. 'In the evening the Mugema sent the royal drums (Nanzigo) to the
King, and they were beaten to let the people know that the mourning had ended .
. The drums warned the people t6 cease mourning; no sign of it might
be found anywhere under penalty of death'. (10)
Two small drums called Kangujunguju joined together make Kana-ba. They
are suspended from a stake to be beaten. At, the death of a princess or the son of
a prince Kdna'ba is the only drum beaten.
Among all the drums of the past the one of saddest recollection is Busemba. It
is the drum of death. After a king had been enthroned his suite collected and
carried out all the drums which surrounded them. One only, Busemba, was left
there as if inadvertently. The unfortunate one who first drew attention to this
apparent oversight, was immediately seized and put to death, and his arm-bones
prepared as drum-sticks for this drum. So among the Kiganda proverbs is,
'A-jukiza Busemba, ye agikuba' (He who draws attention to Busemba, shall after-
wards serve to beat it).
The custom is said to have its origin in the following story. 'King -Tembo killed
Kimera in the forest, and the ghost haunted the king and wished to be avenged on
him. To appease the ghost, -Tembo made a drum, and directed that the drum-sticks
used for beating it should be the bones of a human being, and the story adds, that,
when the bones had been provided, the ghost of Kimera was quieted'. (11)
It is quite possible that this drum was used at executions and preceded the
throngs'of unfortunate condemned ones as they were hurried to their agony.
Being counselled by Europeans, King Mwanga refused to follow the custom of
slaying an innocent to procure the famous drum-sticks, and so the Baganda have a
saying, 'Busemba yazikira ku Mwanga' (Busemba ceased with Mwanga).
Busemba is in the hereditary charge of Na'dunga of the Lugave Clan, but
the whereabouts of the drum, if it still exists, is not known.
Another collection of drums is known as Endoda. It was established by Mutesa
who wanted additional drums in Mujaguizo with a high pitch like Ndubirizi, and it
consists of four drums, one large, two smaller, and one ngalabi. Its drummer is
Kigonya of the Nsenene Clan. It is used at Sessions of the Lukiko, especially
after the Kabaka declares an heir, saying, 'So and So is the heir of So and So'
(Drum beats). It also accompanies the joyful applause of the audiences before
Entamivu or Nkagwe is a well known drum which was captured originally by
Kabaka Kyaba-gu from the inhabitants of the Kya-gwe districts. The Kabaka him-
self used to beat it when he appointed the chief of a war-like expedition, This drum
ever leaves the Lubiri. Nowdays it is used together with Enjongo, a slender drum
of the 'ngoma type and two others called Bwayita, to accompany the amadinda
E-nyenya is a royal drum reputed to be of greater antiquity than Mujaguzo.
But when Mufaguzo was established E-nyenya lost its importance and has now
practically fallen into disuse. Its beat was 'Kiungulu ntono, munda butekula'.
Another interesting collection of drums is Kawuguhl, consisting of the name-
drums, which are two joined together, and two other smaller drums called 'Nsuku
zafe 'biri, or Kangujunguju. Iawuguht originated in the reign of Mulondo, who
became Kabaka while still a child, and whose uncles in the Butiko Clan wished to
amuse him. So they made these drums which were all beaten together as the
members of the clan danced round and round, wearing bells on their legs andgirdles
of plantain leaves or long-haired skins. Members of this clan are thereby a kind
of hereditary court entertainers, andthe dancers are called Ba'na-gunju, from Gunju
the head of the clan.
Entenga consists of twelve small drums each tuned to a particular note in a
scale. They are placed in a line together with three other drums-one large, one
smaller and the third Enjongo. The small drums are first beaten to announce the
tune, and then the other three join in with an accompaniment, and the result is very
entertaining. They are considered to be very important drums, and are kept in the
Lubiri, and many different songs can be played on them for the entertainment of
the Kabaka. It is stated that Kabaka Kyaba-gu took Entenga from Kajujugwe of
Bukerere, and the beater was Nagamala, son of Kyasimbi of the Lugave Clan.
Nagamala was an attendant on one of Kajujugwe's men.
Buganda-mirembe. This drum is beaten by Batambulira of the -Fumbe Clan.
It was established in the reign of Kagulu, son of Ndawula. When his people
abandoned him because of his cruelty, he rrade this drum, the name of which means
Peace, to indicate that he had mended his ways and would no longer persecute his
subjects. It is still in use.
Katenge jo. This drum is beaten by Kanya and Kajoba. It is thought to have
been established in the reign of -Junju. It was captured from 'Junju by his brother
Semakokiro in the battle at -Ba-jo, which accounts for its beat, Olukomera olw'e
*Bajo' (The fence at *Ba-jo), It is still in use.
Kirimal'abasaja -nyago. (Many must die from spears). This drum was established
by "Suna, who wanted it beaten in the army when the soldiers were going to battle
and when the Abakondere (trumpeters) played the song, "Gulemye-mpangala,
Abamanya mwesindike". It was to encourage the warriors and is still in use.
Nakawanguzz. (The Conqueror). When the Kabaka was successful in his attacks
on the surrounding tribes he ordered this drum to be made. It is still in use and
the beater is Kiribata of the Ntalaganya Clan.
Ta'de. When the Kabaka went visiting or hunting and intended to stay away
for the night, the Katikiro went in advance with many people. When the party
returned the Kabaka received many congratulations, because the visit or the
hunting was considered to be a kind of expedition, and the people said, 'Ebemba
tekyala elabala butabazi' (Ebemba does not visit, he fights). The beating of this
drum was part of the ceremonies, and the drummer is Kamya of the Ndiga Clan. It
is still in use.
Kabalankoma. I he Kabaka is like a Kabalankoma (wasp). When you go near
him you must be wary, or he will find you guilty of some offence and you will be
'stung'. The drum is still in use and is beaten by Kyasi of the Lugave Clan.
N/agala-kweti'ka. (I want to carry on the head). All the Khbaka's servants had
to carry things on their heads. From these servants he chose his chiefs. The drum
is beaten by Kyemwa, and is still in use.
Bwesige. When the Kabaka saw that he was like a lake from which his subjects
got all good things, he made this drum, 'Bwesige buli e-nyanja' ('Trustworthiness
is in the lake'). The drummer is Beyuna, and the drum is still used.
Kulebe a. Seeing that it was the Kabaka alone who promoted people he made
this drum to announce the fact. It is still in use and is beaten by Kyanjo. Its full
name is Kulebera-si-kugwa.
Va-mu-hitgtdo. (Get out of the way). When the wives of the Kabaka were walk-
ing no one was allowed to be on the road in front of them. So a drummer went
ahead warning people to clear the way. The drummer is Gunagwera, and the drum
is still in use.
Kyejo. When the Kabaka executed mischief-makers, this drum was beaten as
a warning to others. 'Kyejo-kita' (Mischief kills). It is beaten by Nambigya of the
Ndiga Clan and is still in use.
Basenge-ja. This is rather an amusing allusion. When the Kabaka saw the
respect which was given to the beermakers by the people who crowded to watch
them at the time of filtering, he made this drum that he might have similar respect.
The drummer is Omutemi-w'ente. The drum is still in use.
Banta-de. The Kabaka chose the majority of his chiefs from attendants in the
Lubiri. He established this drum to proclaim that he who was but a servant is now
at liberty as a chief. The drummer is Bitawuka, and the drum is still used.
*Nvanja. This drum is still in use, and its meaning is the same as that of Bwe-
sige, already described.
Bwe-mba-ta. This drum used to beat to proclaim the fact that the Kabaka
sometimes killed and sometimes acquitted people accused of wrong-doing. It sounds
(Bwe-mbata-bwe-mbabiulirira.' It is still used and is beaten by Lukade.
Gwe Ngo gwe Musota. The Kabaka saw that he was like a leopard and a snake,
and so untouchable, and he proclaimed this by beating on this drum 'Gwe Ngo gwe
Musota, Ekirimala abasaja -nyago'. (You are a leopard and a snake. That which
ends all men is the spear). It is still used.
Kikolw'omuganzi. This drum was established by the Kabaka to honour certain
favourites of his who were not chiefs. It is still beaten.
Mulyabyaki. A drum which was given by the Kabaka to the chief of an
expedition. It sounded 'Gwa, Gwa, Gwa', and is still used on important occasions.
Another similar drum carried on expeditions, but now abolished, was called
Wango-tabuka. The Kabaka is like a leopard. When you pass him you
say you have been in danger of being killed. In appreciation of this popular
conception this drum was established. It is still in use and is beaten by
Wa'sonko of the 'Ngonge Clan. This is the copper drum referred to by Speke
(see extract on page 20 below). Lord Lugard mentions the 'two copper drums
of Uganda' one of which was given to him by Mwanga. The explanation of
there being two drums would appear to be that Mwanga lost his possessions
to Kiwewa and Kalema when they assumed the throne during his exile. Both
these kings were supported by the Mohammedans, and this explains how Mbogo
obtained possession of Wango-tabuka. When Mwanga was reinstated as Kabaka
he made another drum to replace that lost to the Mohammedans. There is another
copper drum 'Gaya', which is beaten with the hands as distinct from Wango which;
is beaten with sticks (eminyolo). Speke refers to the drum Wango as being of French
manufacture, but it is actually of native *manufacture, the copper surround being
added to a wooden mould. (12)
Kuku, -kanga Balimi. This drum was made by "Suna, who issued an order that
women who did not cultivate their plantain gardens would have their hands cut off.
The drum was beaten especially early in the morning, to warn the women to get to
work, lest they lose their hands. It is no longer in use.
Kya'gwe-kireta. Whenever the Kabaka stays at a place the people gather
from all directions. That is why this drum was established, 'Kya-gwe.kireta,
*Singo-kireta' (Kva-gwe comes, -Singo comes, all come). It is now obsolete and was
beaten by Lugayavu.
Sindika-tagenda. Another drum, now obsolete, which proclaimed the fact that
the Kabaka was like a ro:k and no one could push him against his will. The
drummer was Magwa.
Makumbi. Another obsolete drum similar to Kuku, -kanga Balimi. warning peo-
ple to cultivate their banana gardens or risk having their hands cut off.
Balankulu. The Kabaka had this drum made in recognition of the good service
rendered by attendants who entered the Lubiri when already men. The beater was
Kabinaga, but the drum is no longer in use.
Kababembe. This drum had an interesting past but is no longer in use. It was
a war-drum belonging officially to Kibuka of Mbale, who, it is said, took the drum
from Sekalala of Bugoma in -Sese. Kibuka used it in the wars of the Kabaka
Nakibinge (Omulwanyammuli-the fighter with reeds), the son of Kayima, against
the Banyoro. When the Baganda heard the drum they would rush furiously upon
Photo: Dr. A. T. Schofield.
Photo: Dr. A. T. Schofield.
Photo: Dr. A. T. Schofield.
. 1. .
Photo: Dr. A. T. Schofield.
A group of Royal Mibala Drums 6? Drummers.
Photo: Dr. A. T. Schofield.
The three principal drums of Mujaguzo.
Timba (centre), Kawulugumo (r'q/ f), Namanonyi (left).
Kawula, Chief Drummer, is standing behind the drums.
Photo: Dr. A. T. Schofield.
The chief drum of Mujaguzo.
*p-^ * *
the enemy. It sounded 'Tulimuloja', and was beaten by Majuluba. After the wars
it remained at Mbale in Mawokota in the Temple of the Lubale (Spirit) Kibuka
(god of war). Later, the Kabaka established a corresponding drum to be beaten.
early in the morning to waken his attendants, and at that time no one was allowed
to speak in the Lubiri before the drum had sounded.
Bawemukira. An obsolete drum which was established to proclaim the aquittal
of a person who had been slandered. The drummer was Mbuga,
Mba'de-mmulowoza. At a time when there was peace and harmony in the land,
the Kabaka working for his people's good, and the people respecting him, this drum
was established. The beater was Kyenyi, and the drum is now obsolete.
Netunze. An obsolete drum which was beaten by Mugambwa of the -Fumbe
Clan. It was established by the Kabaka in honour of the loyal manner in which his
servants risked their lives to serve him.
Galinya. Kabaka Semakokiro established this drum to record that his mother
was of the "Fumbe Clan. Its beat was 'Amafumbe gali'nya e Ba-ka'. It is no
Yewalawala. Some people habitually avoided the Kabaka, but from time to time
some of them were caught when expeditions were sent out to obtain human
sacrifices. When such people were caught this drum was beaten. It is now obsolete.
Roscoe has a somewhat detailed description of a special drum, Kawula, but
there is no evidence that a drum of this name existed. The hereditary name of the
Kabaka's Chief Drummer is Kawula of the Lugave Clan, and it is possible that
Roscoe confused the name of the drummer with one of the drums of Mujaguzo. The
name of the Assistant Chief Drummer is Kimomera of the Butiko Clan, (13)
The use of drums played an important part in the old wars. It needs but little
imagination to picture the scenes which have been recorded by Speke, Lugard, and
Roscoe. Thus Speke, 'Within the square of men immediately fronting the king,
the war-arms of Uganda were arranged in three ranks; the great war-drum covered
with a leopard skin, and standing on a large carpeting of them, was placed in
advance. . . Outside the square again, in a line with the king, were
the household arms, a very handsome kettledrum of French manufacture, surmounted
on the outer edge with pretty little brass bells depending from swan-neck-shaped
copper wire. . '(14). And Lord Lugard, 'We went outside the king's enclosure,
on to the hill, amid a dense concourse. It was a remarkable sight, and one seldom
seen by Europeans. The huge drums of war were produced and beaten, while the
king, surrounded by his chiefs, stood with an umbrella held over him.. At each
stroke, made with all the vigour and energy of the drummer's body, he opens his
mouth to its widest and gives vent to a guttural roar, which has a strange
and impressive 'effect. . (15) The king sent for one of the big war-drums,
beaten by a grey-headed old negro. . He had the drum beaten for me close
to himself to show me the way the war note was sounded. . Within
five minutes masses of armed men began to assemble on every side, and came
pouring in dense troops towards us from every direction, rushing along, shouting
and dancing and yelling.' (i1) And Roscoe, 'As the war-drum beat in the royal
enclosure the chiefs took up the rhythm in their own enclosures, and the sound was
carried on in an ever widening circle, until within a short time all the war-drums
in the country were sounding and the whole country was up in arms.' (17) 'It
was a different natter when a fire occurred in the royal enclosure; then the war-drum
sounded at once, summoning people to prevent the conflagration from spreading. No
one who has heard the war.drum beat and has witnessed the assembling to the chief,
will readily forget the scene.' (18) 'The army was expected to collect in four
days after the drum had sounded.' (19)
Cunningham mentions a drum, 'Mavumisizi,' which conquered Buddu for Bu-
ganda. The correct rendering of the name is 'Mavumirizi.' The drum belonged to
Luziga of the Ndiga Clan, who was sent out by Kabaka Junju, son of Kyabagu,
and who conquered Bu'du and Kiziba. (ao)
Drums are also associated with chieftainships. Each chief has his drum and
the beat which he chooses, and it is conferred with his office by the Kabaka. The
following is a list of the most important chieftainships, and the 'mibala' (drum-beats)
associated with each of them.
Basengeja. (Another drum called Serukoma
was also established after the
battle of Busongola).
Kya'gwe etya ?
Kasa. (This drum was established in the
reign of Kabaka Mutebi. When Ka-
su'ju was ordered to make Mujaguzo,
he cut down a suitable tree for the
purpose, and from a branch he made
a drum for himself, calling it Kasa.
This is the derivation of the Kiganda
proverb, 'Ezilemwa okumu zawuka-
nya emibala' ('Drums from the same
tree may differ in their beats ')
The various Clans of the Baganda have their drums and 'mibala' (particular
drum-beats). Catch phrases have been put to the rhythm of the beats, in much the
same way as certain doggerel rhymes are associated with the various British mili-
.tary bugle calls. A list of the Clans and their mibala is added as an appendix.
Selected Clans are also responsible for the making, beating, maintenance and
safekeeping of certain of the drums. For example, the Njovu Clan had charge of
the drums Lugumira and Kibi, which were beaten when the King went hunting, (21).
The Butiko Clan had charge of the drum Kawuguhl, which was made on their
estate at Wagaba. (22) The Mbwa Clan made one of the chief drums of Mujaguzo.
(as) In the *Gomba district the Ntalaganya (Cephalopus) clan had the care of a
sacred drum. (24)
Besides the royal drums, the chiefs' drums, and those of the clans, there -are
private ones. Any individual is at liberty to beat a drum if he wishes, and we find
therefore, that drums are used as the major accompaniment for dancing and singing.
The use of drums on the occasion of the birth of twins is particularly interesting.
'When the Mutaka (peasant) had gone back to his home, Salongo Omukulu
(the adopted father of the twins) took out four big drums one enkalabirizi, one kan-
gujunguju, and one ka'kalabu; these together were called entujo which they beat
while dancing and they sounded well And when he had finished beating them at
his own place he went to the clan witch doctor who had foretold that he would
have twins, together with those drums with which he beat entu-jo. After coming
back he would beat entu'jo daily and women came every day to dance, and the men
came to see how the women danced. During the festivities this song was sung:-
Kuba ku 'ngoma ewune Beat the drums together,
Sewaswa kazala balongo. Sewaswa has twins.
Zitu-ja, zitu-ja, za Sewaswa, Sewaswa's drums are sounding, sounding,
Zitu'ja za Sewaswa. The drums of Sewaswa sound,
Zitu-ja mu balongo be'. They sound in honour of his twins. (25)
Drums are also beaten during the popular wrestling matches, and the onlookers
clap their hands in time with them.
There are still a few small and unimportant drums used in the little huts
which to-day pass as temples among some of the natives who still remain pagans.
In the past the drums used in the various temples were next in importance after
the royal drums. The special beats attached to temple drums are known as ebikasa.
With regard to Mukasa, the Lake Spirit, Roscoe writes: 'There were two sacred
drums in connection with the temple, which were named Betobanga and 1Vamikono;
Betobanga was the larger, and had human bones for drumsticks. Whenever the
priest Gugu died the old sticks were thrown away and new sticks were procured.
This was done in the following manner. A chief, named Sekadu, was sent from the
island Busiro with a canoe to the mainland, to a place named Sango, between the
islands of Singa and Busi. On his arrival there, the canoe was beached and a bunch of
ripe plantains was placed on the prow, as though the men were about to ship them;
'the men then went off to the gardens leaving one of their number in hiding to watch
the canoe. If a man came and took some of the fruit, he was caught, bound and
placed in the canoe; if a woman came and attempted to take the fruit she was driven
away by the man in hiding. After capturing their prisoner, the men were obliged
to row to the island Kibi without stopping; here they might spend the night, and
on the following day they rowed to a small island Kaziri, where the captive was
landed and put to death by having his throat cut. The body was left lying on the
ground with a guard to protect it against crocodiles or birds until the flesh decayed.
When the shin-bones were quite clean and bleached, the guard took them to
Bubembe, and handed them to the priest Semagumba, who beat the drum two or
three blows with them and handed them to Sendowoza, the man in charge of the
.drum. The drum (Betobanga) was beaten for the annual festivals, on which
occasions the rhythm had to be kept up at intervals by day and night until the end
of the festival; the drum also announced the appearance of the new moon, warned
people of the monthly cessation from work, and made known when any special
festival was to be held, as for instance, when the King sent to consult the god. '(26).
'Dungu (the god of the chase) had a special drum in which was a large fetich
composed of portions of every kind of animal and bird hunted; all kinds of medicines
used in making hunters' charms for the chase; miniature weapons; and pieces of cord
and other materials employed in the making of traps. This fetich was set upright
in the drum and fixed in its position by a mixture of the dung of wild animals and
the blood of animals sacrificed to the god. When the medium wished tobe possessed
he smoked a pipe, and the drum was beaten, until the god came upon him'. (27) There
is an illustration of this drum in Roscoe's book from which the quotation is taken.
The drum is in the Ethnological Museum, Cambridge.
'At the temple of Kibuka (the god of war for north, west and south-west Uga-
nda) the special drum for regular use was named Tatata. When a new temple was
built thirty drums were beaten during the time that the god was being carried from
the temporary temple to his new residence.' (28) This is the drum Kababembe. described
on page 14. Roscoe has confused the sound of the ekikasa (drum-beat), Ta-ta-ta, with
the name of the ekikasa, Kababembe.
The god of war for Kyagwe and Busoga was Nende, and his temple at Buke-
rere contained the drum Wesinze Nende. In all the wars against Busoga Nende
was consulted. Also in the past it was the custom for the Sekibobo of Kyagwe,
when appointed to his office, to go and pay homage to Nende.
There was a special temple for Mbajwe, the chief fetich of the king. 'In its
temple were two smaller fetiches, a drum named Kisaja which was never beaten, and
a fetich in the form of a knife-handle; also a drum named Talileka. There were also
two men attached to the temple who beat the drums on special occasions.' (29).
Concerning Gulu (god of the heavens) Roscoe writes, 'When the rain was very
heavy and the lightning severe, the people-made fires which gave forth'volumes of
smoke, to keep the clouds from falling; and they beat drums, to let the god Gulu
know where they were, that he might not hurt them with lightning.' (so).
It is quite natural that the importance of drums in all phases of the daily life of
the people should be reflected in the language. There are the technical terms used in
drum-making and drum.beating; there are, also, a number of idiomatic phrases and
proverbs. Information about these is set out in the form of appendices.
Some investigation has been made into the popular and romantic theory,
especially beloved of novelists, that the African in some secret way, which he
steadfastly refuses to reveal to the European, is able to send messages by means of his
drums. The announcement of the outbreak of war or any other danger by means
of the alarm-drum has been already described, as has also the use of drums in
announcing a death in the royal family and the cessation of mourning. There was
another drum used during hunting. First it sounded, 'Wambi-zi musaja bamusala
manyenya'; then it sounded as in announcing war. Thus the people knew that leopard
or lion-hunting was taking place. Also, there was a drum which announced to the
people that there was urgent work to be done at the chief's place. It sounded,
'Tu, Tu, Tu'. Apart from these uses, my informants say that it would be difficult
or impossible to send ordinary messages by drum beating.
While much general information has been collected from books, and so acknow-
ledged, many details have been supplied by Baganda friends, and in particular I
should like to thank Ow'ekitibwa Katikiro (Prime Minister, Buganda), for his kind
and ready assistance, without which some of the points could scarcely have been
elucidated. The photographs illustrating this article were specially taken in the
Lubiri by kind permission of H. H. the Kabaka.
Notes and References
(1) Foa-'Du Cap au Nyassa'.
(2) Roscoe-'The Baganda: Their Customs and Beliefs'. p.25.
(3) Roscoe-'Twenty-Five Years in East Africa'.
(4) For a description of the Ceremony of 'Eating Buganda' see Roscoe-'The
Baganda: Their Customs and Beliefs'. Ch.7.
(5) In many European houses the first type of drum is in use as an occasional
table, while the second type makes a very serviceable lamp-stand. Small
kinds of 'ngalabi' are known as 'Engabe' or 'Egabe', and are used for amuse-
ment at feasts and dancing and wedding parties, and at the end of the moon
(6) Roscoe-Ibid. p,4o7.
(7) Speke-'Journal' p.429 refers to the sanctity of the drums. 'I then tried to
teach the king the use of the compass. To make a stand for it, I turned a
drum on its head, when all the courtiers flew at me as if to prevent an outrage,
and the King laughed. I found that, as the instrument was supposed to be
a magic charm of very wonderful powers, my meddling with it and treating
it as an ordinary movable, was considered a kind of sacrilege.'
(8) kRscoe-ibid, p. 30.
(9) Sir Apolo Kagwa-'Empisa za Baganda.'
(io) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 1o8.
(ii) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 213.
(12) Lord Lugard 'Rise of Our East African Empire'. Vol 2. p.509.
Speke-Ibid. As quoted on page. (15)
Also 'Journal,' page 291 'I was now asked to draw nearer within the hollow
square of squatters, where leopard skins were strewed upon the ground, and
a large copper kettledrum surmounted with brass bells on arching wires and
two other smaller drums......were placed.'
(13) Roscoe-Ibid. p.27,
(14) Speke Ibid. p.4o6. Reception of a victorious army at court.
(15) Roscoe-'Twenty Five Years in East Africa.' p.i87. Roscoe attributes some
ceremonial significance to this growling, but there does not seem to be any
evidence to support this, The drummer is only indicating that he is putting
all his.energy into his work, and frequently the growl is a repetition of the
rhythm of the drum-beat.
(16) Lord Lugard-Ibid. p. ii r.
(17) Roscoe- 'The Baganda: Their Customs and Beliefs.' p. 349.
(18) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 21.
(19) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 355.
(2o) J. F. Cunningham-'Uganda and Its Peoples.' p. 61.
(21) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 147.
(22) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 152.
(23) Roscoe--Ibid. p. 164.
(24) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 167.
(25) Sir Apolo Kagwa-Translated from 'Empisa za Baganda.' p. 191.
(26) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 296.
(27) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 311.
(28) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 305.
(29) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 327.
(30) Roscoe-Ibid. p. 315.
PROVERBS BASED ON DRUMS.
Abantu balamu magoma: gavugira aliwo.
The drum beats for the Office, not for the person. (or) People are like drums; they
flatter a person while he is present.
Zitemwa kumu ne zawukanya emibala.
The drums may be cut from one branch, but their sounds are different.
Kyakayiga bw'akuba engalabi tayimbirira.
He who is learning to beat the ngalabi drum does not sing while he beats.
Oke-kera nga muk'omugoma nti "Ow'omwange lero agirese n'amayembe gayo"?
Are you joking like a drum-makers wife who says, 'Oh, my husband has brought
his prey with its hoins on' ?
(It is rather difficult to appreciate this proverb. It was the custom that when _cattle
were killed at the Lubiri the drummers were given the heads. The wives, apparently,
were in the habit of cracking the joke quoted in the proverb, and the husband ds invari-
ably replied to this effect, 'Yes, you joke now, but these horns will be very useful later
on when you are sick.' The horns were used as cupping horns for bleeding a patient in
Ekiwumbya engalabi guba mwenge kubula.
That which rots the ngalabi drum is the scarcity of beer.
Oseya ng'engalabi y'ekyengera.
You appear here and there, like the ngalabi drum appears wherever there is beer.
Awalungi tewaba wa-nyu, Mujaguzo evuga n'o'ka e Bunyoro.
The pleasant places are not always your home; as Mujaguzo sounds, maybe you
must go down to Bunyoro. (The Baganda used to consider Bunvoro a dangerous and
Ebigambo bikira e'ngoma okulawa.
Words, sound louder than drums.
Gye ziregerwa, si gye zivugira.
The drums do not sound now, as when they were made.
K'e'ngoma, kamanywa mubambi.
It is the drum-maker who knows what is inside the drum.
Mu bana abangi temubula a-za 'ngoma.
Among many children, one must bring honour to the family.
Sekibe'te ng'omusaja akubira envwa engalabi nti, "Ezange teka wano".
You are uncouth, like a man who beats a plate for his vegetables,. saying, "Put
mine here". (It is considered bad manners for a person to drum on the table or hts
plate and order the women-folk to bring food.)
They (the drums) are not beaten without cause.
IDIOMATIC PHRASES DERIVED FROM DRUMS.
To eat a drum, i.e. to get a kingdom or chieftainship.
To return a drum, i e. to be successful in getting promotion.
A child of the drum, i.e. a prince in the line of succession.
To upset the drum. Cf. English -to upset the apple-cart--to put anything into
To lift up the drum, i.e. to get on well.
A frog's d; um, i.e. a big thick mushroom or toad's-stool.
To beat the thigh with the hand, i.e. to show great joy.
Omutima gukuli ng'ogw'e'ngoma.
Your heart is like that of a drum, i.e. you are fickle, never settled.
Okubera n'e'ngoma mu mutwe.
To have a drum in the head, i.e. to be stubborn.
Ono mulugwa gwa 'ngoma.
A senseless person.
Okutunula bakitu'jula ng'engalabi eyoza lumonde.
To look like an engalabi used for washing sweet potatoes. (Abuse).
Okukonola e'ngoma, and Okuwanula e'ngoma.
To be crowned. Cf. Okulya e-ngoma
TECHNICAL TERMS USED IN CONNECTION WITH DRUMS.
Olulere (Endere. pl.)
The particular beat of a drum.
Drum-beat in honour of a 'lubare' (spirit).
Drums when beaten with the hands.
To beat a drum with the hands.
One who beats a drum with the hands.
One who beats an 'engalabi.'
To beat a di um.
To beat a drum with much force.
To beat drums of different sounds in harmony.
To beat many drums in rejoicing.
To beat drums as an alarm.
The growling noise made by the drummers.
A hollowed piece of wood ready to be covered with
The upper surface of a drum.
The bottom of a drum.
A bulky body, hence a huge drum.
To stretch skins over a drum with laces.
Thongs for lacing drum-skins.
Twisted thongs for lacing,
A tree, the leaf of which is used as a substitute for
DRUM-BEATS PECULIAR TO CLANS.
Bugeme. (Sap from top of
*Fumbe. (Civet Cat).
Katinvuma. (A small shrub).
Kinyomo. (Red Ant).
Lugave. (Scaly ant-eater).
Mmamba. (Lung Fish).
CLAN BEATS. (Emibala).
Wekiriki-je Gunju a-ja.
Kifa mu -nyanja muvubi y'akimanya.
Gali-nya e Ba'ka. or e Ba'ka basenge-ja. Tokoza
Wekirikije -Jita a-ja or Asu-de kasu-de mu Kya-
Ntembere Kisswa, wendisanga Mubuteme.
Alinyaga ente, omutima talirya or Kababembe.
Kifa mu *nyanja muvubi y'akimanya.
Gwe Mikigi, gwe Nsasa.
Lwa Ndugwa, lwa Katende or Seruku lulenge'ja.
Kasonzi mulwade. Asinda, bampa-de "gumba.
Kifa mu 'nyanja muvubi y'akimanya.
Kyana kya mbogo, *Senge. Kye ndikwatako
Namuguzi akabira kasaga, or Kisa kya
mpologoma, or Nsabira kyoto.
Kalya ko'ka, or Emmamba sirya ama'zi nnywa
or Kwata e-deku tu'de e Bembe.
Nampima agenze *Kungu.
Musu. (Edible Rat).
Ngeye. (Colobus Monkey).
Nsuma. (Kasulu-A Fish)
Nte teriko mukira. (Tailless
Nte ya lubombwe. (Spotted
'Ngali. (Crested Crane).
Nke-je. (Small Fish).
Kivu tiki-ze kuluma, ki-ze kutwalana, ju or Rivu
kya-ja okuluma n'okutwalana.
Kifa mu -nyanja muvubi y'akimanya or Nakatete,
Kabwa kyoto, or Talika, talika; bamutwala ku
Namuguzi akabira kasaga.
Talya nkima, Se-nya enku twokye e'nyama.
Nakate ayuga, or Nsimbye amasanga.
Tatula, asulumba busulumbi.
Wa-jangala musa-ja mukulu ogula ngabo: 'Mpa
Mukyamba-de mulimu engo, or Waliwo nyonyi
Ta'de kaku: 'Kalikuta', 'Kaleku,' 'Nayiga", or
Katikuta ne kututwala e Busamba-ganyi.
Mu -nyanja we-diramu ki? Nvubu.
Seruku lulenge-ja simanyi lulingwira.
Wekiriki-je Gunju a-ja.
Gwe mpagi gwe luwaga, or
Nakimera muka *Suna bw'asa bw'anegula,
Kifa mu'nyanja muvubi y'akimanya.
Taliko kabi wanted, or Ow'ensonyi tawesa.
Mukyamba-de mulimu engo, or Bampe omu'go
Lwendi wa-nyonyi mbuse.
Kiso kya mbuzi, or Tungulako emu.
NOTE. As a point oJ ethnological interest it may be noted that some of these
clans have joined up with other stronger clans, but in order to give as complete a list
as possible of clan-beats this fact has been ignored.
The Major Pests of the Cotton Plant in Uganda.
By G. L. R. HANCOCK, M.A., F.R.E.S., F.Z.S.
The rapid spread of pink bollworm from the north through Gulu and Bunyoro
into Buganda Province has brought to the fore the importance of insects to
Uganda's main industry.
During the past nine years the writer has endeavoured from time to time to find
out something about these insects and about the damage which they cause; though
progress has not been rapid, enough is known to be of some interest and worthy of
Cotton is a crop particularly susceptible to insect damage, and Uganda has its
full share of pests. In sowing cotton a number of seeds are placed in each hole
and therefore one or two plants usually survive attacks by cutworms (larvae or
caterpillars of Noctuid moths) or crickets. When a little older the plants may be
attacked by a grub, the larva of a blue and orange Chrysomelid beetle (Syagrus
calcaratus), which feeds on the roots and often kills the plants. These insects can-
not however be considered the worst pests of the younger plants and in other
countries the last-mentioned is rarely serious if cotton is not grown on the same
ground in consecutive years.
INSECTS ATTACKING THE LEAVES AND SHOOTS.
The two main pests of the cotton plant (as opposed to pests of the fruit or
boll) are two bugs belonging to the family Capsidae which are discussed in detail
Lygus vosseleri, Popp.*
This is a small greenish or brownish bug which is found among the apical
shoots and tips of the cotton branches. The adult bug measures 4.5 mm. by 2 mm.
andis shown in the photograph Plate I, fig. i. inset. The eggs are inserted into succulent
tissues such as the stem (or petiole) of a very young leaf and so far have been found
only on one of the bug's alternative food plants "mpindi" (Vigna catfang). The egg
is relatively large and has at the outer end a lip-like rim. The nymph or young bug
differs from the adult only in size and in the absence of wings, it is usually pale
glaucous green in colour, occasionally brownish or marked with reddish brown.
* The identity -of this insect is still doubtful; either it is a very variable species or
more than one species of Lygus is concerned in causing damage to cotton. L. atratus,
Popp. and L. nairobiensis, Popp. have both been recorded from cotton in the Belgian
The only insects on cotton with which it can be confused are nymphs of certain
bugs of a predaceous habit which, however, always have a little appendage resem-
bling a tail which the Lygus nymph lacks. The time taken for the nymph to grow
into the winged bug is 14 days, so that the life cycle is rapid.
The damage done by the sucking of this insect consists of small angular spots
on the very young leaves, the spots being dark green at first and becoming brown
shortly afterwards. As the leaves grow they crack and present a tattered ap-
pearance. The development of the shoots is retarded and even when the plant
succeeds in producing bolls the bug attacks these when they are small, causing
them to shed.
The damage to a plant placed in a cage with Lygus, is shown on Plate II, and a
plant placed in a cage without Lygus is shown on the same plate for comparison.
The caged plants were extreme examples of damage and absence of damage; plants
usually lose many of their bolls for one reason or another and the bug rarely
attacks every plant in a plot nor does it do so throughout the season; plants
often have time to grow several branches before attack develops, or the insects may
leave the plant which then produces normal growth. It is not easy to estimate the
loss of crop from this insect but by spraying the young shoots in some
plots, leaving other plots unsprayed as a control, the leaf damage has been
considerably reduced and the yield increased by 25% as compared with the
unsprayed plots. The damage is so variable from place to place and season to
season that an estimate for the whole of Uganda could not be more than an intelli-
gent guess based on observations.
An illustration of the damaged young bolls is given on Plate I, fig. 2. These
bolls are shed and this damage is additional to that caused to the leaves and
mentioned above. The losses to bolls and buds are considered in detail below.
Besides cotton this insect feeds on mpindi (Vigna catjang), bijanjaro (Phaseolus
sp.), mpinamuti or kapenda (Cajanus indicus), bulo (Eleusine) and mwemba
Helopeltis bergrothi, Popp.
This insect is illustrated on Plate IV and is conspicuously coloured both in
the adult and nymphal stages. As in the case of the cotton Lygus and for the same
reasons, there is some doubt as to the identity of the species of Helopeltis on cotton;
it is however almost certain that only a single species is concerned.
The eggs are laid in the tender stems; they are the shape of a sausage
and have two filaments at one end which protrude from the slit in which the egg is
deposited. These eggs are very difficult to find on cotton, but may more easily be
found on sweet potato plants which, being less hairy, reveal the protruding
* Very inadequate knowledge of the genus Lygus and the inaccessibility of the type
specimens render it impossible to decide without elaborate experiments whether the
species found on the various suggested alternative food plants are actually those which
filaments more readily than the hairy-stemmed cotton plant. The young nymphs
are illustrated on Plate IV, as is also the damage caused to the plant. The whole
plant appears stunted and bunched up so that in most cases such plants are very
conspicuous in a plot. On searching under the leaves of such a plant one or more
bugs or their nymphs may be found. It is often very difficult to differentiate
between the damage caused by this insect and that due to bacteria which cause a
serious disease, different forms of which are known as "angular leaf-spot" and
"blackarm." Both insects and bacteria cause angular spots on the leaves and brown
or black lesions or scabs on the surface of the stems. The cause of the stem-lesions
cannot be ascertained when they have become old and dry. The bunched appearance
of heavily-attacked young plants is characteristic of damage by Helopeltis
* and on older plants which have been attacked by this insect it is often possible to
find bolls which show either slightly sunken pits or small raised scabs. It is best
to look for the insects when possible, but sometimes they have moved off to some
other plant and therefore cannot be found.
The differences between the damage caused by the insect and by "Blackarm"
are tabulated below:-
Fresh spots on the leaf water-soaked and
Old spots on the leaf larger, appearing
dark brown from the upper side.
Leaf normal green colour.
Fresh spots on the leaf not water-soak-
ed, more sunken, often semi-transparent
Old spots lighter brown on the upper
side, smaller and with more sharply
Leaf usually darker green and some
times a little reddish near veins, which
are often sucked, becoming brown or
Severely damaged leaves sometimes slight- Severely damaged leaves markedly
ly curled downwards at edges. curled downwards at edges.
* Fresh lesions on stems, unhealthy within,
wood grey-green tending to be slimy or
moist; bark water-soaked; lesions occur at
junction of petiole and stem or at base of
Fresh lesions on stems often very
superficial, healthy below.
Old lesions dark brown, corky, sometimes Old lesions buff, rough, corky, more or
split. less superficial.
Foliage not bunched.
Plant with bunching growth, often much
The length of life-cycle from egg to adult takes 30-36 days, of which the egg-
period occupies 13-16 days, nymphal periods 17-21 days, the preoviposition period
Young cotton bolls which have been shed owing to the
sucking of Lygus v sseleri.
A spray of cotton damaged by the bug Lygus rosseleri.
(Inset. Adult bug and nymph).
A cotton plant grown in a cage of mosquito netting into
which Lygus vosseleri was introduced.
A control plant under identical conditions but without
the introduction of the bug.
The food-plants of this insect are very numerous and include (besides cotton)'
sweet potatoes, Centrosema spp., Panax, scented geranium, Ricinus (castor oil),
guava, tea, Bixa sp., avocado pear and Hydrocotyle sp.
In the Congo the insect has been observed to migrate from Centrosema on
to cotton and it is possibly some condition in the relative succulence of the plants which
induces this movement. In cotton plots it is common to find isolated plants attacked;'
on other occasions attack is fairly general over wide areas of country or may occur
in certain parts of plots where the soil or water-supply differs from that of the rest
of the plot. It has been found in some cases that damaged plants show special
root-characteristics, indicating a check in the development of the tap-root and a
subsequent attempt to remedy this by the development of shallow-growing lateral
roots. Both on tea in Nyasaland and on cotton in Uganda severe damage may
occur where the soil is water-logged, whereas plants on better drained soil show no
damage. Helopeltis appears to attack cotton in some seasons more than in others;
during the past 1933-34 cotton season hardly a plant was attacked, whereas in
1932-33 considerable damage was done. In comparing notes with M. Bredo,
Entomologiste du Congo Belge, it was found that the same observations had been
made by him in the Congo.
Before considering the insects which damage the bolls reference must be made
to the cotton-leaf hopper Empoasca fascialis (family Jassidae). This insect is very
small, pale yellow in colour and feeds on the underside of the leaves of cotton,
the nymphs and adults move in a crab-like manner and the adults jump off the
leaves when taking flight. In examining a field for Jassids care must be taken to
look for nymphs or actually to see the adult Jassids, as in walking through a field
it is often possible to see numbers of small flies or Aleurodid bugs ("white flies")
leaving the plants and these are easily mistaken for Jassids. The leaf-damage caused
by this insect is characterized by the presence of a bright red edge to the leaf,
inside which is a yellow area; the tissues so discoloured fail to assimilate normally.
Similar symptoms have been found in the absence of Jassids and appear to be due.
to drought. Damage may extend over the whole leaf and cause its death. There has
been much discussion as to whether this insect should or should not be classed as
a major pest in Uganda. In South Africa very serious damage is said to occur
whereas Sudan entomologists have found no resultant damage or loss of crop with
a far higher Jassid population on the leaves than was ever found in South Africa.
It is only in the drier areas of Uganda, especially in Teso, that Jassid has been
stated to be associated with serious loss of crop. In the dry country at Biseruka on
the Lake Albert escarpment there seems little or no indication of damage, Great
care must be exercised in examining plants for Jassid damage. Any damage to the
leaf tissues such as that caused by the feeding of Lygus or Helopeltis will be associated
with red pigment; dry weather and maturity are often associated with red patches
of various kinds and the presence of minute red mites (probably Tetranychus sp.) is
a further complication since, while little is known of their effect in Uganda, some
species are known to be capable of causing reddening of the leaf in other countries.
As these mites occur under dry conditions they are not infrequently associated with
Jassids. They are very minute and can be seen as tiny dark red specks on an area
of the underside of the cotton leaf which presents a mealy appearance owing to
having been sucked; on trying to remove the mites they will be found to be living
on an almost invisible web to which they adhere.
Experiments have proved that cotton plants grown on damp soil near a swamp
have a smaller Jassid population than plants on a dry hillside, and the former show
relatively less reddening of the leaves. In Nigeria poor soil is associated with high
Jassid damage and the species found on cotton in Australia damages plants with
poor roots or in soil lacking in potash,
In South Africa it has been proved that the hairy-leaved cottons selected at
Barberton are far less susceptible to Jassid attack than smooth-leaved forms and in
Uganda certain types of cotton have been far more successful in Teso than others.
Whether this is due to the combined effects of resistance to drought, to soil con-
ditions or to Jassid, or primarily resistance to one or other of these conditions, is
not clear but it has now been possible to obtain plants which will give very satis-
factory yields in those areas where considerable losses had occurred.
Jassids have been recorded from various food-plants but the exact identity of
the species of Jassids concerned is in doubt; the list includes, in the Sudan, all
Malvaceae, Ricinus and Solanum and, in South Africa, Thespesia.
It has been suggested in some quarters that the species occurring on
cotton in the Sudan and in South Africa may ultimately prove to be
distinct from each other but the writer believes that the true explanation
of the differences in the amount of damage in the different countries lies in the
different physicochemical environments. In Uganda there are certainly at least
three species of Jassid which are found on cotton.
INSECTS ATTACKING THE BOLLS.
Turning now to the fruits or bolls it is hardly to be wondered that such
succulent fruits, which persist on the plants after the grass-burning, when they are
practically the only green and succulent insect food in a black desert, are attacked
The two major pests of these are cotton-stainers and bollworms. So far stainer
damage is by far the most important factor but the advent of pink bollworm
as a runner-up has brought bollworms definitely out of the position of minor pests.
It will, however, be some years before this insect has settled down and shown us
what it can do.
These insects are also bugs but belong to another family, Pyrrhocoridae. Four
species occur on cotton Dysdercus nigrofasciatus, D. superstitious, D.fasciatus and
They may be distinguished as follows:-
Photo. Imperial Institute of Entomology.
The Spiny Bollworm (Earias sp.) boring into a cotton bud.
i. Abdomen below pallid or at most with orange markings...... D.mnigrofascialtus.
Abdomen below with bright red bands.............................. .... 2
2. Abdomen below marked with red and black, whole insect reddish; head longer
than broad; transverse black mark on elytra a regular band.........D.fasciatus.
Abdomen below marked with red only, general colour more straw to olive;
head as short as or shorter than broad; transverse black mark on elytra
often in form of a blotch (as in Plate V)............. ............................... 3
3, Legs uniformly red; second and third transverse bands on underside of abdo-
men not reaching lateral margins...................................... D. cardinalis.
Legs with tibiae and tarsi brown, darker than femora; second and third trans-
verse bands of abdomen reaching lateral margins and widening to form a
complete border below elytra. (Plate V)......................... D. superstitious.
There are a considerable number of other species in Africa, some of which occur
on plants of the same family as cotton (Malvaceae); these are not included here.
Dysdercus superstitious is illustrated on Plate V and there appears to be
very little difference in the behaviour of the four species. The eggs are laid in the
soil or under rubbish near the bases of the plants and observers in Rhodesia have
suggested that a certain minimum amount of shade or moisture is required; the
eggs are rapidly killed by exposure to the sun on the surface of the soil. The
number of eggs laid by one female is about 400 to 500, and the most favourable
conditions for egg-laying were found (under laboratory conditions) to be a supply of
cotton-seed and green bolls; cotton-seed alone is suitable if damped frequently The
nymphs are at first orange-yellow, rapidly becoming bright red; at which stage
they are common in clusters on the cotton plants, The life cycle of D.nigrofasciatus
in the laboratory at Kampala was found to be 50-60 days.
The damage caused by stainers to the cotton boll may be compared to that
caused by a mosquito to a man: the bite itself is comparatively harmless; it is only
when the disease organisms of internal boll-rot are introduced that damage is
serious. The sucking is usually, though not always, followed by internal proliferation
of the boll wall, in the form of soft whitish excrescences; these are shown in section
on Plate V. External signs of the punctures are difficult to find.
The most important disease introduced by these insects is that caused by a
fungus Nemalospora gossypii, and the resultant staining of the lint is shown
on Plate V. This dry yellow stain is associated with a weakening of the fibres.
Stainers may also introduce bacterial diseases into the bolls, which sometimes
become wholly or partly rotten, but the natural division of the boll by septa into
locks (usually four in number) is a great protection against the spread of the diseases
In considering stainers there are two objectives, therefore, to be borne in mind;
(i) To reduce the number of stainers and (2) To prevent the stainers becoming in-
fected with disease organisms. While it will probably be impossible to remove the
many plants on which stainers can feed and breed, it may be possible to reduce
those plants which are reservoirs of infection of the fungus, but in South Africa
most of these plants are unfortunately infected. This organism has been found in
the larger species of Hibiscus (H. esculenius) and occurs in cotton-seed. The food-
plants of stainers include many species of Hibiscus (including the edible "malakwang")
Abutilon, Wissandula, Sterculia, Eriodendron (kapok), and occasionally Urena.
It is unlikely that anything can be done to reduce the amount of bacterial in-
fection carried by a given number of stainers, since the bacteria are probably almost
entirely derived from the outside of the boll itself and the role played by the
stainers is merely that of permitting entry of these bacteria into the interior of the
Stainers have been reported, both in Nigeria and South Africa, to migrate
at definite times from wild food-plants on to cotton, and it may be possible to find
one or more critical food-plants the elimination of which will leave the stainer
without food at one particular season. An experiment in the destruction of Sterculia
Kirkii was suggested in Southern Sudan and in the same country the baobab tree
has been used as a trap, stainers being attracted to the tree and then destroyed. It
must, however, be remembered that the four species of stainers may have different
critical food-plants and that so far no indication has been found of sudden migrations
on to cotton in Uganda.
The destruction of all old cotton-seed, and the uprooting and burning of all cotton
plants and of H. esculentus (bamia) at the close of the cotton season are ways by which
the stainer's chance of becoming infected can be reduced. To what extent the
number of stainers would be reduced by these means depends on the importance of
the wild species of food-plants and of the cultivated kapok and "malakwang".
The amount of staining of lint depends to some extent on the weather; disease
organisms are notorious for developing more readily under damp conditions and
there is some evidence that stainers are more prevalent (or possibly more active) on
cotton in warm damp weather.
These include the pink bollworm (Platyedra gossypiella, Saund.), the false cod-
ling moth Argyroploce leucotreta, Meyr., (sometimes erroneously referred to as the
red bollworm), the spiny bollworm, also known as the Egyptian or spotted bollworm
(Earias insulana and E. biplaga) shown on Plate III and the American bollworm or
Corn earworm (Heliothis (Chloridea) obsoleta) which should not be confused with the
American boll weevil which still occurs only in America. I he Sudan or true red
bollworm (Diparopsis castanea) has never been found in Uganda, though it occurs
rarely in the Northern Congo and is a serious pest in some parts of Africa.
The above list appears rather formidable, but so far the pink bollworm is the
only species which has appeared in very large numbers in any plot. It must, however,
be remembered that although samples have been taken to ascertain the distribution
of pink bollworm, such samples have never been taken to ascertain the percentage
damage due to other insects which feed on the boll; such figures as are available
have been collected in the course of the pink bollworm surveys. The work, being
primarily directed to pink bollworm was done at a season when this insect was
believed to be at its maximum and when the other bollworms may or may not have
been particularly prevalent. Other means of estimating the loss from these species
are detailed in a later section of this paper,
The Pink Bollworm (Platyedra gossypiella).
Perhaps the least said about the habits of this recent invader into Uganda the
less there will be to retract. While volumes have been written on this insect, which
is one of the major pests of the world, it is dangerous to assume that conditions in
Uganda exactly correspond with those anywhere else. It will be at least three or
four years before this insect has settled down in those parts of the Protectorate
where it has already penetrated, and it is not till then that we can ascertain its
status as a pest.
So far the eggs of this insect have not been collected locally as (probably
owing to lack of experience) efforts to find them on the plants in the infested plots
have failed. Two eggs were obtained by confining moths over a cotton plant by
means of a mosquito-net, and these were laid on the underside of a leaf. The egg
measures just under i mm. in length and in Egypt is laid by preference on the
underside of the leaves (particularly when these are young), on the bracts and on the
. bolls, .especially in the natural crevices in the middle of each lock; in the Sudan
eggs are found chiefly at the base of the bracts on the inner side near the boll.
During hot weather in Egypt the egg stage lasts 3 to 4 days, in cold weather
7 days; at Kampala eggs hatched after 6 days. The larval period in Egypt is 9 to
15 days when in the active stage (see below) and the pupal period 8 to i o days
according to the season. In Uganda the pupal period has been found to last io days,
corresponding with that of the Egyptian hot weather, and it is therefore reasonable
to expect the larval period in Uganda also to correspond with that in Egypt. The
complication in the life-history of this insect, which has resulted in its almost world
wide distribution, is its habit of resting in the larval stage. This is correlated with
hot dry weather or with winter conditions and is a most important factor to be con-
sidered in devising practical methods of control.
The caterpillar is at first yellowish, then becomes whitish and later the pink
coloration develops to form two bands across each segment; the division between
the anterior or broader band and the narrower posterior band is sometimes not very
well defined. In Egyptian larvae there is a pale dorsal line dividing the bands longi-
tudinally but this can hardly be seen in mature Uganda larvae. On the sides of
the "shield" on the segment behind the head is a minute kidney-shaped white dot.
The booklets on the sucker-feet are arranged in a horseshoe.
The newly-hatched larva is very active and wanders over the plant until it
finds a flower-bud or a young nearly full-grown green boll. It then bores into
this and any opening is soon sealed over and becomes almost invisible. In Egypt
it has been found that young larvae can exist for a short time by nibbling the leaves,
a habit which enables them to survive the journey in search of a boll or bud.
When full-fed the larva spins a slender cocoon among cotton lint in bolls oh
the plant, among debris, on the ground or in the soil; in the last-named case the
cocoon is woven with a mixture of silk and particles of soil. The resting larva may
spin up in cotton lint or seal itself into an eaten-out cotton seed which it lines with
silk; in many countries it will spin together two seeds forming the so-called "double
seed." The posterior end of the pupa is pointed and bears a minute hook.
In Uganda the pink bollworn has been found on "bamia" (hibiscus esculentus)
but not as yet on other food-plants except cotton, though Hibiscus cannabinus and
Abutilon indicum have been recorded as food-plants elsewhere and are abundant
in Uganda. During the season between the destruction of the old crop and the
planting of the new the active larva exists, so far as is known, on self-sown
cotton plants, or plants which have escaped eradication. The period during which
it can remain in a resting state in Uganda is not yet known but this may be
found to be the most important way in which the pest tides over the interval
between crops. The larva is known to be able to rest for at least six months in
Uganda, but the climate may be found to be too equable for a really long resting
stage to occur (larvae are known to rest for periods up to two years in Egypt).
The parasite, Microbracon kirkpatricki, which has been said to exercise a con-
siderable check on this insect in Kenya, occurs in Uganda, but so far has proved
very rare; another species of parasite has been bred, in Uganda, from the pupa.
The larva is so well protected in the green boll that it is not difficult to understand
its comparative immunity from parasites, but M.kirkpatricki can attack larvae when
they are near the surface of a green boll.
Two other species of Platyedra occur on wild Hibiscus in Uganda and might
be confused with the pink bollworm. These are P. erebodoxa and P. cuncatrix. The
larva of the former has the pink markings more broken into spots and the horse-
shoe arrangement of the hooks on the sucker-feet is also broken at the apex, while
P.cuncatrix is uniformly dull red and has conspicuous plates at the bases of its hairs.
This latter may be distinguished from the false codling moth (Argyroploce leucotreta)
by the absence of the "anal fork", the smaller (though darker and more conspicuous)
dorsal plates and by the sucker-feet which have the crochets arranged in a horse-
At present it is not possible to recommend detailed measures of control,
but the rigid enforcement of the uprooting and burning of cotton and bamia,
when the former has been picked, is one certain method of reducing the
number of surviving larvae. If the insect can maintain itself on wild food-
plants (for which there is as yet no evidence) the value of these measures
will be lessened and should it be found to rest for lengthy periods in the seed,
complete cleaning up of ginneries and stores and the disinfection by heat treatment
of seed required for sowing will require consideration, while seed from infested
areas not required for sowing will have to be sterilised or burnt. Even so, some
larvae may survive in native huts or in bolls partly buried in the soil or
in their resting-cocoons in the soil itself, but it is hoped that with our generally moist
climate few will survive in this way but that they will emerge to die before the new
crop has grown sufficiently to be attacked.
Figs. 1 & 2 The young stage (nymph) nearly full grown.
Figs. 3 &? 4 The adult bug.
Fig. 5 A spray of cotton attacked after considerable growth has already taken
place. Stunting has not yet developed.
Fig. 6 A damaged leaf.
Fig. 7 A damaged boll showing pits (centre) and excrescences (top right).
COTTON PESTS 2.HELOPELTIS
e. 7 O.F.T.
Jr .SmMA. ahn-L*t Lia
If the number of larvae occurring in bamia and wild food-plants is not large
(as seems probable), a reasonable degree of control should be attained by destruction
of the old crop together with treatment of the seed if necessary.
The question of destruction of wild food-plants is complicated by the fact that
a natural host of the parasite, M. kirkpatricki is a. harmless moth,, Crocidosema
plebeiana, which feeds on the weed Abutilon indicum and occurs in Uganda, This
plant may be found to be of more importance as a reservoir of parasites than
The distribution of pink bollworm in Uganda includes Gulu, Madi, West Nile,
Bunyoro, Buganda and Lango.
The Spiny Bollworm (Earias insulana and Earias biplaga).
These two species are very similar in habits and appearance-and no differences
of practical importance have yet been noted between them in Uganda.
Their eggs are minute, round, and turquoise blue in colour, and are laid singly
or in pairs on the buds or leaves of cotton. After about 4 days the eggs hatch and
the larvae attack either the buds or bolls. Larvae occasionally bore into the grow-
ing point of the plant or of its primary branches, but even though the .tip may be
killed the plant will often compensate by further branching. The larvae leave open
the entrance hole into the boll and often enlarge it, so that their presence can readily
be detected; they prefer to enter' the boll low down under the bracts. The large
and open aperture made by spiny bollworms is associated with much more decay
than is the case with the other species of bollworm, and one spiny bollworm will
generally cause at least as much damage as two pink bollworms. The life of the
larva lasts for about two weeks, after which it spins a white or sandy-coloured
cocoon rather the shape of an inverted boat. This is spun either on the plant or
among debris on the ground. The moth emerges after two or three weeks. '
The moths of the two species are green or yellow; in Earias biplaga the male
and female both have a very narrow dark brown border to the forewings-and the
female is usually green with a broad irregular brown band in the middle of the
wing, while in E. insulana both sexes are usually green and never have the narrow
brown border to the forewing.
Alternative food-plants of these species include practically all species of
Hibiscus, Abutilon, and Triumfetta (kinsambwe).
They are more easily attacked by parasites than the other species of bollworm
and a number of species of parasitic wasps and flies have been bred from them in
The False Codling Moth (Argyroploce leucotreta).
The eggs of this moth are laid on the bolls and are at first pale green in colour,
they are rather flat, scale-like, and oval in outline. The newly hatched larva bores
into the tissues of the boll wall, usually near the base or apex where these are
thickest, and feeds for some time in the wall before entering the seed. Little sign of
the original entrance-hole of the larva remains after it has penetrated into the boll.
The larva is very variable in colour; when young it is a dirty white, becoming
mauve, grey, red or pink as it matures. It possesses large shining chitinous plates
on the dorsal surface and the colour is distributed evenly over the dorsal surface
and not arranged in distinct double bands as in the pink bollworm. The larva
pupates either in the soil or in old decayed bolls on the plants, and spins a fairly tough
cocoon not unlike that of a pink bollworm. The posterior end of the pupa is blunt
and the pupa bears rows of tiny teeth at the posterior edge of each segment The
moth is rarely seen but is greyish brown in colour; the male has a peculiar shining
spot near the base of the hind margin of the hind wing. The length of life-cycle
from egg to moth is about a month.
Parasites of the caterpillar have not been found commonly in Uganda. In
Nigeria parasites of the egg are very abundant, but a hundred eggs collected in
Kampala did not show any parasitisation.
Alternative food plants in Uganda include oranges, maize, guavas, sorghum,
castor-oil fruits, and fruits of Zizyphus, while in Rhodesia the insect has been found
on a number of other fruits and seeds but not on cotton.
The Corn Earworm (Heliothis obsoleta).
This is a moderately large caterpillar which has been found at times to attack
cotton bolls, usually early in the season. The amount of damage caused by it is
occasionally considerable but theinsect was not common at the times when observations
were made with the object of estimating the damage to the crop. The caterpillar is
very variable, usually greenish or brownish with fine interrupted longitudinal darker
lines and is larger than any of our other bollworms. It feeds on a number of plants,
including maize, tobacco, beans, peas, and other Leguminosae, Justicia sp. carnation
buds and millet.
The damage done by this species to cotton does not appear to be sufficient to
call for its further discussion here.
The Characteristics of the Three Pink Caterpillars found on Cotton.
The differences between the three pink caterterpillars found in cotton bolls
which are likely to be confused with each other are detailed below; pink
bollwofin has so far been of much greater importance than Argyroploce. Neat
circular exit holes in green bolls are formed by both the false codling moth and pink
bollworm, and the presence of a large number of these is a good indication that pink
bollworm is present; the converse cannot be taken as conclusive evidence. In the
Congo it has been found that damage by Argyroploce decreases as the season
advances whereas that due to pink bollworm increases rapidly at the end of the
Pink bollworm (Platyedra False codling moth (Argy- Scavenger larva (Pyroder-
gossypiella) roploce leucotreta) ces spp).
Colour whitish with a double Colour uniformlypink, red, Colour in two pink bands,
pink band, the front band or slate. both narrow and equal in
wider than the hinder, breadth.
Length i i-13mm.neverpink
when as small as Pyroderces.
Prolegs with less than 18
crotchets arranged in a horse-
Thoracic shield with minute
conspicuous white kidney-
shaped area on each side.
Last segment without a chiti-
nous comb-like structure
Dorsal surface with very
small plates at bases of hairs.
Length 11-13 mm. never
pink when as small as
Prolegs with 30-40 crot-
chets arranged in a circle.
Thoracic shield without
white kidney shaped area.
Last segment with a ch-ti-
nous comb-like structure
Dorsal surface with large
plates at the bases of the
Size much smaller length
about 7 mm.
Prolegs with apparently
18-23 crotchets: arrange-
ment doubtful, either a
circle or horse-shoe, (per-
haps different species
exist with different ar-
Thoracic shield without
conspicuous white kidney
Last segment without
Dorsal surface with very
small plates at bases of
hairs, which are relatively
longer than in the other
ESTIMATES OF DAMAGES FROM VARIOUS CAUSES.
Damage caused to Bolls.
During the past few months the examination of bolls to ascertain the
distribution of pink bollworm has given an opportunity for ascertaining the chief
causes of damages during the 1933-34 season. These are tabulated below as
Eastern and Northern
Kiboga area of Buganda
Western Mubende District
Detailed figures of some of th
Hoima Road M.70 16.o 11.5
Masindi-Gulu Rd. 20,o
Masindi Port Rd, 11.7
e more severely damaged plots are given :
> .0. 5 Notes
.0 o 5 6.-
bo 0-o a o
4.0 13.5 6.o Not early pl
recorded -1 picke
(included Nil '1 .5 Not early pi
- under recorded F picked
5 5.0 2.5 0.5 46 ? plant
date; j picked.
1.7 3.7 5-7 Nil 42 "first picking"
14.7 1.7 1.7 0.7 21 large early-
thy plants i
* In some of the records no distinction was made between stained and slightly stained.
The Cotton Stainer, Dysdercus superstitiosus.
Fig. 1 The young nymph just after hatching from the egg.
Figs. 2 5 Later stages in the development of the nymphs.
Fig. 10 The adult Dysdercus.
Figs. 6 & 7 The cotton seed bug Oaycarenus sp, which does not cause staining
of cotton but sucks the seeds thus reducing the percentage which
Fig. 8 A damaged boll showing on the left staining due to bacteria and on the
right yellow stain due to the fungus Nematospora.
The upper lock is healthy.
Figs. 9 & 11 show the proliferation of the boll wall due to sucking of the
stainer and Fig. 11 shows also a boll completely rotten owing to the
introduction of disease.
COTTON PESTS 1. DYSDERCUS
JarnbdfSas&.aniaasmL iL alnnr
In estimating the nett loss from pink bollworm and stainers it is important to
consider the amount of crop already harvested, as damage from cotton stainers and
pink bollworm increases as the season advances, except in very hot dry conditions
which rarely occur in Uganda. Allowance must also be made for the value of fifi
cotton which is saved. After making allowance for the less severe damage to the
earlier pickings and for the value of the fifi cotton, the nett percentage losses for
some of the districts mentioned may be estimated as follows:
Percentage Nett Losses caused by
o 8 Approximate amount of
crop ripe and picked.
Eastern and Northern
Provinces 1.5 11.9 4.9 3.8 1/4
Lango 1.5 12.3 2.1 0.5 5/8
Bunyoro 2.6 8.4 2.3 2.4 Averaging 3/8; very
variable; some mostly
picked (very dry areas);
some notyet ripe (cooler
and more humid areas).
District 0.3 21.4 0.8 4.7 Nil to i/io. (figures
obtained assumed-to be
Masaka District 0.0 20.3 1.8 5.5 1/5
Bulemezi County 0o.o 10.7 1.5 2.1 1/5
In a year with a less pronounced dry season much greater losses are to be
expected. This season has produced remarkably clean cotton. The highest
losses from stainer are in the cooler and more humid areas, Mubende and Masaka.
In considering damage by pink bollworm it should be noted that in Egypt damage
to one lock caused by bollworms results in a loss of weight of io% in each of the
other locks of the attacked boll; it is not stated whether this is correlated with a loss
of quality, but in Mexico weakening of the fibre takes place. The number of damaged
locks in the case of Egyptian cotton is, therefore, not a true indication of the
actual losses, but little can be said regarding this secondary damage to such varie-
ties of cotton as are grown in Uganda, nor is it known whether insects other than
bollworms produce a similar effect.
Another method of estimating damage,was to collect from selected rows
on various plantations all fallen buds and bolls and to examine both these and the
residual crop. The numbers of the damaged buds and bolls which were injured
by each species of insect on the Kampala Plantation, ascertained from two
experiments carried out in this manner, were as follows:-
Small buds shed, damaged by bollworms 71 ( 1.4%)
Large ,, ,, ,, ,, ,, 257 (32.2%)
Small bolls ,, ,, ,, ,, 10o3 (io.o%)
Large ,, ,, ,, ,, ,, 32 (25.6%) *
Small ,, ,, ,, ,, Lygus 295 (30.7%)
Large ,, ,, ,, ,, ,, 28 (21.7%)
These figures require much more detailed analysis than is possible here
and must be compared with the total numbers of buds and bolls formed (the figures
given above being for bolls shed and not for bolls formed), but it is possible to say
that damage to very small buds appears to be slight, while damage to larger buds is
serious. The damage to the small bolls is equally serious, but the total number of
large bolls shed is comparatively small, so that the influences causing the shedding
of a high proportion of this small number are not of great importance.
The analysis of bolls harvested in two experiments in 1929-30 gives the total
loss (estimated as stained, rotten and mummied bolls) as 46.5%. This latter figure
is rather high when compared with the observations carried out during the 1933-34
cotton-season and detailed above; while this difference is in part due to the very
favourable weather conditions existing in 1933-34, the writer considers that it
would be rash to estimate damage from all causes to mature bolls over a period of
years at an average exceeding 25% until further work has been done, but 13 samples,
totalling 750 bolls (3000 locks) collected in Gulu and Madi at the end of 1932
showed stainer-damage to 51 % of the locks.
In considering the younger bolls and buds it must be remembered that not all
would have given clean cotton; many would have been damaged by stainers and
many others would never have matured. Though the loss of potential crop, there-
fore, is possibly 30 or 40% the actual loss is likely to be not more than half this.
The losses to the world's cotton due to insect damage are estimated at 25%.
The same figure was given some years ago as an estimate of the losses in the
Sudan. It is perhaps premature to attempt to give an accurate estimate of Uganda's
* The percentages are in each case the percentage of each size of bud or boll shed and not
the percentage of the total possible crop.
FACTORS WHICH INFLUENCE THE NUMBER OF INSECT PESTS
PRESENT ON A CROP AND THE AMOUNT OF DAMAGE WHICH
THEY MAY CAUSE.
The comparatively new branch of biology which deals with the study of the
very numerous factors which influence the numbers and behaviour of animals or
plants is known as ecology. Of this subject the study of those factors which influence
the numbers of various pests present on a plant and the amount of damage which
they cause is a very important part. These factors and complexes of factors are
discussed below under what appear to be the most important headings. In practice
many of them operate simultaneously and sometimes in opposite directions, a fact
which renders the problem of control of pests one of extreme complexity and
The age of an island in mid-ocean can be roughly gauged by a consideration
of the size of its insect population (reckoned in species, not individuals) and the
distance from the nearest mainland. A newly-formed volcanic island has no insect
population; as time goes on more and more species reach it, either by flight, by the
aid of wind-currents, on floating debris or by other means.
A crop planted for the first time in a restricted area in the middle of a
continent is an ecological island and cotton in Uganda was in this position until
comparatively recently. There are both advantages and disadvantages in such a
position: some of the pests which attack the crop are liable to have been left behind,
but such pests as have reached the "island" are likely to have arrived there without
their natural enemies and thus to increase to a very high degree and to do very con-
In the case of cotton-cultivation in Uganda one of the pests left behind was
the pink bollworm, but progressive increase in cotton growing both here and else-
where has brought the Uganda "island" into close juxtaposition with cotton-areas
of the Sudan, and (through the Sudan) Egypt, and allowed the pink bollworm to
reach the country. The isolation which was our safeguard has broken down. To
a smaller extent this factor of isolation operates even with pests within our "island":
it is common to find a freshly opened plot, surrounded by dense elephant-grass,
showing very little or no signs of the pests having discovered it; such a plot,
is an ecological islet. This condition occurs more frequently in the more densely
forested country or in elephant-grass country and progressively less in "short-
grass" country where in the case of main cotton-growing areas, the population
is denser and plots more numerous.
2. Weather and Climate.
All farmers accuse the weather of being the cause of the multitude of woes to
which their crops are heirs. Even when the farmer is shown that insects and not
the weather are doing the damage he is not entirely convinced and he is very often
right, since abnormal numbers of insects are often due to abnormal weather,
Weather and climate (the latter a complex of temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc.)
have been proved in certain cases to have profound effects on insect activity and
abundance. The effects of climate may be direct or indirect, and in dealing with an
insect which is attacking a plant these two effects and also the component of the
complexes involved in each case, can often only be separated by controlled
experiments. In dealing with an insect like the tsetse fly, provided food is present
in unaltered quantity, direct effect can be fairly accurately measured, but with
plant-feeding insects any lack of moisture which may directly affect the insect
simultaneously affects the plant and through the plant-juices again affects the insect,
but this time indirectly.
In dealing with cotton pests.the direct effect of climate is of paramount importa-
nce in the case of the resting larva of the pink bollworm and is the crux of any
recommendations for control which we may make. HIumid conditions encourage
damage by stainers; in dry weather these insects have been seen to suck members
of their own species and to feed on plants which are not suitable as permanent
food and are probably used merely as a source of moisture. Their willingness
to drink poisoned bait is not apparently affected by weather, since such baits
are equally effective in wet or dry weather unless the bait is washed away.
Two simple examples of the direct effect of weather are that of rain causing the
soil to seal over larvae or pupae of pink bollworm (as has been stated to take place
in Egypt when flooding occurs) and that of showers making the soil suitably damp
for the eggs of cotton stainers or sealing in their eggs and thus destroying them.
The indirect effects of weather can only be conjectured. Weather may produce
in the plant conditions favourable or unfavourable to the insect; possible examples
of these are the association of Jassids with dry conditions and the fact that it
has been noted that bolls attacked by Lygus are shed more readily in wet that
in dry weather.
3. Soil Conditions.
The effects of the physical and chemical nature of the soil and the water which
it contains are so inextricably bound up with weather and climate that they cannot
be dissociated from the indirect effect of climate on the insect. Climate acts on the
plant toa very large extent through the soil in which conditions can be modified by
culivation and the application of manure to encourage the type of plant growth
required to avoid loss from insects,
4. The Condition of the Plant.
A further influence affecting the degree of insect damage and density of insect
population on a plant is the condition of the plant. This is dependent in part on the
soil and climatic complexes and in part on the inherited characteristics of the plant.
In making observations on damage caused by pests these combined influences are
very difficult to dissociate one from another, and their combined effects govern the
"condition" of the plant. There are indications that certain insects will feed on a
:plant only when it is succulent, and this is possibly true both for Helopeltis and
Lygus. Damage by Helopellis has been found to be correlated, in addition, with
shallow root-development of the plant, presumably acting indirectly through the sap,
Jassid-resistant strains of cotton have been grown in a number of different
environments and in none of these environments have they supported a large
population of Jassids or suffered appreciable damage from these insects; in this
instance it is clear that the most important factor is some quality inherent in the
plant. On the other hand many strains of cotton may suffer damage or little or
no damage, according to the types of soil and climate in which they have been
grown, and in some cases irrespective of the density of their Jassid population. In
the latter instance any resistance to loss of crop which the plant may possess (either
by reason of failure to maintain a high population of Jassids or .by failure to react
to the attacks of such a population) may be lost by placing the plant in unfavourable
conditions of soil or climate and it is possible that the comparatively high and stable
degree of resistance possessed by the "Jassid-resistant" strains would be broken
down if they were grown in conditions yet more unfavourable than those in which
they have as yet been placed.
5. Multiple Infestation.
Attack by one insect may produce conditions favourable or unfavourable to
attack by a second insect, either on the same or on another part of the infested
plant. The introduction into Egypt of the piik bollworm was followed by a mark-
ed decrease in the number of spiny bollworms to be found in the bolls. This dec-
rease in numbers has been maintained, but the cause is obscure. An insect feeding
on the roots of cotton might well produce conditions in the plant which were favour-
able to the attack of another insect on the leaves, but this aspect has never been
studied in Uganda.
Jassid and red mites are sometimes associated on the leaves of cotton and it is
not improbable that attack by one of these may facilitate attack by the other.
It has been stated by Elton* that "no species in a community, unless it happens
to live a very isolated life or be very rare, is without its effect upon numbers of the
rest of the community".
6. Predators and Parasites.
These are among the most important natural checks on insect populations, but
in the case of the majority of cotton pests in Uganda they have not been shown to
be of very great importance. None of the bugs attacking cotton has exhibited
parasitisation to any high degree. With regard to bollworms, parasites may be an
important factor and it is important to remember that the pink bollworm may have
left its natural enemies behind in its country of origin. The fact that there is some
indication that the numbers of spiny bollworm and of false codling-moth reach a
maximum before the end of the cotton season and then decrease is an indication of
It is a moot point whether "Jassid-damage" is really caused by these insects; it is at
least possible that their presence in considerable numbers is one symptem of a disease which
may or may not be caused, wholly or in part, by them.
Elton, C. "Animal Ecology," London (1927) p. 122,
the possible presence of parasites in numbers sufficient to control these pests. The
numbers of pink bollworm tend to show a steady rise but this is checked by larvae
entering the resting stage, so that any influence exerted by parasites would be
obscured in a season such as the present one (1933-34).
Parasites are sometimes depergdent for their existence on some alternative
host if the cotton pests become very greatly reduced in numbers. In the case of
pink bollworm an alternative host is Crocidosema plebeiana. Other bollworms have
food-plants other than cotton, on which the parasites are able to find them
practically throughout the year.
Climatic influences affect parasites as well as pests; a humid climate, such as
exists in parts of Uganda, results in the vegetation remaining green throughout
the year and thus maintaining a continuous supply of hosts for the parasites.
Extremely little is known about such potentially important predators as birds,
but guinea-fowl shot in cotton plots frequently contain numbers of stainers in their
crops and, although these birds do a certain amount of damage both to cotton and
to food-crops early in the season, it is possible that to refrain from shooting them
in cotton plots after the bolls begin to ripen might act as an appreciable check on the
numbers of stainers.
7. Amount and Duration of Food Supply.
All cotton pests are obviously dependent on a supply of food. When the cot-
ton is young they come on to it from various wild food plants or other sources and
finding suitable food the insects will increase unless hindered by parasites or any
of the other factors mentioned above. It is obvious, therefore, that the quicker the
crop can be harvested the less chance the insects have of increasing in numbers.
A plant which matures quickly has therefore an advantage in the race, particularly
against insects which attack the bolls, though it must be remembered that such a plant
must be able to avoid serious damage in its early stages. The rapidity with which
a boll ripens (which depends both on the type of cotton and on weather) determines
the length of time during which it is exposed to attack and therefore, to some degree,
the amount of damage. Another factor which favours increase in the numbers of
insect pests is a lengthy sowing period: if in the same locality some cotton is sown
early and some later there is a great probability that the more serious pests (sta-
iners and pink bollworm) will have so increased on the early-sown plots that the
later plots will start with a heavy infestation. In this case there is a continuous
supply of fresh food being made available for the insects. In the case of Lygus
and Helopeltis, the effects of climatic and other factors may be so great that the
anticipated effect of a lengthy sowing period may not be obtained; in the case of
stainers, dry weather may perhaps check their increase but it rarely stops it
sufficiently to effect an appreciable decrease in the amount of damage.
8. Alternative Food-Plants.
These may have three different effects on the insect population, which are
(a) The carrying over of the pest from one cotton season to another.
(b) Attracting the pest away from the cotton at certain seasons.
(c) Keeping up a supply of parasites either by harbouring a small number
of the pests as food for the parasites or by feeding some insect which acts
as an alternative host for the parasite.
In the case of (a) these alternative food-plants are a danger, but they
are so numerous that the destruction of all the weeds on which -cotton pests are
known to be able to exist is generally out of the question, and their abundance
is such that they may reduce the efficiency of other methods of control, by con-
stituting an uncontrollable reservoir of the pests. The wide range covered by such
alternative food-plants is indicated by the lists of them given in the sections
dealing with individual pests.
(b) This use of alternative food plants is an aspect of the: old idea of
a "trap crop" which is used as a bait and then destroyed.
It would be impossible at present to induce the African to plant trap crops and
to destroy them at the right time but it may be possible so to arrange his crop
rotation that an insect such as Lygus, which attacks both cotton and cultivated
Leguminosae may feed happily on this latter crop without causing it .serious damage,
or at least cause less financial loss to this crop than to cotton. ;
In the Sudan stainers have been found to feed on baobab seeds and these trees
in places form the chief nucleus of the stainer population during the periods when
no cotton is available; the stainers thus collected on the trees can be destroyed by
burning. In Uganda the baobab does not occur naturally, but it is possible that one
of the many other food-plants of stainers may be found to be their sole focus at
some particular season, so that it may be utilised as an attraction (if sufficiently
easy to locate and not too numerous) or may be destroyed and thus create a gap
which these insects might find hard to bridge.
Both in Nigeria and in South Africa stainers have been proved to migrate
from various plants on to cotton -and seem, therefore, to have seasonal food-prefe-
rences. In the Sudan, besides the baobab, Sterculia kirkii has been found to be a
most important food-plant.
In considering alternative food-plants it is convenient to include cotton-seed
and "volunteer" cotton plants among them. These are sources of disease and of
stainers which have no counterbalancing beneficial effects. In the case of one
ginnery, volunteer plants growing in the compound were found to have 22.5% of
their locks damaged by stainers, even though the plants were not old enough to
have produced any ripe bolls; this compared with an average of 7.2% for the
district. These plants, being near old seed, could readily be infected with internal
boll rot by stainers obtaining the infection from the seed dump.
(c) Only in the case of Abutilon indicum, mentioned above as a food-plant of an
alternative host of the pink bollworm, can these plants be considered as of proved
benefit. The eradication of Abutilon would in any case be extremely difficult even
if it were found to be a critical food-plant of cotton stainers.
9. Mechanical Destruction.
This is a simple method of reducing the number of insects. It includes such
measures as collecting and destroying stainers, picking off and destroying damaged
bolls (thus destroying both disease organisms and surviving bollworms) when the
cotton crop is being picked, and picking off Helopellis from attacked plants. The
cultivation of plots assists in exposing eggs of stainers and pupae of bollworms to
the sun or to the attacks of predaceous enemies.
The Relationship of the Above Factors to Agricultural Practice.
When all the above factors are considered together it becomes a matter of
considerable difficulty to devise practical methods which will enable the harvesting
of a large and clean cotton crop. The normal methods of plant sanitation enforced
by law in Uganda, perhaps supplemented by simple mechanical methods, are one of
the means which can be employed. In addition work has been in progress for
some years to ascertain the best time to plant cotton, the best kind of cotton to
grow and the best distance apart to space it, so that by these means pests may to
some extent be dodged and at the same time the plant is given as good a chance as
possible of growing in such a way as to take advantage of the local soil and
climatic conditions which will enable it to produce the largest possible number of
The writer wishes to express his thanks to Mr. H. Hargreaves, Government
Entomologist, under whom the work on which the above article is based has been
carried out, and who has kindly given permission for the inclusion of some of his
more recent results.
The writer hopes to give a more detailed account of some of the experiments
and observations included above in a more technical journal at a later date. Refer-
ences to literature have been omitted from the above article as they tend to make
the subject even more ponderous than it is already.
II.NORT* AFRICAN-ARABIAN DESERT REGION
1 SUDANESE *UBPROV1NCE *******
2 EASTERN & SOUTHERN SUBPROVINCE **
3 NORTHEASTER SUBPROVINCE, *
B WESTERN FOREST PROVINCE AFRICA
4 TNA NY/KA
IV. SOUTHWESTERN CAPE REGION .
V. MALAGASY REGION *
UGA3 NORTHEASTERN SUBPRONCE ..
UGANDA BOUNDARY --a- *
A Guide to the Snakes of Uganda.
By C. R. S. PITMAN.
It is, I believe, correct to state that the human race generally has an instinctive
antipathy towards snakes, all of which are apt to be regarded as valueless and
deadly so that there is common resort to their indiscriminate and wasteful
This treatise has accordingly been written, not only with the object of affording
a descriptive list suitably illustrated with line drawings of all the known species
and where possible coloured plates in order to make identification more easy, but
to provide a better understanding of snakes generally, as well as to draw attention
to their very definite role of benefactors to humanity, strange though this may sound.
Although it can be justly claimed that this list is both up-to-date and compre-
hensive it is considered that the title "Guide" is preferable to that of "Handbook",
for the very good reason that it cannot pretend to be supported by all the published
references some of which are obscure and many not available in Uganda.
At the conclusion of the series of articles will be given a full list of the literature
to which reference has been made in the preparation of this "Guide", but it must
be mentioned here how indebted I am to the Macmillan Company of London and
New York for the generous permission accorded to quote freely from that fine
work, "The Snakes of the World" by Mr. Raymond L. Ditmars, Curator of Mammals
and Reptiles at the New York Zoological Park.
In particular the recent writings of Mr. A. Loveridge (Eastern Africa) of the
Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts:
Mr. H. W. Parker (Eastern Africa) of the British Museum (Natural History): Dr.J.
Chapin, Mr. K. P. Schmidt and Mr. Herbert Lang (Belgian Congo) on the results
achieved in the course of the Congo Expedition of the American Museum of Natural
History: and Major S.S. Flower (Egypt and the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan) have pro-
vided a valuable working basis supplemented by comprehensive local collections
acquired personally and by other interested enthusiasts.
Mr. Parker and Mr. Loveridge have assisted in no small measure by identify-
ing and classifying specimens and with much valuable advice freely given.
The value ofthe descriptive list is very greatly enhanced bythe carefullyprepared
line drawings, and the skilfully executed paintings of the artist, Miss O.F. Tassa'rt.
Also, I am much indebted to Mr. D. 0. Mathews of the Land and Survey
Department for the preparation of the two maps,
As considerable reference is made to (i) harmless, (ii) back-fanged or rear-
fanged, and (iii) venomous snakes, it will be as well to explain these terms.
On this subject Mr. Raymond L. Ditmars in his fine work the "Snakes of the
World" has given an exceedingly lucid exposition.
"An arrangement of serpents in series based on the structure of the teeth,
figures prominently in scientific writings.
Aglypha. Non-venomous snakes. All the teeth solid. Some may be fang-
like in size, but not grooved nor canalicular,
Mildly poisonous snakes with a pair or pairs of fangs in the rear of
the upper jaw, these teeth provided with a simple groove for
introduction of poison.
Cobras, Mambas, Coral Snakes and their allies-the Elapidae......
with a pair of permanently erect grooved fangs in the forward
portion of the upper jaw.
These poison-conducting teeth are more highly developed than
with the rear-fanged snakes. They are deeply grooved, but have
practically folded about the groove to form a canal beneath the
anterior surface. The enfolded groove opens at the tip for the
discharge of poison.
Viperine snakes. The fangs of proportionate great length, attached
to movable bones and folding against the roof of the mouth
when the jaws are closed. The poison channel is a central internal
canal" The term "Viperine" includes the Pit Vipers of the New
Snakes are far more abundant in species or kinds in the tropical latitudes. It
is the serpent amongst all reptiles which has become adapted to conditions of
lower temperature through its care in selecting favourable hibernating quarters,
and in consequence it has most extensively pioneered in extending its members
from the headquarters of reptile life, i.e. the zones of heat and humidity.
Snakes have become specialised respectively to markedly different environ-
ment. Thus we have exclusively desert, arboreal and semi-aquatic species, as well
as forms with a vertically compressed, oar-like tail which haunt the tropical seas.
The Cobra probably originated in Africa which is the centre of cobra distribution;
the dreaded King Cobra of Asia, the Old World's largest poisonous serpent is a
northern ally of a form which must have once existed in the Equatorial African
headquarters of the genus.
In Africa cobras are absent only from the regions of true desert.
Africa is also the focal point of occurrence of the typical vipers, which occur,
usually abundantly, in any part of the Continent, save in the lifeless desert wastes
or at excessive altitudes, and are found only in the Old World.
They do, however, penetrate well within the desert regions, where they are
represented by the hideous Horned Viper (Cerastes), a species which does not
occur in Uganda.
This is a highly specialised form which traverses the soft sands of its habitat
by throwing lateral loops of its protectively coloured body.
The tropical and southerly portions of Africa are practically everywhere
inhabited by big vipers with bodies that are proportionately so enormously stout and
provided with such tremendous heads and excessive length of fangs that they are
the most grotesque and repulsive of all serpents, besides being frightfully poisonous.
There are also, in Africa-in Uganda restricted to parts of the Ruwenzori and
south-western Kigezi regions-some strictly arboreal and somewhat slender vipers.
There is also a genus of African vipers--and nasty, poisonous little creatures they
are too-having narrow, plated heads, suggestive of a harmless species, which are
addicted to burrowing. It is all very confusing. Some of the most innocent in
appearance are the most dangerous.
Snakes, as is-the case with other vertebrates and many species of invertebrates,
are subject to curious numerical fluctuations dependent on various factors all of
which are not fully known.
It is well-known that Uganda is plentifully stocked with snakes. But, in the
course of the normal routine of the majority of the European community, contact
with snakes is liable to be exceptional. Uganda, with its vast areas of swamp, is a
particularly favourable habitat and the vicinity of any damp locality will usually be
found to harbour a bewildering quantity and variety of snakes.
Snakes do not obtrude their presence as a rule and one may go many months
without seeing one.
In Uganda, during the periods of heavy rain, especially during the "long" rains,
snakes are most in evidence.
Harmless species are often more prone to attack than the deadly varieties.
Aggressiveness during the breeding season is a characteristic in certain members
of both types.
Sportsmen stalking game, when the unusual posture of crawling along the
ground is adopted, frequently have most unpleasant rencontres with snakes, but even
thus meeting unexpectedly face to face and the advantage with the snake, I cannot
recollect hearing of any fatalities.
As the relative abundance of deadly to harmless (and mildly poisonous)
species is often approximately fifty/fifty it is amazing that human fatalities are so
rare, and testifies that the first instinct of most snakes is self-protection and not
Uganda's Geographical Situation and its Effect on Distribution.
Loveridge in litt. records "From its central position in the very heart of Africa
one might naturally assume that the cold-blooded fauna of Uganda would sur-
pass that of its eastern neighbours. Actually this is far from being the case,
nor does it seem probable that more intensive collecting of these groups is likely
to alter its status to any considerable extent. Undoubtedly careful study and
discriminative collecting along the western borders of the Protectorate will add
quite a number of species hitherto known only from the Congo and the Sudan."
Uganda's unique geographical situation will be seen at a glance from the map
(Fig. i) of the botanical regions of Africa. These are practically coincident with the
zoo-geographical regions or faunal zones, and as is only to be expected differ but
little from areas well-defined by variations in the extent of the mean annual rainfall.
Uganda, botanically, lies within the Ethiopian Region, which is divided into
(a) the Western Forest, and (b) the Savanna Provinces.
The Western Forest includes a large area of "Rain" Forest which has an
important influence on faunal distribution, and in which the average annual rainfall
is in excess, often considerably, of sixty inches.
The Savanna Province is further sub-divided, vide the map, respectively into
(ii) Eastern and Southern, and
(iii) North-Eastern or Abyssinian,
Sub-Provinces, all of which in varying degrees influence the reptilian
A narrow strip in the extreme north of Africa-the Mediterranean Region,
biologically is Palearctic; but in spite of the Nile valley, well-pronounced through-
out the greater length of its course, providing what appears to be a ready
highway, Palearctic influence is absent amongst the Uganda snakes. This is
scarcely surprising as Ethiopian conditions are unlikely to be favourable to the
residence of Palearctic forms.
But, at the same time, it cannot be overlooked that the trans-continental North
African/Arabian Desert Region must act generally as an insurmountable barrier
denying contact (except through the medium of the Nile valley) between the
North and Ethiopia.
On the other hand there is a very definite tendency on the part of the
Ethiopian influence to penetrate further and further north into Egypt via the Nile
valley. Such penetration is apt to be accelerated and extended remarkably by
accidental distribution through the medium of steamers and railways.
The North African/Arabian Desert Region with its specialised climatic
conditions so divergent from those of fertile Uganda can hardly be expected to
exert any faunal influence even in the drier eastern and north-eastern localities
of the Protectorate, but the day may not be far distant when progressive desiccation
due to the gradual encroachment south of the ever-hungry desert may tell another
It is through the desert zone, or along its borders, that a distinct Asiatic
influence, well-instanced by the Saw-scaled or Carpet Viper-Echis carinata and;the
Sand Boas-Eryx spp. has crept into North-Eastern Africa. A hundred years ago the
"Rain" Forest influence was predominant in the greater part of Uganda south and
west of the Victoria Nile, as well as in the coastal forests of Busoga,
extending easterly as far as the Kakamega Forest, south of Mt. Elgon, in Kenya
The low-lying "Rain" Forest zones of Uganda, owing to ruthless defores-
tation, are speedily becoming more and more isolated the one from the other, and
are in consequence conveniently referred to as forest "islands," The best examples
left are the Mabira Forest and certain of the densely timbered northern islands
of the Victoria Nyanza, which constitute forest islands" in the broader sense,
The Mabira Forest and the afore-mentioned islands have all been imperfectly
investigated faunally, and students in all branches of natural science could profita-
bly spend many months in these localities.
In the case of the recession of a botanical region such as that of the
Western Forest with its highly specialised "Rain" Forest zone, the ancestral
affinity will persist longest, of all the vertebrate fauna, in the reptiles and
amphibians which on account of their habits and restricted range of activities must
perforce remain behind when mammals and birds can move elsewhere to more
congenial surroundings. The "Western" influence in the Mabira Forest is particularly
In British Somaliland, which is not so very far to the east, Parker notes that :-
"The high degree of specialisation of the fauna suggests that the country possesses
some marked differentiation from the surrounding countries, but the relatively low
proportion of endemic genera further suggests that this isolation is not of long
standing. A consideration of the geological history of the country confirms these
There is, however, a high percentage of endemic species and races in Somaliland.
In the island of Madagascar on the East Coast of Africa there are no poisonous
In the detail of species will be found further remarks on distribution as directly
influenced by physiographical considerations.
As a rule in the case of the two Provinces of the Ethiopian faunal region,
although there are exceptions, it can be accepted that the Savanna fauna does not
penetrate the "Rain" Forest, but on the other hand the "Rain" Forest and Forest
Fauna is more likely to and does affect the neighboring Savanna.
The foregoing remarks should suffice to give a general indication of the
peculiarly interesting faunal situation in Uganda.
To illustrate the effect of climate and its concomitant vegetationon distribution
one can quote the highly-poisonous cobras and puff-adders, both consisting of large
species which should be familiar to many.
There are three types of cobras each of which may attain a length of seven
feet, and in certain species a known maximum of 81 feet. Naia melanoleuca -the
Black-lipped Cobra, is the "Rain" Forest representative which still persists inparts
of the Victoria Nyanza region of the Protectorate such as at Kampala and Entebbe
after the disappearance of its humid, forest habitat.
Naia nigricollis--the Black-necked or Spitting Cobra, is a Savanna species,
which appears to be replaced in the more arid and lower lying regions of the north
and east, and in the Lake Albert littoral of the western rift by Naia haie-the
Similarly the three massive vipers of the genus Bitis popularly known as
"puff-adder", are restricted respectively to (a) the Savanna, Bitis arielans,-the
(true) Puff Adder; (b) the "Rain" Forest, Bitis gabonica-the Gaboon Viper; and (c)
regions of the "Rain" Forest liable to seasonal innundation, Bills nasicornis-the
Rhinoceros-horned Viper or River-Jack.
Before closing the subject of distribution there is one important factor requir-
ing attention. Politically, the Protectorate is considerably smaller than in the
early days of its association with the British Empire, and in consequence the
records of some of the early collectors no longer refer to territory included in
present-day Uganda. This of course confuses considerably the distribution of
species, the case of the Common or "Black" Mamba-Dendraspis angusticeps being a
striking example. There is a Western Forest species of Mamba-Dendraspis
jamesonii which is common in Uganda in suitable localities, but the "Black" Mamba,
that serpent of sinister reputation, as far as I am aware does not occur above. the
western scarp of the great rift. Past records within our limits refer to a time when
the Protectorate boundary on the east extended as far as Lake Rudolf in the low-
lying vicinity of which the "Black" Mamba is found.
Adjustments of boundary during the past thirty-five years whereby Uganda
limits have contracted appreciably include a withdrawal respectively, in the east
and south-east from Lake Rudolf and the Mau Escarpment (Kenya) and in the
north from Gondokoro, to existing boundaries, vide the present-day map (Fig.2).
The inclusion in Uganda of the southern portion of the one-time Lado Enclave
(the West Nile district) has also added to the confusion. Uganda distribution of
course refers to the Protectorate as now constituted (1935.)
Rodents, i. e. rats and mice, form a large part of serpents' food, and a number
of snakes. are of important economic value to agriculturists in many parts of the
world. The particular abundance of a number of species of snakes, including some of
the various dangerous kinds, is often brought about by multiplication of rodents
occurring around outlying human settlements. Thus the prevalence of venomous
snakes, the Puff-Adder being an excellent example, in a number of cases is not
altogether an evil. As rodent-eaters snakes are particularly valuable.
It is admittedly stupid to kill non-poisonous snakes which are harmless to man
and most effective as destroyers of the four-footed pests which do so much damage
to economic crops and products.
If the annual loss to the country due to the depredations of the lesser rodents,
particularly to grain in the bin, could be correctly assessed, it would assume
staggering proportions almost impossible to credit.
The Puff Adder, though an unpleasing neighbour, is voracious in its dealings
with rats, and it frequents human habitations at certain seasons not to seek out
unsuspecting human victims but to satiate its appetite with the ravagers of the
grain-bin. These remarks should not be interpreted as advocacy of any special
protective measure for snakes, which is at present unnecessary; but it is a plea fora
broader outlook towards snakes in general and for abstinence from that
uncompromising attitude which demands the sacrifice of every serpent no matter the
It is well-worth fostering an interest in these little-known creatures which fill
a niche in nature as ordained by the Creator. One of the objects of this "Guide" is
to educate generally, and it is hoped the young idea particularly, concerning the
differences between the highly toxic and harmless species, as many are recognisable
in the field.
Characteristics and Habits.
It is best to start at the beginning, and although the fact is well-known to the
majority there are many who do not realise that snakes are hatched from eggs. The
eggs are not necessarily laid, for some snakes are viviparous and produce living
young, though most of them do deposit their eggs and these are styled oviparous.
As in the case of birds the eggs of reptiles are large and heavily laden with
yolk. They are dull whitish in colour, though they soon become stained darkly
with the soil or rubbish covering them.
Oviparous harmless species may be induced in confinement, and under
other unusual conditions of life, to become viviparous. The converse however is not
According to species the number of eggs varies tremendously and appears to
be smallest in many of the harmless forms. The greatest number personally noted
was seventy-five contained in the two ovaries of a puff adder nearly four feet in
length; and eighty-five eggs of Chlorophis sp.. unearthed near L. Mutanda, in S. W.
Kigezi, are believed to have been produced by several females.
Snakes' eggs, though there are exceptions, are usually more cylindrical than
those of birds and the shell is pliable like very thin leather: in many the length
usually approximates twice the breadth. An egg if dropped lightly on the ground
will bounce! Eggs are deposited in a variety of situations in which there is a
combination of suitable moisture, adequate drainage, and shade which produces
the even, humid temperature necessary for successful hatching, for once the eggs
are laid the parent in most cases takes no more interest in them.
The snake usually prepares a circular or ovoid hollow in soft soil and covers
her eggs with rotting vegetation, refuse or other similar materials. The eggs
actually swell as they absorb moisture. Before hatching the tiny reptiles develop
on their snouts an "egg-tooth" with the aid of which they are able to slit the tough
integument imprisoning them and escape.
In most species the period of incubation.is about eight weeks. The eggs of the
python are spherical and the size of oranges, and though fully rounded when found
in the condition of warmth and humidity requisite for successful incubation, speedily
collapse and shrivel when removed. The female python which lays her eggs, usually
thirty to fifty in number, in a conveniently sheltered situation-often at the bottom
of a pig-hole-does not cover them with rubbish, but having pushed them into a heap,
coils herself around them, and during the period of incubation only leaves them
to visit water which she usually does twice a day. Twenty-four hours before
hatching is due they are abandoned. While brooding there is an appreciable
increase (which may be as much as 120Fahrenheit) in the python's temperature
over the normal, and it is suspected that the brooding parent not only emanates
considerable warmth but also exudes a proportion of moisture enabling the eggs to
be kept at the right heat.
Snake eggs generally, as previously mentioned, do not receive prolonged
attention from the parent and coiling around them appears to be for the purpose of
keeping the mass of eggs from drying, as they require moisture to keep them fertile.
Masses of python's eggs I have come across have invariably been in sheltered,
humid spots. One frequently finds several abnormal and undoubtedly infertile eggs
in a python's set. These are brownish, oval, and with hard calcareous shells closely
resembling the eggs of birds, though rather pitted.
Most African vipers are viviparous and the young are either hatched
immediately the eggs are deposited, or emerge from the eggs before they leave the
There seems to be no well-defined breeding season and although it may be
possible to recognize periods of intensity or "peak" periods, breeding evidently takes
place all the y6ar round judging from the examination of some hundreds of specimens.
In countries of markedly contrasting climates snakes mate after hibernation:
similarly in dry, tropical regions of limited rainfall frogs and toads are mating
at the breaking of the rains, immediately after the period of estivation.
Many young snakes in the early days of their existence are entirely insectivorous.
The rate ot growth varies a good deal and is of course dependent on climate and
food supply, but normally it is rapid. As the tiny snakes increase the size of their
meals and their prey, so correspondingly is the rate of growth accelerated.
Interesting details in connection with the rate of growth of pythons are
recorded in the notes on the common African representative. Climatic conditions
in the greater part of Uganda are too equable to influence growth as periods of
hibernation are unnecessary.
Snakes re-act appreciably to temperature changes and in cold climates retreat
seasonally into secluded, sheltered spots for the winter quarters in which 'they
They can endure, while benumbed and motionless in hibernation, a temperature
close to freezing, but at or below that point when water freezes they are liable to be
In the Eastern African highlands various species of snakes are often found
after dark lying in a state of torpor on roads and paths. These have been lying in
wait for the small members, both warm and cold-blooded, of the vertebrate fauna
which, with the setting of the sun, frequent such localities. The sudden chill of
evening unexpectedly renders the snakes helpless.
In Northern Rhodesia in winter-time, there is a big contrast in day and night
temperatures, and at that season when motoring along the Great North Road in the
morning, before the sun had really penetrated the woodland and warmed the ground,
I have come across numerous puff adders within the space of a few miles which had
evidently been overcome temporarily by the excessive cold during their previous
evening's hunt for rodents.
During the snakes' winter sleep animation is partially suspended, so that in the
spring time they emerge in much the same condition as when they entered.
A snake's activity is influenced by the temperature of the air. Its normal blood
temperature is recorded as being usually done degree higher than that of the air.
A temperature of 7oF. to 90F. is best conducive to its activity. Below
seventy it slows down: at fifty it is nearly helpless : while at forty it barely shows
signs of life.
In consequence snakes are absent from the higher altitudes and in Uganda it is
unusual to find them above the 8ooo feet level.
Where evenings, nights and early mornings are cold one can sleep on
the ground when camping out, knowing full well that there is no chance of a wandering
snake being one's unwelcome bed-fellow!
In excess of 90F. a snake seeks cooler shelter, such as undergrowth or damp
ground, where evaporation produces a lower temperature at the immediate surface.
In the tropics shelter is invariably sought to avoid undue heat.
During the hot weather the African Python goes to the nearest water and lies
right in it, often wholly submerged, throughout the heat of the day.
Tropical snakes sometimes have "dens" in which they can avoid intense
heat, just as utilized by their brethren in other climes to escape from excessive cold.
A most curious and interesting phenomenon is the power to cast the skin; this
takes place periodically, and one of the occasions on which it almost invariably
happens is immediately after hibernation. As the time for a change of skin
approaches the snake's lidless eyes become dim and white with the thickening
of the old skin. I have seen an excellent description of their appearance- "like
bubbles filled with smoke." Then the eyes clear as an oily secretion forms under
the old epidermis or skin, loosening it on the body.
Transformation is now imminent, and the snake pushes the loose skin back
over the upper and lower jaw by rubbing amongst some hard material such as rock,
tree roots, or rough ground and once it has freed its head it creeps out of its old
covering by catching the moist tissue-like garment in stubbly grass or similar
formation, to emerge resplendent in its new coat.
The cast skin is turned inside out the entire length of the body clear to the
tip of tail, and the process takes place so skilfully that the shed skin is complete in
every detail, even to the peculiar scale over each eye which resembles a concave
lens in miniature. The process may take half-an-hour.
At the time of sloughing, or changing the skin, snakes are liable to be bad-
Snakes and lizards are covered with scales, which are embedded in the skin.
Over these there is a thin, transparent, horny layer. This is the portion which is
shed (or sloughed) periodically. Reptilian scales and avian feathers have much in
common, but whereas in the former only the thin outer covering of the scale is shed,
in the latter it is the whole feather which is cast at the time of moult.
One of the most interesting features of the reptilian eye-common also in the
members of the closely-allied avian order- is the nictitating membrane used to clean
the front of the eyeball. This is practically a third lid resembling a transparent
sheet which in the birds can be drawn upwards across the eye at will. It can be
easily observed by watching crocodiles or the larger birds, especially the owls, at
Snakes have neither upper nor lower lids and in consequence this membrane
is drawn permanently across the eye, and is shed when the skin is changed. Also,
they have no external ears.
A snake cannot strike with accuracy when more than the anterior third of its
body is off the ground, and when it strikes the movement is forward (or slightly
upward) and downwards.
In the case of the vipers, the movement is more often a side-stroke, in a lateral
Snakes range in size from thirty feet pythons weighing in excess of 300 lbs.
to midgets of less than six inches which can glide through an orifice one-eighth of
an inch in diameter.
The subject of the length of the larger snakes is a fruitful source of exag-
geration. In this connection some amazing claims have been made. A few years
ago, it was reported in all solemnity from the Toro district that a python one hund-
red and thirty feet in length had been killed in the Semliki valley, but there was no
tangible evidence of this terrifying giant as the local Bwambwa quickly converted it
That it was a well-known python of considerable age and size there was no
question-its existence had often been brought to my notice and I believe some of
the local natives venerated it,-but 130 ft. of python would probably need for
sustenance an elephant weekly!
Hearsay always likes to add a few feet to the authenticated records of the
large constricting serpents. In over thirty years' quest for a really outstanding
specimen, the largest the New York Zoological Park has been able to acquire is a
Reticulated Python from Malaya just 24 ft. long.
Maximum measurements of this species of python from authoritative sources
are 33 ft. and a few inches in excess of 30 ft.
The largest skin the late Sir Frederick Jackson ever saw-I am of course re-
ferring to the African Python -was 27 ft. long without head and with part of the tail
missing. Another skin of a specimen killed in the Mabira Forest of Kyagwe given
to him measured 22 ft. The largest one killed by Sir Frederick was 15 ft. 5 inches
in length and weighed 6o lbs. In the Baringo district (Kenya) Sir Geoffrey Archer
came across a 19 ft. python that had just uncoiled itself from a young waterbuck.
The African Python is the Old World's,third largest snake-it is often called
the Rock Python. It is unusual for the African Python to attain a length much
over 20 ft. and the average of adult examples is 16 to 17 ft. I have not had the
opportunity of measuring many in the flesh, and, of the few I have, none has
exceeded 15 ft.
In the New World there is one huge species-the Anaconda of tropical South
America, of considerably more aquatic habits than the Python. Though there
have been many exaggerated stories about its size, it is unquestionably the world's
largest living serpent as far as weight is concerned, though not in length.
The greatest lengths of captive specimens in the New York Zoological Park are
recorded respectively as 19 ft. with a circumference of 36 inches at the thickest
part of the body (weighing 236 lbs.), and 17 feet.
Most misleading about the Anaconda is its proportionately great bulk. The 17 ft.
specimen was as heavy in body as a 24 ft. Reticulated Python.
First hand information from reliable sources reduces the maximum length of
the Anaconda to 25 ft. with a weight in excess of 300 lbs.
Wild stories persist of the existence of 40 and even 50 ft. monsters, but in
spite of the lure of a thousand dollar reward for a skin in excess of 40 ft. such a
trophy has never materialised.
The giants amongst the deadly Elapine snakes are the King Cobra or
Hamadryad of Asia, probably the world's most interesting snake, and the Mamba
The King Cobra is not only the world's largest poisonous serpent and the most
deadly of all reptiles, owing to the great amount of the particularly powerful nerve-
destroying toxin its glands secrete, but is possibly the most dangerous of all living
wild creatures. Remarkable for the deadliness of its fangs, it is extremely active
and commonly inclined to attack. Coupled with insolence, sometimes prompted by
curiosity, but more often by anger, is an intelligence that renders it unique.
The King Cobra and the Mamba are both of the slender, "racer" type, the former
attaining a length in excess of 18 ft.-not long ago a specimen in captivity in the
Gardens of the Zoological Society of London in Regent's Park measured more than
17 ft.-while the latter is known to exceed i 2 ft.
Although the King Cobra can be described as decidedly slender, and in the
larger specimens weighs about a pound per foot of its length, it is foot for foot nearly
twice as thick as the largest Mamba.
The King Cobra is a cannibal, but avoids tackling other poisonous species. In
ten months a 14 ft. specimen devoured 145 ft. of harmless species!
There are cases on record of elephants being killed by the King Cobra after
having been bitten on the tender skin at the end of the trunk or on the foot at the
juncture of the nail. An elephant is said to die in about three hours after being bitten.
Snakes vary tremendously in shape, and it is incorrect, as is often claimed, that
harmless snakes are readily distinguished by slender outline, and similarly it is
equally wrong to assign all species with wide heads and thick bodies to the viper
The harmless and the back-fanged species are classed Colubrine, the latter
distinguished as a separate sub-family-Boiginae.
Closely allied to the Colubrine are the Elapine or deadly, front-fanged species,
which are also sometimes referred to erroneously as Colubrine with the qualification
The Elapine members are readily recognisable by the presence in the upper
jaw of a pair of short, rigidly-set poison fangs.
In shape they are mainly slender, yet they include some of the world's most
deadly reptiles. Indiscriminately mixed with harmless serpents of ordinarily narrow
head and moderately slender body, no one but an expert could distinguish
members of this dangerously deceptive family.
In this connection can be quoted two interesting episodes concerning the
importation of snakes into Great Britain during 1934.
In the first, a species ot Green Mamba was found accidentally included in a
consignment of similar-hued green Boomslangs which were not being handled,
with particular caution.
In the second, a Covent Garden truit porter for several days carried about in his
coat pocket a small example of a Fer-de-lance, a particularly deadly South American
species, which he had found in a bunch of bananas!
In all probability in each case the snake's inactivity was due to unaccustomedly
low temperatures, and thereby, mercifully, fatalities were avoided.
The vipers belong to a family in which fang-development has reached the
zenith of perfection. This has been previously mentioned, and later will be dis-
cribed more fully.
In relationship snakes are closely-allied with the lizards, and belong to the
same scientific order-the scaled reptiles.
Snakes differ from lizards in the body skeleton, being composed simply of a
back-bone and ribs. The cobra's hood is actuated by long, spreading, anterior ribs.
In a few snakes there are vestiges of pelvic bones and rudimentary (internal) hip4
There are, of course, forms of legless lizards, resembling snakes, but they lack
the loosely-connected, expansible jaw-structure for engulfing the prey entire,
characteristic of snakes.
A snake has a definite neck, though externally it is difficult to discern where
it begins and ends.
Snakes are believed generally to be short-lived, but reliable data are scanty.
Snakes have specific places to which they resort regularly, and their range
extends as far as two miles from these places. These regular resorts are the mat-
ing grounds. A snake's wanderings are not aimless and are directly influenced by
two necessities-food and water.
Most reptiles are very lethargic. Excessive heat or cold respectively produce
similar conditions of sleepiness.
In regard to movement, the speed, strength and agility of many species is
amazing. Some of the larger, slender-bodied types, popularly styled "racers"-for
instance the mambas,-can glide with the speed of a running man.
This is a remarkable instance of true specialisation in a group of creatures
which have lost their limbs yet have acquired remarkable dexterity with apparently
little effort through no visible means.
The slow forward progress of a viper is not a glide, but if closely watched. it
will be observed to consist of a movement of the ribs beneath the skin, and it has
been aptly likened to a centipede clad in a cerpent's skin using its limbs in walk-
The normal gait of the slower-moving species when not frightened is also
assisted by the hitching forward and drawing back of the broad shields beneath the
body -the sharp, overlapping edges of which are directed backwards. The sharp edges
of the beneath-the-body scales of arboreal species such as,, the Mamba and
Boomslang usually exhibit signs of considerable wear.
An American research worker after lengthy experiment and investigation has
come to the conclusion "that the forward speed of the quick-moving species depends
upon one or more declivities or projections upon the ground. All that is necessary
is some form of resistance from the rear enabling the snake to push forward. The
action is indicated by the forward progress of quickly-moving snakes being in
undulations, never in a straight line."
The undulations may be slight, but there is always some part of the body
indicating a lateral bending to one side or the other. The rear of the lateral, and
there are usually several undulant loops, indicates a spot or spots offering resistance
for the elongated body to be propelled forward, and utilised in rapidly thrusting it
ahead. On smooth surfaces snakes can maintain a high speed if a few unevennesses
are present, but where nothing exists for anchorage or propulsion of the lateral
folds a snake flounders and literally tries to swim.
Some of the strictly arboreal species have a dexterously prehensile tail which
coils advantageously like a spring around a bough.
Nearly all snakes, even the cumbrous Puff Adder, can swim with ease, many
with extreme rapidity. Some of the fresh-water snakes are expert in quickly div-
ing to the bottom to hide or to pursue prey.
Most of the smaller, burrowing snakes have either a conical head or a sharp,
wedge-shaped snout which enables them to bore quickly into soft ground-in some
the tail is terminated by a sharp spine.
Methods of prey killing have developed along unique lines. Snakes owing to
their structure are particularly vulnerable so that their means of defence and
offence must of necessity incapacitate their prey or an enemy exceptionally swiftly
and effectively. Constriction or squeezing is resorted to by a large number of the
In attack and in defence snakes must be sure and quick, and the enveloping
coils are flung about a victim before it has the opportunity of inflicting injury.
The whole operation of seizing the prey with the jaws, coiling about it, and
the beginning of constriction may be completed within a couple of seconds. The
prey is usually too confused by the rapidity of attack to defend itself.
Many fairy tales have been recorded concerning constriction which actually is
not nearly so powerful as often alleged, and is intended to prevent a victim from
breathing. In the case of the python constriction is not intended to crush the bones
of the animal seized. It is a quick method of killing, quicker and more positive
than is indicated by the habits of most carnivorous animals.
There is a story of a man performing in a circus who had allowed a seventeen
feet python to wind around him. Without warning and for no apparent reason it
drew its coils together a little tighter. The man dropped dead and his bones were
found to be broken in eighty-four places.
A full-grown male Thomson's gazelle with horns which was swallowed by a
python i i ft. 9 ins. in length was found to be so crushed that the ribs of the ante-
lope protruded on the opposite side of the body. The spine was broken in four
places, the pelvis fractured, and one thigh bone broken. The swallowing process
took i hour 30 minutes.
Bone-breaking force is unnecessary, and incidentally few snakes are capable of it.
In the event of a mis-timed or faulty attack, the victim may defend itself vigorously,
and then it is necessary to squeeze all the tighter so as to put an end to the de-
fence as speedily as possible.
Pythons frequently exhibit large scars from wounds-wild swine usually de-
fend vigorously with their tushes-acquired in tussles with their prey.
A python does apparently sustain a good deal of injury in the process I ima-
gine of swallowing abnormally large victims, when its body becomes unduly dis-
tended, for I have seen the skeleton of a fifteen feet python in which a proportion
of the ribs had been fractured-evidently from excessive internal pressure-and had
healed showing considerable ossification at the site of the injuries.
Some of the smaller Colubrine snakes swallow their prey alive, this being
typical of the toad-and frog-eaters.
Toads and frogs usually inflate themselves prodigiously when seized by these
snakes, but the serpent, being provided with greatly enlarged teeth in the posterior
portion of the mouth, is able to puncture the distended body which becomes de-
flated and is then swallowed more easily.
Snakes, according to the several species, have a varied bill of fare ranging
from insects in the case of the harmless Earth or Blind Snakes, which resemble
the English Slow Worm, to antelopes as large as sheep and calves in that of the
Some feed exclusively on eggs, others catch birds, rodents and various small
mammals, and so on.
Rats, frogs and other small vertebrates which constitute a snake's normal prey
are liable to be passed by at close quarters and missed by the hunting serpent if
they remain motionless.
The back-fanged snakes have a very similar provision to that of the Colubrine,
though employed quite differently, and most of them are only mildly poisonous to
human beings. Feeding largely on lizards it is necessary for them to subdue their
prey quickly and in consequence the fangs introduce a benumbing poison.
Once the prey has been seized several rapid forward motions of the maxillary
bones advance the upper jaw sufficiently to bring the rear fangs into action.
They serve the dual purpose of hooks to hold their prey, as well as to inject
their paralysing poison which speedily renders the victim limp and inert so that it
can be easily swallowed.
A good instance is that of the arboreal Boomslang which preys to a great
extent on chameleons, particularly tenacious and vigorous customers which would
be almost impossible to subdue without the aid of a powerful paralysing agent; in
fact boomslangs which have seized chameleons often fall out of trees during their
desperate efforts to overcome the victim.
The deadly cobras and mambas seize in similar fashion but their more potent
poison is far quicker in action and enables energetically active and savage crea-
tures like rats to be seized and incapacitated almost instantaneously.
The mode of attack of the vipers is aptly termed dramatic. Few of the vipers
retain their hold of the prey after striking it. Their usual action is to strike from
a lateral S-shaped loop of the neck, either while gliding or from a coiled position.
The whole action, from the launching of the head forward until the return to the
original position with closed jaws, appears like nothing more than a flash of move-
inent. The human eye is unable to diagnose the operation, yet the same is complex
in several perfectly completed actions, which are worth describing in detail.
As the jaws start forward in the strike they are widely opened. The long re-
curved fangs on their movable bones swing forward until they point almost directly
at the object to be struck. Reaching the target they are imbedded partially
by the thrust and by a biting movement simultaneously started At the instant of
the biting movement, in fact creating that movement, certain muscles in the upper
jaw contract and in so doing press against and squeeze the poison glands. The bite
is accompanied by an instantaneous jet of venom from the hollow fangs, which
leaves the orifice at the tips now deeply imbedded. The flash of withdrawal of the
fangs is almost as quick as penetration and the serpent resumes the original position.
The whole process of striking, injecting the poison and return to the lateral
loop of the neck is accomplished as quickly as the fall of an object like a pencil
from one's hand to the ground,
In connection with the strike or bite of snakes there exists a popular fallacy
concerning the manner in which a snake opens its mouth. The general and casual
idea is that it is the upper jaw which is raised, but, if one thinks of one's own mouth,
on6 will realise that such a feat is impossible and that the lower is the movable jaw.
This is further discussed when dealing with the huge vipers of the genus Bitis.
If a viper with its enormous length of fangs misses its stroke, having origi-
nally opened its mouth so wide that the jaws are in the same plane, the fangs do
riot penetrate the lower jaw as orie would expect but, owing to the flexible coupl-
ing at the front of that jaw,' the chin contracts and avoids the stroke.
Injected into the vital parts of a small animal the effect of the poison is almost
instantaneous. Death may occur within a few seconds; often the bitten animal drops
with scarcely a quiver. At all events consciousness is very short and the serpent
calmly awaits the result, confident that its prey cannot escape.
It appears to be generally believed that quickly administered wounds through
fleshy parts are comparatively painless and, if this is truly the case, that flash of
the viper's fangs and deep injection of a quickly overwhelming toxin form the
cleanest method of killing in obtaining food that exists among the vertebrate
An observation by Major S. S. Flower offers conclusive confirmation-"When
the viper (C. cerastes) struck a sparrow, the bird hardly appeared to be aware of
the fact: the stroke was so sudden that onlookers might think that the snake had
missed its aim: 27 to 90 seconds later the sparrow would roll over-dead".
Brief allusion has already been made to the varied diet of snakes. In this con-
nection mention has been omitted that some eat fish. A considerable number feed
only on warm-blooded prey (birds and mammals) while others of similar size take
only cold-blooded prey (frogs, toads, fish, etc.). Both types would starve if these
foods were reversed. There are, however, plenty of species which are omnivorous.
Some eat eggs swallowing them entire and breaking them with the muscles of the
throat or passing them into the stomach where the shells are dissolved by the gas-
tric juices. An African species which is common in Uganda lives entirely upon
eggs and has bony projections in the throat for cutting the shells. Truly cannibal-
istic species seem to be absent from Africa, although there are several which readily
devour their own kind. The cannibal snakes and in fact all species which feed upon
cold-blooded prey, appear to digest their food quicker and feed at more frequent in-
tervals than those subsisting on warm-blooded prey, and may require food at inter-
vals as frequent as Vve days to a week apart.
After a good meal snakes lie dormant for a time, and may go some weeks
between meals. Of all animals, snakes suffer least from the want of food.
The bones and even the teeth of mammals are dissolved by the gastric juices,
but the hair or fur is not affected by digestion, even retaining its colour and lustre.
Likewise, the hoofs of wild swine and small antelopes-actually compressed or soli-
dified hair-swallowed by pythons, are not wholly digested.
As robbers of the hen-roost some species, especially the venomous Black-
necked Spitting Cobra, are an unmitigated nuisance, and it is when such dangerous
kinds enter dwelling-huts in search of prey, and when the rodent-eating, sluggish
Puff Adder frequents human habitation that fatalities are liable to occur.
There is one other portion ofthe snake's (and lizard's) anatomy, which is unique
and which immediately attracts attention.
This is the peculiar forked tongue, which is in frequent use as an investigating
organ when the reptile is in motion or particularly alert. This quivering member,
swept through a vertical or horizontal plane, with tips expanded, imparts a sinister
effect to the snake in the eyes of the ignorant and misinformed. Thus the tongue
is sometimes thought to be a stinging organ; but it is in no way connected with the
venom apparatus of poisonous species. When at rest the tongue is drawn into a tubular
sheath in the lower portion of the mouth.
The highly specialised tongue appears to be an organ of various functions-to
detect vibrations and to pick up, can we call it "taste", various odours either in the
air or on the ground. The sense of scent through the nostrils seems to have given
way to this acuteness of pick-up by the indispensable tongue. With some snakes it
is undoubtedly used to intimidate, in others it may be the means of attracting its prey.
In intimidating, the tongue is slowly waved with tips widespread, or it is thrust
forward held motionless like an elongated sting. No wonder, with common resort
to such antics, it is often thought that a snake actually possesses a sting.
In most snakes the tongue is blue-black, but in some it is vermilion at the
base and black at the fork and tips, or even more startling, among the kinds
particularly prone to threaten, the organ may be yellow or green or of some other
brilliant (or "poisonous") hue.
Snakes, owing to the absence of the necessary vocal chords-in spite of the
manifold claims to the contrary-are unable to utter any sound other than the usual
hiss. But frogs and toads which are preyed on to a great extent by certain species
of snakes-and there are types of frogs which live largely in trees-are capable of
producing and sometimes do utter the most unearthly shrieks and strident cries.
The agonised scream of an invisible captive frog, apparently emanating from a
visible snake, may well have given rise to the idea of a "crowing" snake.
In Uganda, as well as throughout the greater part of Africa-and this is most
of the Continent--in which the Puff Adder and its relatives of the spectacular genus
Bitis occur, there is a prevalent native belief that these big vipers are responsible for
a curious booming or siren-like hooting heard at night. Similarly the Python is
credited with bleating like a goat.
Unidentified, mysterious noises of the African night, particularly in the swamp
and humid forest regions of Uganda, are most likely attributable to certain, very
vocal, arboreal frogs.
The mode of attack of the large constricting serpents-including the Python, is
a subject of constant controversy, and particularly. in regard to the method of over-
It is not so much a matter of size, as the part of the victim that may be enveloped.
Do not imagine that the Python is prone to attack, for like most snakes it usually
endeavours to escape when disturbed or alarmed.
A ten to twelve feet specimen can be dangerous if part of its coils entangle
a man's arms and others are around his neck, and if it endeavours to constrict with
all its strength.
A snake in such a position may grasp the victim's clothing with its teeth,
which makes it difficult to disentangle its coils by reaching for its head and thus
unwinding the body.
The tail serves as the proper medium for thus untangling the coils. The tail is
not only harmless-the Python is capable of biting savagely from the other end-
but the power of the constricting muscles is more easily overcome by pulling the coils
open from this direction.
A ten to twelve feet specimen is dangerous if a man is alone, but one about fifteen
feet or over could immediately render a man helpless and stop his breathing by
It is doubtful if even a twenty feet Python could swallow an average adult
human, owing to the breadth of the shoulders, but so far I have heard of no one who
has been unfortunate enough or rash enough to try the experiment! The swallowing
capabilities of these large snakes is another source of ridiculous exaggeration, though
they can swallow creatures of much greater size than the girth of their own bodies.
I have seen and heard first-hand of situtunga, pig, duiker, reedbuck, young
waterbuck, bushbuck, impala and other smaller mammals and birds being taken. A
thirteen feet Python I once killed had swallowed a female situtunga not quite fully
grown, but which must have weighed about 60 lbs. This probably constituted a
maximum meal, and I imagine its jaws must have been stretched to nearly bursting
point. A thirty feet Python would probably be able to swallow an antelope of not
unusual bulk, weighing about i50 lbs.
This indicates the limits of the Python's swallowing capacity. Stories of pythons
swinging from trees and grasping and constricting buffaloes and the larger
antelopes are, I am afraid, born of an over-fertile imagination. Big snakes do not
wantonly attack the larger jungle-life with the malicious intent of squeezing it
Also, constriction is not so pronounced that the prey is crushed into an
elongated mass and thus rendered easier to swallow. Actually, there is little or no
change in the form of the victim, which is simply killed by being so squeezed that
it is unable to breathe.
It is a prevalent belief that a Python in the course of seizing its prey intentionally
strikes it a blow severe enough to disable it. This is incorrect, as the strike of a big
serpent, though sometimes extremely powerful, is not intended as a blow; it is solely
a seizing movement.
The pythons have what can be described as elastically attached jaw mechanism,
enabling them to swallow food of very large dimensions. As in certain other species,
the lower jaws are provided with lever-like connections enabling them to move
forward extensively, and grasp and swallow by subsequent pulling of recurved teeth.
Pythons possess rudimentary, internal hind limbs, which project from the body as
a pair of spines or blackish claws, and around which the natives in various parts of
Africa have woven the most fantastic legends.
Owing to the flexible jointing at the fore-end of the lower mandible, which
allows the two jaw bones to work independently of each other as the necessity
arises, as well as to-the expansible linking of the rear end with the skull, a snake can
accommodate its mouth to the size of meal it wishes to swallow! It has no breast-bone
and the skin stretches conveniently.
The teeth of snakes are long, sharp and recurved, and in number, size and
development vary tremendously.
A python can open its entire head till the jaws are in the same plane.
Once a victim is impaled on the rows of recurved teeth escape is impossible,
however much it wriggles. It is dragged back into the mouth and down into
the gullet by alternate movements of the independent lower jaw bones.
A python can readily disgorge its prey, and in captivity sometimes, after feeding,
a strapping of insulating tape is placed round the snake's neck to prevent this
happening. Nearly all snakes, including the vipers and cobras, are capable of
disgorging their prey when necessary. After the prey has been seized any sudden
demonstration or noise will usually cause the snake to disgorge, both in the wild
state and under cage conditions. A snake does this in self-defence.
The death-dealing fangs of the poisonous species although easily damaged and
rendered innocuous are speedily replaced,
Generally speaking, only one-eighth approximately of the known species of
snakes are equipped with highly developed poison-conducting fangs, and of this
fraction not more than 6o per cent. are lethal to man.
In the deadly Elapine species the fangs are comparatively short and rigidly
attached with a groove in front near the tip, down which the venom, of neurotoxic
(nerve-destroying) action, flows.
In the viperine snakes the fangs, which are nothing more nor less than hypo-
dermic needles, are of such length that they are attached to movable bones, as
previously mentioned, and fold backwards inside the mouth when the jaws are closed.
As all poisonous snakes frequently renew and shed the fangs, a row of renewals, from
developing points to full size, will be found behind the functioning fangs. This is
particularly pronounced in the great vipers and I have often been asked whether
I am aware that the Puff Adder is not infrequently double-fanged. In many Puff
Adders, Gaboon Vipers and Rhinoceros-horned Vipers I have examined in this
country, and elsewhere, the doubled-fanged appearance, due no doubt to the
imminence of shedding of the fangs in use, has been most striking.
Venoms are broadly separated into two types-(a) Neurotoxic, or nerve-
destroying, and (b) Haemotoxic, or blood (and tissue) destroying. Certain large vipers
of the genus-Bitis, as will be described later, secrete a combination of these venoms.
Respiratory failure is the principal symptom of a neuro-toxin.
Ready recognition of the two widely divergent deadly groups of snakes will
ensure resort to the use of the correct remedy which may make all the difference
between life or death.
Most snakes are not immune to their own poison, and swiftly succumb if they
bite themselves or are bitten by their own kind or other poisonous species. As a rule
snake-eating types do not prey on poisonous species, and, if they do, are careful to
avoid being bitten: a notable exception is the King Snake of North America.
Snakes, such as the harmless Colubrine, the back-fanged Poiginh, and the
deadly Elapine (Cobras, Garter Snakes and Mambas), which subsist mainly on cold-
blooded prey naturally secrete a neurotoxic agent; while the Vipers or Adders,
which consume primarily warm-blooded food, generally store a poison which is
hsemotoxic in action, though, as just mentioned, in some both are found.
In connection with the toxicity of the various types of poison, and the charac-
teristics of the better-known deadly species, the African Continent, according to
Ditmars "has an extremely interesting variety of poisonous serpents ...... Some
are particularly dangerous owing to excessive fang length and high toxicity of venom;
and among others there is a manifestation practically unique. This is the ability
and deliberate intent of certain cobras to 'spit' their poison in the direction of the
eyes of intruders. At least two African cobras have expertly developed the effect-
ive defence of ejecting their venom in a shower of fine drops towards an enemy's
eyes. This is done with definite intent. As this type of poison is at once absorb-
ed through the conjunctiva, the spray, if reaching its mark, and it is directed with
force and accuracy, throws the victim into a condition of pain and confusion, enabl-
ing the cobra to escape."
"The Spitting Cobra or Black-necked Cobra, (Naia nigricollis) comes close to
being the most dangerous snake of Africa, being second only to the active and deadly
mambas which sometimes viciously attack. Its size and power enable it to eject
effectively its venom to a distance of eight feet or more and thus reach the
eyes of a standing person. It is the type of attack which usually strikes the victim
as a complete surprise. Moreover, it is administered in an instant, the snake rear-
ing and spitting upon slight provocation."
"The term 'spitting' does not correctly indicate the manner of ejecting the poison,
as the performance is accomplished with the jaws slightly parted and the venom
comes directly from the openings at the tips of the fangs. The performance is very quick.
The snake rears and it may instantly spring to the pose. Facing the object of anger
it looks intently at one's face .. .. ... if it seeks to direct the poison upwards it
curves its rearing pose backwards, thus directing its head upwards. The ejection
of the poison is an instantaneous operation. The jaws are slightly opened and closed
so quickly as to appear like a snapping motion and during this action the poison
leaves the fangs. There is no dribbling or spilling of the fluid. It issues in twin jets
and the jaws of the snake are clear of it while the feat is accomplished. There is
every indication that, at the instant the snake prepares to eject the poison, it contracts
the temporal muscle over each poison gland thus producing pressure to force thetoxic
fluid a considerable distance. This flies with such force that its impact can be
distinctly heard against ordinary glass five feet away. At the instant of ejection
the snake emits a sharp hiss. This ejection of air might be an accompanying token
of anger, or it may assist the travel of the poison".
I have quoted at length as this is a most valuable account in detail of the 'spitting'
method of attack, and is based on repeated, carefully executed observations on the
part of reliable zoologists.
If a human being is unfortunate enough to receive a dose of poison in the eye,
the sooner the affected organ can be washed the better. Immediate attention even
with water will probably negative the possibility of unpleasant consequences, though
the use of an antiseptic such as a weak solution of permanganate is preferable, and the
application of boric in solution or milk is also claimed to be effective. I once saw
a small dog which had received a full dose in one eye. No washing had been
possible for some time and as a result, during a period of three weeks, an opaque,
milky-white film developed and gradually extended over the whole eye. This film
then cleared slowly in about the same time leaving the eye, as far as could be dis-
cerned superficially, as good as before.
Ditmars' description of the poison is strikingly clear.
"The immediate result is intense pain and temporary blindness caused by the
superficial blood vessels absorbing the venom. This conjunctivitis subsides in a
few days if prompt treatment is applied...... It is probable if nothing were done to
dilute or wash away the poison from the absorbent membranes, serious impair-
ment of sight, or blindness, would result. Not enough of the poison appears to be
absorbed through the conjunctiva to produce fatal organic symptoms; in fact, the
poison of this snake-possibly through the provision of rapid secretion in the
glands-does not seem to be so toxic when injected into tissue as others of its
"Astonishing amounts of poison are expended.........after a vigorous demons-
traction and the discharge of four to six jets of poison the glands rapidly refill.
This seems to be a particular provision.....the new fluid is of much lighter specific
gravity than older storage and consequently of lower toxicity."
The maximum distance the poison can be ejected by six feet examples has
been measured at twelve feet, so that to stand within six feet would be unsafe, as
from this distance, in its reared pose, a large specimen could accurately direct a
spray of poison forward and upward into one's eyes.
On occasion (to be described later) the big viper-Bills nasicornis has been
known to spit.
An important consideration when discussing snakes is the relative abundance
of harmless and deadly species, and in the case of the latter, the proportion of
Elapine to Viperine.
With the object of obtaining data concerning this all-important aspect, oppor-
tunity was taken in I933, during a period of a few weeks when in the vicinity of
the Mabira Forest in Kyagwe, to collect as many snakes as possible.
Fifty-five were examined and the result is illuminating. Though by no
means conclusive it does give some idea of the relative abundance respectively of
the venomous, back-fanged, and harmless species.
The harmless, burrowing, blind, Earth Snake-Typhlops punctatus (of which
there were four), and the harmless, solid-toothed Colubrine snakes were repre-
sented by 26 specimens or 47 per cent.
The back-fanged Colubrine snakes (Boigince) numbered 5, or 9 per cent and the
venomous species 24, or 44 per cent, of which the Viperine outnumbered to Elapine,
represented principally by the Black-lipped Cobra, by slightly more than two one
(17 to 7).
The actual species which turned up most frequently were:-
(a) Boaedon oh'vaceus, a harmless cream-bellied black species-12.
(b) Bitis gabonica-io (Venomous-the Gaboon Viper).
(c) Naia melanoleuca-5 (Venomous-Black-lipped Cobra).
(d) Bitis nasicornis-4 (Venomous-Rhinoceros-horned Viper or River-Jack).
The Gaboon Viper is possibly the most plentiful species although, on account of
its cryptic coloration and in spite of its large size, it is unlikely to attract attention.
The Black-lipped Cobra is certainly more plentiful than its total of five suggests, as is
also the River-Jack. Another poisonous species is the little Atractaspis or Burrowing
Viper, black, small and slim with glossy scales, which rarely attains a length of two
feet, is insignificant looking and apt to be treated with scant respect, but in attack
is amazingly quick. One example turned up in this Mabira collection.
Of the venomous species, although the sluggish Viperine are of course far easier
to collect than the active Elapine, I am inclined to believe that the percentage of 71
Viperine to 29 Elapine is a reasonably accurate estimate of relative abundance in
this particular area. One Mamba onlywas brought in,a somewhat alarming experience,
for on account of its captors' fear that in the event of it being seriously damaged no
reward would be forthcoming, this six feet specimen was brought to me without
bonds of any description, and more alive than dead.
I was surprised at the abundance of venomous species, constituting as they do
nearly fifty per cent. of the total; but still more interesting in the other half is the
comparative scarcity of back-fanged varieties and the overwhelming proportion of
During October 1933, in the Muko region of the Kigezi district, at the north end
of Lake Bunyonyi (altitude varying from 6500o to 7500 feet), one hundred snakes were
examined in the course of a week. Eight species were represented of which seven
were harmless and one poisonous.
The poisonous species is the Tree Viper-Atheris nitschei, which is abundant
and associated with swampy localities and their vicinity. The degree of deadliness of
the poison is not known, and this viper's bite probably rarely proves fatal to human
beings. A total of thirty represents its percentage abundance in this collection.
Of the seven harmless species, totalling seventy specimens:-
(a) Boaedon lineatus-the Brown House Snake, is the commonest-23.
(b) Chlorophis emini (=irregularis)-Emin's Green Tree Snake, always asso-
ciated with water-i 5-
(c) Duberria lutrix- 18.
(d) Dasypeltis scaber-the Egg-eating Snake, in both a black and red-brown
(e) Lycophidion capensis-the Wolf Snake-4.
The non-occurrenceof the Puff Adder is noteworthy: the Cobra also appears to
be absent or remarkably scarce in this elevated lake region. That there should be
no back-fanged species amongst so large a number is also noteworthy.
Fatalities fortunately are not of such frequent occurrence as is generally believ-
ed; in fact, exhaustive enquiry only tends to accumulate evidence to the contrary,
and authenticated cases of deaths from snake-bites are few and far between.
Quite a light tap from a pliant stick will irreparably damage a snake's backbone
and incapacitate the creature.
The action of the poisons injected is discussed further in the notes on indivi-
Anti-venoms suitable for dealing with the bites of African venomous snakes are
prepared at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and at Port Elizabeth, South Africa (under
the direction of Mr. F. W. Fitzsimons). Anti-venoms are injected into the victims
of snake-bite-and the lives of valuable stock and dogs have also been saved by
their prompt use-for the purpose of neutralising the toxins introduced by the snake.
An anti-neurotoxic serum is particularly useful in checking respiratory failure; and
according to Ditmars, "it would seem important, if not imperative, to give blood
transfusions in all severe cases of snake-bite poisoning with great hemorrhage,
shock and toxemia."
Snake-bite outfits should be included in the personal effects of those who visit
or live in Africa and should invariably accompany all field-workers. I cannot do
better than emphasise Mr. Ditmars' dictum--"travellers should carry the protective
accessories indicated for the country, not only with a thought of themselves, but
ffor the native assistants they employ on their respective missions."
The protective equipment consists of hypodermic syringe, the requisite needles,
and a supply of anti-venom. Sterilised needles, protected with a little cotton wool,
can be conveniently carried in a small, stout, glass tube containing spirit.
It is not necessary to detail the procedure to be adopted in the case of snake-
bite, though it cannot be over-emphasised that rapidity of treatment, and particularly
the correct treatment, is all important.
First-aid should aim at neutralizing the venom locally, and preventing its
absorption into the human system, by ligatures applied in the right places, but the
application of a ligature for longer than half-an-hour is dangerous. In the event of
difficulty in breathing, artificial respiration may be necessary.
There is a widespread belief that in snake-bite cases the consumption of
excessive quantities of alcohol, for instance neat whisky, will produce beneficial
results. Actually, a stimulant in small quantity-coffee strong and black being
probably the best-can be administered without undue ill effect in all cases, though
where cobras and mambas are the species concerned, excessive stimulation will
accelerate the fatal results induced by the neurotoxic or nerve-destroying venom
It should not be difficult to remember that alcohol does no harm in the case of
viper bites, but is absolutely deadly as a remedy against those of the cobras and
mambas. The prominent members of the two groups, the vipers represented by the
massive species of the genus Bitis, ought not to be confused. But full instructions
will be found with whichever anti-venom serum is used.
In regard to the anti-venoms previously mentioned, Fitzsimons' is polyvalent
i.e. is both anti-neurotoxic and anti-hmmotoxic, and remedial in action against the
bites of mambas, cobras and South African vipers. It is not guaranteed for so long
a period as those from the Pasteur Institute which carry a four years' guarantee,
though this great philanthropic Institute does not yet, as far asI am aware, produce
a polyvalent serum applicable to Africa as a whole, but caters specifically for the
several French-Colbnial zones.
The sera procurable are:-
(a) Afrique Nord- Anti-elapine and anti-viperine;
(b) Afrique Occidentale-Anti-Bitis and Cephedon; and
Anti-venom, or "anti-venene" the modem rendering, is prepared by injecting a
horse progressively with increasing doses of the venom of a certain species of
deadly snake, until the animal is immune to many times the normal, lethal dose. The
serum is then prepared from the fluid taken from the horse.
It takes two years to raise the immunity of a horse against the venom of
species such as cobras, mambas and vipers.
The serum or vaccine obtained from such an animal is an absolute antidote
against that particular snake.
In due course it is possible to immunize the same animal to the effects of
several types of snake poison, and so produce a polyvalent serum.
Uses of Snake Venom.
For many years skilled scientists have been endeavouring to separate the
several constituents of serpent venoms. These agents are known to be of
incredible potency and it is believed that once separated they can be used in
various stages of dilution to the very great benefit of pathology.
Recently, although individual separation of the constituents has not been
achieved, it has been discovered that certain types of venom can be diluted to such
an extent that one toxin only-a blood stimulant-remains effective. This has
already proved of great benefit in the treatment of certain diseases.
The virulence of the specific toxin more or less isolated by this means is so great
that the proportionate dilution has been compared to a drop of venom in the whole
of the English Channel!
Certain snake venoms have been used as a cure for epilepsy.
Snakes are "farmed":-
(a) In order to obtain the venoms for the preparation of anti-venenes ; and
(b) To obtain the skins which are now valuable articles of commerce from
which are made ladies' foot-wear and fancy goods.
There are numerous snake-farms scattered about the world primarily for (a).
These include those at Bangkok, in Siam (Pasteur Institute); Parel near Bombay, in
India; Port Elizabeth, in South Africa; and the Serotherapic Institute of Butantan,
near Sao Paolo, in Brazil.
There are farms for (b) in North America, and there is no doubt that in the
near future snake-farming for commercial purposes will greatly extend its activities
The subject of snake-farms draws attention to the fact that snake skin has
an appreciable commercial value, and recently the situation in regard to the
collection of reptile skins for commercial purposes has been the subject of an
exhaustive enquiry by the Advisory Committee on Hides and Skins, Imperial
The comprehensive and informative report issued draws attention to the fact
"that reptiles whose skins are suitable for these purposes exist in considerable
quantities in many parts of the Dominions and in a number of Colonies, and to
suggest that the collection from new sources within the Empire and the further
development of the industry in countries where it already exists should be under-
At the same time a word of warning is uttered, and the Committee "strongly
stress the danger which may result from any intensive or uncontrolled commercial
exploitation, and recommend that where necessary the Governments of the countries
concerned should consider the introduction of protective regulations."
Natural supplies cannot much longer bear the enormous wastage to which
they are at present subject, though fortunately as yet there has been no undue
destruction in Uganda, where the development of an industry is unlikely.
There is no doubt from first-hand evidence that an increasing interest in the
potentialities of Africa is being taken by the leather industry, whose technical
experts "are of the opinion that the use of reptile skins is no longer dependent upon
fashion, but that these skins have now become definitely established as raw material
for leather products".
The disquieting feature of the increasing interest evinced in Africa is the fact
that it is not fostered through an abnormal demand for this type of leather but rather
from the necessity that fresh localities must be exploited owing to the imminence
of a shortage elsewhere.
The natural supply of snake and lizard skins is by no means inexhaustible.
The exploitation of Africa, therefore, can offer only a temporary solution of a
possible pending shortage.
African species which have come to the notice of the "Trade" are:-
(i) African Python, supplied from Nigeria.
(ii) Royal Python, supplied -from West Africa.
(iii) Spitting Cobra, supplied from West Africa, and
(iv) Puff Adder, supplied from West Africa.
Prices paid for well-prepared skins in good condition are:-
(i) 8 inches wide, up to 5 or 6 metres in length, about Shs, 13/-.
(ii) Shs. i /9d. per skin.
(iii) About Sh. i/- per skin.
(iv) 6d. per skin.
Details in connection with python farming are included in the individual notes
on this species.
Collection of Live Snakes.
It is scarcely necessary in this treatise to give a lengthy description of how
to collect snakes, though a few remarks on this subject will not be out of place.
First and foremost, snakes should always be handled with caution; even the
expert makes mistakes in identification in the field. Never take liberties with
deadly species, which may strike unexpectedly through nervousness or fright, or may
deliberately "play possum".
When handling African cobras, goggles to protect the eyes and gauntlets
to safeguard arms and hands should be worn as a rule. Venom from "spitting" which
falls on the bare skin is innocuous so long as there are no abrasions through which
the poison can enter.
Anyone interested in snakes soon becomes familiar with the conditions and
localities most suitable for finding them.
When collecting snakes, a forked stick is often used behind the neck to pin the
creature to the ground. It is not too satisfactory a method as the snake lashes
about, and is apt to injure its cervical vertebrae.
The Zoological Society of London has devised a useful type of snake-catching
stick, at the end of which there is a leather loop working against a soft pad. The
loop is accordingly adjustable to the size of the neck around which it is placed, and
can be slipped over the snake's head with one hand and drawn tight, leaving
the other free to deal with the body and tail. Big, heavy snakes, such as the massive
vipers of the genus Bitts, however, should not be handled in this fashion, as one
convulsive jerk of the weighty body is sufficient to dislocate the neck. For them is
used an instrument on the lines of a shepherd's crook, the snake being picked up
about the centre of the body which hangs freely either side of the metal loop.
Collection and Preservation of Museum Specimens.
Museum specimens, excepting the largest snakes, are usually preserved whole
in spirit, and stored either in glass jars or in copper tanks of a few gallons capacity.
According to the size of the specimen several deep incisions are made along the
central line of the ventral scales. It is important that the preserving fluid has
ready access to the region of the stomach and the vicinity of the vent. Stomach
contents if of any magnitude should be removed.
For the first immersion the solution should be diluted with water, about half
and half for small specimens, and one part water to two of spirit for the larger. After
three days the snakes can be transferred to a stronger solution and finally stored
in full strength spirit, which is locally manufactured in Uganda from sugar.
Particular care must be taken that no specimens go bad (or putrefy) during
the process of preservation. One bad specimen can ruin all the others in the same
container. Also, the spirit gets weaker with every specimen immersed in it, and
has to be renewed frequently.
Specimens which have been preserved in undiluted spirit become so hard and
rigid that they can only be examined with difficulty.
Spirit is apt to absorb the venom from deadly species, and when handling
spirit specimens it is advisable to wear rubber gloves.
Spirit specimens are best packed for transport, wrapped in cotton wool or
cloth soaked in spirit and squeezed out, in air-tight tins which when full are sealed
with solder. Receptacles should be packed tight so that the contents do not get
damaged by the shaking unavoidable during transit.
Some of the vivid green Colubrine snakes, particularly the tree-snakes of the
genus Chlorophis, and some of the Boiginwe, especially the Boomslang, lose their
natural colours and turn enamel-blue after immersion in spirit. The brilliant colora-
tion can usually be retained by preservation in formalin, which unfortunately makes
specimens so hard and brittle that they are useless for study purposes. Incident-
ally, formalin turns black the green snakes of the genus Chlorophis.
Each specimen must be carefully labelled with a parchment label, the details
being written thereon with a soft pencil.
Skins can be removed from large specimens for dry preservation by making a
cut along the whole median line of the belly and tail, and then carefully removing
the skin, as in the case of an animal.
It should not be peeled off as this method, which is oiten adopted, is apt to
damage the scales considerably. Salt or arsenic soap should be rubbed in well: alum
hardens and spoils the skin. The head, if desired, can be left attached to the skin
and the whole preserved in spirit.
Snake skins should be dried carefully in the shade and not unduly stretched.
When nearly dry, though still supple, they should be rolled up lightly on a stick,
the scaly side innermost.
Transport of Live Snakes.
There are naturally certain precautions to be taken in transporting live snakes.
Boxes must be strong and adequate ventilation provided, as well as water tins.
Boxes are apt to be damaged in the course of railway journeys, and timber will
warp under varying climatic conditions. Termites have been known to damage
travelling boxes dangerously and inconspicuously. Wood containing knots, which
are apt to shrink and fall out, is unsuitable for making receptacles, for snakes are
adepts at squeezing through the tiniest crevices.
During a voyage it is unnecessary and inadvisable to feed or handle snakes.
When poisonous snakes travel, the box should be covered outside with wire
gauze, and where there is a wire gauze top this should be double, and the two
layers at least one inch apart to prevent risk of bites. Spitting Cobras should be
further covered (over any wiring) with sacking. All should be labelled as to contents.
Owing to the snake's pugnacious tendencies towards its own species and kind it is
often necessary to box specimens separately, thereby, adding considerably to the
number of cases required.
Consignments of snakes should be kept in the shade as much as possible.
High mortality is likely to result from undue exposure to the sun.
In Uganda records of snake worship appear to be conspicuously absent,
though the Python is an object of veneration amongst several tribes. There is
little doubt that the Baganda within comparatively recent times indulged in a form
of python worship.
The Bagishu have a snake god, which functions as a rain-maker and in times
of drought needs propitiation.
According to Sir Harry Johnston "The Masai (of Kenya) . .. It is
thought that some of their more notable ancestors return to earth in the shape of
snakes-either pythons or cobras. The tribal snakes of the Masai must be black
because they themselves are dark skinned, They believe that white snakes look
after the welfare of Europeans. These snakes certainly live in a half-tamed state
in the vicinity of large Masai villages, generally in holes or crevices. They are
supposed never to bite a member of the clan which they protect; but they are ready
to kill the enemies of that clan and their cattle. When a Masai marries, his wife
has to be introduced to the tutelary snake of the clan and rigorously ordered to
rtcognise it and never to harm it. Even the children are taught to respect these
reptiles. These snakes sometimes take up their abode near water-holes, which, it
is supposed, they will defend against unlawful use on the part of strangers. The
fetish snake is often consulted by people in perplexity, though what replies it is able
to give must be left to the imagination. The snakes are, however, really regarded
with implicit belief as being the form in which renowned ancestors have returned
to this mundane existence."
From the W'kamba country in Kenya the following interesting anecdote has
been contributed: "Near Masongaleni Railway Station on the Kenya and Uganda
Railway there is a river of the same name which flows into the Athi river. At the
head of this little river there lived a large python which the W'kamba undoubtedly
worshipped. Some five or six years ago the python was shot by an European and
the W'kamba were very upset about it and said for one thing 'that the river would
cease to flow'. The river did cease to flow whereas the Kibwezi river near by
continued to run. This is a true and well-known fact but something to do with
the drying up of the springs was responsible for the failure".
One would expect the snake to figure frequently in local folk lore, but this
is evidently not the case, and even Swahili aphorisms are rare. There is one
indicating that a man once bitten by a snake will get a fright if he sees only
the fibre of a palm-leaf, a very true adage, and equally referable to any one with an
instinctive fear of serpents. Another concerns the Sand Boa which, wherever it occurs
in Asia and Africa, is reputed to be doubled-headed. There are also sayings of which
the interpretations are respectively "When you mention a snake, get hold of a
cudgel", and "The snake is wont to bite where he has reached" (the latter from the
Most curious is the "Nyika" proverb--"You are the 'Love-tittle-tattle' snake",
which refers to a snake, which is supposed to draw near to any spot where people
are talking, from its fondness for listening to conversation, and indicates an incon-
venient intruder on a private conversation.
In the Luganda there is an almost identical proverb in connection with the
"Sekanyolya", the Black-crowned Heron, which not only listens but then spreads
The Lango have a curious fable about "The Hare and the Python" which is
detailed in Driberg's book on this tribe,
Although there are several tribes, or certain sections thereof, which consume
crocodile flesh with relish, snake-eating in Uganda appears to be confined to the
Bwamba of the northern Ruwenzori region. The members of this tribe eat any kind
* NOTE-Additional references in connection with "Folk Lore" are quoted at the beginning
of Part II. C. R. S. P.
It has already been mentioned that certain species of snakes readily devour
their own kind. In addition, in nature the snake has numerous four-footed and
feathered enemies which prey mainly on reptiles. Birds such as the snake-eating
birds of prey, having the advantage of a wide field of vision from the air, can at times
be particularly destructive. One of the most useful and persistent snake-des-
troyers is the magnificent Bateleur Eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus): the Red-tailed
or Augur Buzzard (Buteo rufofuscus augur) and the Harrier Eagle of the genus
Circatlus are also well-known as snake-eaters. These, having pounced on a
snake, fly up into the air with their capture dangling, which is then manipulated so
as to be powerless when the bird perches in a tree or comes to the ground. Four-
feet and five-feet specimens are often carried off, but the bird does not invariably
win, and I have seen many snakes dropped on account of their powerful contortions,
and lost. Cases are also known in which a poisonous species has turned the tables
and killed its captor.
Two other active killers in the bird world, both of which operate from terra
firma, are the Ground Hornbill and the Secretary Bird, which disable and kill
respectively with powerful blows of the huge bill and terrific stamps of the horny
The Ground Hornbill when tackling a nasty customer like a large Puff Adder
usually acts in concert. The Secretary Bird, literally dances its victim to death,
and the sledge-hammer-like stamping is loud enough to be heard at a considerable
distance. The blow struck is of such force that it would easily shatter a human
The Secretary Bird, if necessary, uses its wings as a shield. The swiftness
and accuracy of this bird's attack, coupled with its agility and power, are marvel-
lous. A tame bird in action against a dead rat swung at the end of a string gives
a wonderful display. Curiously enough a record of the examination of thirteen
Secretary Birds killed in a snake-infested habitat reveals no remains of snakes in
their food, which consisted of two young hares, lizards (Agamidae), insects and
egg-shells (species not determined).
Although there are many species of African mongooses, there is none which
is such an implacable enemy of snakes as the well-known little Indian "Rikki-Tikki-
The Python and the Crocodile occasionally come to grips with varying results
but these encounters are rather by accident than design.
Perhaps the most wasteful enemies of snakes are the seasonal grass-fires in
which undoubtedly numbers perish, while still more as they seek safety are eagerly
snapped up by their ever-watchful avian foes.
Some instinct warns the snakes of the impending danger, and they move off with
the wind as speedily as possible, while the flames may still be a full mile distant.
I have walked along several miles of a Kenya road in the Great Rift
deep in dust,. with a distant fire approaching, and seen the soft surface scored by the
sinuous trails of countless fleeing snakes, while numerous Secretary Birds stalked
up and down the high-way having a merry time.
It has been previously mentioned that certain harmless species of snakes are
often the most aggressive. Displays of frightfulness are for protective purposes,
and are indulged in as a warning. The hood expansion of some of the deadly cobras
and blowing out of the neck in others, which are imitated by harmless species, is a
form of intimidation which incidentally saves waste of poison. Allusion has already
been made to the use of the tongue for "threatening."
Hissing, resorted to particularly by the big vipers, is primarily warning, though
many serpents utter a sharp hiss from fright or anger.
The Echis viper which is furnished with lines of minute saw-like teeth on the
scales, when possible danger threatens, grates its scales by rubbing its coils together
and so produces a rasping sound. In America there are the well-known rattle-
snakes. All these warning devices afford conclusive evidence that normally a snake
is not aggressive.
The subject of coloration is discussed in connection with classification, as well
as in the detail of individual species.
Albinism occurs in the Indian cobra, but is very rare. I am unaware of instances
of albinism amongst African snakes.
Double-headed snakes are of not infrequent occurrence. These are accidents of
birth when two developing embryos have failed to become individualised. Such
freaks may live several months.
There are African records, and plenty from Asia, America and Europe.
Strange Use of Deadly Snakes.
Sir Harry Johnston quotes a strange story:-
"Mr. George Wilson, when collector in Unyoro, was assured by the Chiope
(Chopi) hunters in the northern part of that district that expert hunters were
accustomed to catch puff-adders in a noose. They then nailed the living snake
by the tip of its tail in the middle of a buffalo track, so that the enraged reptile
might strike at the bodies of the buffalo as they passed by. In this manner it was
asserted that as many as ten buffaloes have been killed in one day by one puff-adder.
The body of the first buffalo killed would be discarded as being poisoned, but the
bodies of the other victims of the snake would be considered wholesome for eating."
Another interesting record from a Kenya correspondent is as follows: "In
Dahome, West Africa, the puff adder has an antelope sinew run through the tail,
,and this is pegged in a buffalo run. I have not come across this elsewhere in
It has also been asserted that tribes in the Kavirondo country of Kenya at one
time made use of the mamba for a similar purpose.
(To BE CONTINUED).
A Strange Story About Elephants
By E, A, TEMPLE PERKINS
"Is it true that there are elephant cemeteries" ?
This is one of the stock questions which one who has even a slight knowledge
of Africa is so frequently asked by those less fortunate people who know nothing of
My answer has always been "No", with various reasons to substantiate my
negative; but a curious experience which befell me last February -might almost, to
one more gifted with imagination, justify a change of opinion.
In the north east corner of Lake Edward, some i 2 miles south of the equator
as it bisects this Protectorate, is Katwe Bay which apparently derives its name from
a small salt lake just inland to the north.
In the bay are three small islands and one minute island and on the southern-
most of the three small ones, Rusuku, this story has its origin.
The whole of this area, including the coast line as far as the Congo border and
the islands, is at present "closed", on account of the prevalence of sleeping sickness.
Rusuku for the most part is a small hill, steep on the south and west sides,
which drop almost sheer to the lake, but sloping off to flattish ground on the north
and east. The hill itself is arid, and bare except for a few small euphorbia trees,
although the lower slopes even now possess a considerable amount of thorn bush in
spite of the attentions of five elephants, and there is a huge array of fallen trees
resembling heaps of firewood, which, at first sight, are the only indication that the
island has been inhabited by beasts of any kind.
When camped at Katwe on 21st December, last year, I happened to see an
elephant on Rusuku and on enquiring of the local chief I was told that there had
been five there for some months and they had waded over from the mainland on the
west-a distance of about a mile and a quarter.
I looked at the place through binoculars for some time that evening and again
next morning but could see no more than one elephant. It did not seem worth while
canoeing over to see it at close quarters, as it did not occur to me that there was
anything unusual about its presence; I assumed it had decided of its own free will
to stay there in peaceful solitude after its companions had returned to the mainland.
They might even have made a. short excursion to the next island-which was closer
than the mainland and covered with vegetation--but I could see no sign of them.
My next visit to Katwe was on 7th February, and to my surprise the elephant
was again visible on Rusuku, and apparently still alone.
On this occasion my curiosity was roused and I went off next morning with
some friends to see the lonely brute and find out more about it.
When half way to the island a gale suddenly sprung up and it was only after
some heated words with the paddlers that I was able to persuade them to make for
Rusuku instead of putting in to Izinga island on our port beam.
We eventually landed on a small beach strewn with dead elephant-grass on the
extreme N.E. corner of the island, and once the canoe touched terra firma we lost
no time in getting ashore with cameras and a gunbearer in attendance.
The first sign of life that I saw was an nswaswa lizard-about the usual 4 feet
in length-as it silently slid into the water close by. At first glance I took it to be a
small crocodile until I remembered that Lake Edward does not possess any-another
of Africa's mysteries. Incidentally, if it did, I should have a very different story to
tell on this occasion.
*There are several theories held by geologists and other scientists as to why there are no
crocodiles in Lakes Edward and George although they abound in Lake Albert and all other
lakes of Central Africa, Lake Edward, be it remembered, has direct communication with
Lake Albert, approximately 100 miles to the north, in the form of the Semliki river.
One of the two theories most acceptable to the layman is that a series of falls on the river
(there is a difference of 1,000 ft. altitude between the two lakes) in the fastnesses of the vast
Ituri forest, prevent the crocodiles from travelling up the whole length of the river from
Lake Albert; the other is that the brackish nature of the water of Lakes Edward and George,
owing to the abundance of salt deposits near their northern shores, is unpalatable to crocodiles.
As regards the former theory, there is another factor in the argument, however, which I
have not yet heard discussed; that is the curious fact that, except for a narrow watershed of
about half a mile-a distance of no consequence to a crocodile, one would think, if it wished
to traverse it on foot-there is another waterway connecting the two lakes, to the east of the
The Wasa river which flows north to Lake Albert has its source near Kichwamba, 9 miles
to the west of Fort Portal, and the Mpanga river which flows south to Lake George rises only
half a mile to the south of the Wasa.
In this case I think it is probably the low temperature of the water on the escarpment
as compared with that of Lake Albert which deters the crocodile from further migration.
E. A. T. P.