Page:Lake Ngami.djvu/477

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469
LOCALITY—SIZE—DESTRUCTIVENESS.

open country. It is confined to particular spots, and is never known to shift its haunts. Thus cattle may be seen grazing securely on one side of a river, while the opposite bank swarms with the insect. Should the natives, who are well acquainted with localities frequented by the fly, have occasion to change their cattle-posts, and are obliged to pass through tracts of country where it exists, they choose, I am told, a moonlight winter's night, as, during the hours of rest in the cold season, it does not bite.

In size the tsetse is somewhat less than the common blue fly that settles on meat, but its wings are longer. Yet, though so small and insignificant in appearance, its bite carries with it a poison equal to that of the most deadly reptile. Many is the traveler who, from his draft-oxen and horses having been destroyed by this pestiferous insect, has not only had the object of his journey completely marred, but his personal safety endangered by the loss of his means of conveyance.

Very lately, indeed, a party of Griquas, about twenty in number, who were elephant-hunting to the northwest of the Ngami, and who were provided with three wagons and a large number of trek, or draft-oxen, lost, prior to their return to the Lake, all their cattle by the bite of the tsetse. Some horses, brought with them to further their sport, shared a similar fate.

The very same year that this disaster happened to the Griquas, a party of Englishmen, among whom was my friend Mr. Frederick Green, attempted to reach Libèbé; but they had only proceeded seven or eight days' journey to the north of the Ngami when both horses and cattle were bitten by the fly in question, and the party were, in consequence, compelled to make a hasty retreat. One of the number, I am told, was thus deprived of as many as thirty-six horses, excellent hunters, and all sustained heavy losses in cattle.

There are large tribes which can not keep either cattle or sheep because the tsetse abounds in their country. But it is