Page:Africa (Volume I).djvu/34

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16
NORTH-EAST AFRICA.

running birds the African ostrich is the most powerful. This continent excels not only in the number and size of its animal species, but also in the multitude of individuals. Thus on the central plateaux travellers have observed vast plains covered by countless herds of ruminants, and Livingstone tells us that he had to force his way through the dense troops of antelopes. But since then wide gaps have already been made amongst these teeming multitudes by destructive hunting expeditions in the Nile basin and in the southern plains. It is calculated that the 15,600 cwts. of ivory yearly imported into Europe cost the lives of 50,000 elephants. Whole species are threatening to disappear, as the small Mauritanian elephant and certain animal forms in the Mascarenhas Islands have already vanished. The range of the rhinoceros formerly comprised south-west Morocco, where it has not been seen in historic times.


Inhabitants.


During the first half of the present century European geographers, still unacquainted with the interior, were naturally inclined to exaggerate the extent of the desert regions, and readily regarded as solitudes all spaces left blank on the maps. The continent was supposed to contain some fifty or sixty, or at the utmost a hundred, million inhabitants. Since that time more accurate statistics have been taken in some of the European colonies or possessions on the coast; rough estimates have also approximately determined, the population of some districts near the maritime ports, and travellers, yearly increasing in numbers, have brought from the interior at least sufficient data to enable us to classify the inland regions according to the greater or less density of their populations. In some of these districts the people are as closely packed as in Belgium, while elsewhere village succeeds village for several leagues together. The basins of Lake Tsad and the Joliba (Niger), as well as most of Nigritia south of the Sahara, are thickly peopled, as are also the region of the great lakes, the Nile delta, the White Nile in the Shilluk territory, and the lands watered by the Congo and its chief affluents. The population of the whole continent cannot be estimated at less than two hundred millions, or seven times more than the calculations of Pinkerton and Volney nearly a century ago. More recently Balbi fixed the number at sixty millions, which was long accepted as the most probable. The hypothetical element in all these rough estimates will doubtless be gradually diminished by the systematic work of modern explorers.[1]

To Africa the expression "Dark Continent" is frequently applied, as if all its inhabitants were Negroes properly so called, analogous in type to the maritime populations in the west equatorial region. The term Beled-es-Sudan, or "Black Land," would thus be extended to the whole continent. But the true Negroes, although perhaps forming a majority of the inhabitants, occupy less than Half of the land. The regions to the north, east, and south belong to tribes and peoples of diverse physical appearance, and grouped in distinct races or sub-races. Some

  1. Approximate estimate of the population of Africa by Behm and Wagner in 1882, 205,825,000.