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Mammals in Usangu: Miscellaneous Notes from Utengule, 1980-81 (draft)

Mammals in Usangu: Miscellaneous Notes from Utengule, 1980-81 (draft)

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Published by Martin Walsh
Observations on wildlife in Usangu drawn from Martin Walsh's field notes (1980-81). Citation: Walsh, M. T. 1998. Mammals in Usangu: Miscellaneous Notes from Utengule, 1980-81. Unpublished paper, first draft, December 1998.
Observations on wildlife in Usangu drawn from Martin Walsh's field notes (1980-81). Citation: Walsh, M. T. 1998. Mammals in Usangu: Miscellaneous Notes from Utengule, 1980-81. Unpublished paper, first draft, December 1998.

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Published by: Martin Walsh on May 03, 2009
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 _____________________________________________________________ a working paper byMartin Walsh Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich
first draft, December 1998
{Note, December 2001: I have since recovered a number of additionalobservations for inclusion in a second draft) _____________________________________________________________ address for correspondence:kisutu@btinternet.com ______________________________________________________________ 
First draft, December 1998
Martin Walsh
The following miscellaneous notes on mammals in Usangu are drawn fromfield notes written while conducting anthropological fieldwork there in1980-81. I visited southern Usangu for the first time in August 1980, andlived in the village of Utengule-Usangu for about 15 months, between 4/10/80and 31/12/81. The primary subjects of my research were Sangu history and politics, particular aspects of which were written up in my doctoral thesis(1984). I only made incidental notes on different natural resources and their utilisation, including hunting practices. Though these notes are far fromsystematic, I am presenting them now in the hope that they may contain someuseful information, especially about the occurrence of and practices relating to particular species. I have largely resisted the temptation to draw upon other sources, both historical and more recent (including scattered references tomammals in the Sangu folk tales recorded and analysed by Bilodeau (1979)). Ihave not, for example, attempted to reconstruct the history of hunting inUsangu, a subject which I can do scant justice to by using my notes alone.Instead the focus of this paper is upon the mammals themselves andinformation about them contained in my own notes.
Most of my informants in 1980-81 alluded to the abundance of large mammalsin the plains to the north of Utengule. Utengule was then the terminus of dryseason public transport into the plains from Igurusi and the main road (the oneBaluchi-owned bus running between Mbeya and Utengule did not operateduring the rains and until the annual inundation had subsided). Utengule wasalso close to the frontier between irrigated rice cultivation and cattle-keepingas dominant forms of land use. The actual frontier had shifted north toLuhanga within living memory. One Sangu informant recalled (on 26/9/81)that there had once only been treeless
between the two villages, andattributed the development of woody vegetation to the seeds carried in cowdung. In 1980-81 the then Sangu chief, Alfeo Merere, lived in Luhanga(which means ‘sand’) and cultivated a large rice farm fed by an earliediversion of the River Mambi which carried his name. Otherwise Luhanga,
Mammals in Usangu: Miscellaneous Notes from Utengule, 1980-81
like the northern end of Utengule, was comprised of the scattered homesteadstypical of other cattle-keeping communities to the north. Unlike Utengule, thevillage also had a substantial population of Sukuma immigrants, despised bymany local Sangu and their chief.I was told (on 1/10/81) that game was still being hunted at Luhanga – as wellas further to the north at Ukwaheri – at the end of the dry season (implyingthat it had been hunted much earlier in the dry season as well).Understandably, the residents of Utengule who went hunting did not advertisethe fact. On 30/12/80 one man showed me a shotgun cartridge which he had bought illegally in Utengule, and indicated that he would like two more: hewanted to shoot game in the plains (
) and bring back meat for the NewYear. Although game meat was not a regular item in the Utengule diet (all theinstances in which I ate it are recorded below), I assume that he was not theonly small-scale poacher living in Utengule. I was told (on 18/11/81) thatsome local knew how to make gunpowder. The Sangu chief was the only person I knew in the village with licensed firearms: two rifles and a shotgunwhose licenses were renewed annually.Poaching by the Baluchis living at the south end of Utengule, as well as fromelsewhere in Usangu, was evidently a more organised affair: they, like theoccasional groups of European hunters who passed through Utengule (I notedone group in mid-July, 1981), had motor vehicles at their disposal, as well asthe means to buy the licenses which legitimised at least some of their hunting.I was told that the Baluchis poached around Msangaji, where they had also cutdown many of the best trees and were helping to cut a road further north sothat they could get at more. On 12/11/81 I noted the passage of a vehicle fullof Baluchis through Utengule, on their way to hunt game to provide for awedding in Rujewa. There were many other comings and goings, often atnight, which I did not make particular note of, though I was aware that thesewere connected to illegal utilisation of one kind or another. I was told (on4/4/81) that in 1977 a Game Officer (or Assistant) from Madibira had beenkilled by poachers, and that related problems had also occurred at Msangaji.As noted above, it was generally agreed that game was abundant to the northand north-east of Utengule, and one informant said to me (on 22/6/81) thatevery kind of game animal was to be seen on the road to Unyamande. I wastold (on 12/11/81) that animals used to ‘offer themselves as food’ when partiesmade the dry season trek from Utengule to Ilamba (also called Utengule onmaps) by the outflow into the Great Ruaha to offer on the graves located there,though this statement was probably also coloured by its ritual context. It isevident, however, that there were also significant numbers of large mammalsto the south-east of Utengule, including giraffes (see below). There were onlyscattered settlements on the path towards the River Ihahi: Mpolo, Mbalino – named after what had once been a notable forest (shown on old maps), said tohave harboured dangerous animals – and Madungulu. Near to Madunguluthere was said to be a ‘lake’ which many wild animals continued to perish in.Beyond the River Ihahi, the River Shinyagadala was said to contain crocodilesduring the rains. Beyond that was the River Shimbashimba, originally achannel dug to partially divert and lower the level of the Ruaha so that3

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