British Empire Article

Courtesy of OSPA

by by Dogon Yaro (Ronald Bird)
(Provincial Administration, Northern Nigeria 1944-63)
The Day's Work and Odd Jobs: The Rogue Elephant
Ilorin From the Air
Some Provinces seemed to give rise to more unusual odd jobs than others; llorin Province was one such. I was sent to llorin from the Kaduna Secretariat where in the NA Section I had been dealing amongst other things with the problems of the Oke Odde area of llorin Emirate. Agitation against llorin Emirate was being fomented by politicians from the Western Region of Nigeria and I was on special duties studying the possibility of some local government reform but within the existing set-up of llorin NA. I was living in the rest house at Oke Odde and visiting llorin at intervals to report to the District Officer, llorin Division. One morning I drove the 50 miles to llorin to see the District Officer and found there was a state of crisis. The DO told me that a rogue elephant was causing pandemonium in the town and station and had already killed two people in farmland near the town. The DO said that the Resident was 'inviting' me as the only person who had a sporting rifle in the Province to rid llorin of the rogue elephant. This was a flattering request but I had never hunted elephant and my rifle was only a Jeffries .333 Magnum, not really an elephant gun, though adequate for bushcow. Perhaps I had said something in an unguarded moment in the Club about wanting to shoot an elephant but I could hardly refuse under the circumstances. First I had to get my rifle which was at Oke Odde and I did not get back to llorin until early afternoon.

The Day's Work and Odd Jobs: The Rogue Elephant
Jeffries .333 Magnum
I was then brought up to date on what the elephant had been doing. It seemed to have been terrorising people on the edge of the town since the day before and apart from the two men killed, others had escaped in a terrified state. It sounded as if it was wounded and had come into llorin from further west in Oyo Province. It was still somewhere in the broken farmland bordering the town and a local African hunter had been found who was said to know where it was and would lead me to it. This was not going to be easy because it was towards the end of the wet season and the grass was at its tallest while maize and guinea corn were up to 10 feet high. Another ADO, Mike Campbell, had volunteered to join me in the hunt and back me up though only armed with a Police .303 rifle. This was a brave but much appreciated decision as a .303 bullet was much too light to be effective on an elephant. Other reports said that two Agricultural Development Officers had borrowed Police rifles the previous evening and gone after the elephant on the Agricultural Department farm. It had been a valiant but foolhardy attempt which nearly ended in disaster as the elephant had charged them out of the grass, knocked one of them down, stamped on his rifle and proceeded to kick him around like a ball until he managed to scramble into shelter. The latest report was more light-hearted and concerned the wife of the Puisne Judge who was on circuit sitting in llorin. It was said that the Judge's wife, sleeping late, had been woken up at the house where the Judge was staying by the trumpeting of the elephant in the garden. It had then tried to break into the house. She knew her husband was already sitting in court but insisted on speaking to him on the telephone to say she was scared stiff and what was he going to do about the elephant? The Judge, annoyed at being disturbed in the middle of a difficult case, did not believe his wife and thought it was a practical joke and even, the story goes, suggested she might have drunk too much pink gin the previous evening! Later in the morning the rogue elephant had gone on to the house of the District Officer and tried to break into the kitchen to the consternation of his cook.

Mike Campbell and I set off with the African hunter to search the area near llorin town where the elephant was last reported as being seen. Eventually we found its tracks and much trampled corn in the farmland between the station and the town. The trail was easy to follow but it was impossible to see anything with the height of the grass and the corn. All during a long hot afternoon we followed the trail which seemed to meander in and out of farmland. Suddenly we came out onto a farm path where the elephant had surprised and crushed a local farmer or another hunter. It was impossible to tell what had happened except that the unfortunate man was quite dead. Our hunter was unable to say how long before the elephant had passed but clearly it was not more than an hour or so. I did not have much confidence in our hunter and he seemed very excitable compared with hunters I had been out with before. We continued to follow the trail until late evening, stopping occasionally to listen for any noise from the elephant. Suddenly the hunter seemed to get even more excited, jabbering away that we were now very close to the elephant though we could hear nothing and with the grass and corn way above our heads, could see nothing. The obvious thing was to climb one of the few trees and look over the top of the concealing corn. I climbed slowly up a stunted tree and then suddenly just as I had a chance to look around there began a most ominous buzzing sound and bees appeared swarming about me. I dropped to the ground as quickly as I could and ran and the others ran too, all sustaining some stings but escaping the worst of the swarming bees. There was not a sign or sound of the elephant and dusk was coming down and so somewhat discomfited we had to abandon the hunt.

The next morning there was no news of the rogue elephant and it seemed to have disappeared from llorin in the night. It was to be another two years before I saw my first elephant in Africa and that was to be further north in Borgu Division. We heard later that our rogue elephant had retreated west into Oyo Province where some days later a band of local hunters with their Dane guns had killed it. It was confirmed that it had a large festering wound in the shoulder which accounted for its aggressive behaviour.

The sequel to this incident came some weeks later when the Resident appointed me to conduct a Board of Survey on a Police rifle, the barrel of which had been badly bent. Nobody would admit it had anything to do with the llorin elephant and I was able to establish that the rifle had fallen out of the Police truck one day on the road when a tyre burst and a "mammy wagon" following behind ran over it causing the damage.

Colonial Map
1955 Map of Western Nigeria
Colony Profile
Originally Published
OSPA Journal 112: October 2016


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