Page:Africa (Volume I).djvu/33

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15
FLORA AND FAUNA.

region north of Cape Colony. Numerous species of mammals and birds are met from the southern extremity of the continent to the banks of the Senegal; nor are the plateaux and highlands anywhere lofty enough to prevent the migrations of animals, which in Africa are kept apart rather by the broad desert wastes than by mountain barriers.

The Mascarenhas, and especially Madagascar, are centres of independent life, the latter containing over one hundred animal species not found elsewhere. But the immigrations of Arabs and Europeans have added several species to the African fauna, in exchange for those they have contributed to extirpate. The camel, without which it seems impossible for caravans to cross the Sahara in its present arid state, is nevertheless a comparatively recent arrival, its image occurring nowhere either on the old Egyptian monuments or on the "inscribed stones" of the ancient Berbers. Hence it is evident that the Sahara was not always a desert; and valuable inscriptions, confirming the text of Herodotus, prove that the ox and the zebu were the first pack animals of the Garamantes on the route between Fezzan and Sudan. Now man has been followed by his ordinary companions, such as the horse and dog, at least wherever they have been able to adapt themselves to the climate. When the American Chaillé-Long appeared on horseback at the court of the King of Uganda, north of the Victoria Nyanza, the natives fancied, like the Mexicans at the first appearance of the Spanish cavalry, that horse and man formed one animal, and when the stranger dismounted they ran off terror-stricken at the sight of this centaur dividing itself into two distinct beings.

The greatest obstacle to the development of Africa is caused by the tsetse (glossina morsitants), a simple fly, whose bite is fatal to horses, camels, oxen, and dogs, although harmless to man, the calf, goat, and wild beasts. This destructive insect, which is supposed, rightly or wrongly, to infuse anthrax virus into its victims, is very common in certain districts of South and Central Africa, but does not extend farther north than the Bahr-el-Ghazal and Senaar, and is unknown in the north-west. The donderobo, another two-winged pest obscrvetl to the south of the Kilima Njaro, spares cattle, but attacks the ass, goat, and sheep.

Africa is the home of the largest living quadrupeds, such as the elephant, various species of the rhinoceros, the hippopotamus, giraffe, ond other herbiferous animals. At the same time the African elephant is smaller, less vigorous, and more difficult to tame than its Indian congener, from which it differs in its convex frontal bone, large ears, and some other physical characteristics. The attempts made by Gordon to domesticate this animal and employ it in warfare were not successful, and in this respect Europeans have still to discover the secrets known not only to the Hindus, but even to the ancients, and, according to Duveyrier, to the tribes south of Mauritania, and to the Wakorays of the western Sahara.

The lion of the Atlas highlands is fiercer than the Babylonian species; the gorilla is the strongest and most formidable of the ape family; of all hoofed animals the zebra is the most indomitable; neither the American caiman nor the Indian gavial approach the dimensions of the African crocodile, and of all