Antony John Mence.
24th January, 1924-- 7th March, 2012.
Ngaserai lies south of Amboseli National Park and west of Mount Kilimanjaro. It is a dusty expanse of an almost barren land. The soil is alkaline from volcanic ash spewed out of the great mountain hundreds of years ago. It is also quite close to the Meerschaum mine. At certain times of the year when there is enough forage, herds of zebra, wildebeest and eland abound here. There is a migratory north/south pattern accentuated by the seasons.
In the mid 1960’s an attempt to domesticate some of these animals and to start a breeding nucleus was undertaken by The College of African Wildlife Management under the leadership of Tony Mence who was then the second principal of the College. The captured animals were then to be domesticated on a ranch on the slopes of west Kilimanjaro.
I recall when Tony Mence was driving a short-wheel-base Land Rover without doors across these plains at speeds averaging 60 miles per hour. I sat next to him and to his left. The chase involved separating young animals of about two to three months from the main herd and then as the Land Rover drew closer to reach out and grab the zebra or wildebeest by the tail while the Land Rover was slowly brought to a halt. I prided myself in being the leader of a motley crew of trainee wardens, who with each foray managed to grab either a zebra or a wildebeest by the tail!
For several days, we continued this exercise with Tony who never said a word or put anyone down for failing or bungling up the exercise. One day we were again with Tony on a chase. The zebra were on his side and he accelerated the Land Rover until it was close enough for him to reach the tail of a three month old zebra foal, grabbed it with one hand, held on while at the same time bringing the Land Rover to a complete stop. Here was a man whose devil-may-care style separated the boys from the men!
Tony arrived in Tanganyika on 11th April, 1951. He immediately joined the Ministry of Lands, Forest & Wildlife as a Senior Game Warden. He was stationed in various parts of Tanganyika including Mbeya,Tabora and The Ngorongo Crater. Initially he worked with C.J.P. Ionides, better known as the Snake Man at Liwale south of the vast Selous Game Reserve. Tony was one of few wardens, who unlike his colleagues with military training was a highly qualified zoologist.
In 1953 he met Mona and they got married inSingida that year. First daughter, Vibeke was born in Mbeya on 1/09/54. Second daughter, Karen was born inTabora on 27/06/1957.
Towards the last quarter of 1960, Howard Hawks an American movie director came to Arusha to film the movie ‘Hatari’ with John Wayne in the lead role. The High-powered field unit had descended on the surprised inhabitants of Arusha like a whirlwind. Impressed by Tony’s ability to ride a wild rhino with the nonchalance of a bronco-busting cowboy, Paramount Film Corporation pestered him with requests for his services. They wanted him to double for one of their highly paid stars, but neither his wife nor the Government shared Paramount’s enthusiasm for the idea!
However, Tony provided technical expertise since some of the scenes and ‘shoots’ required the capture of buffalo and rhino using the old and dangerous method of lassoing the animals while chasing them on rugged terrain. In 1960, Tony and his family were living on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and his home later became Rhino Lodge. Many of the scenes where John Wayne with his ‘capture’ crew lassoed wild animals were shot in the Ngorongoro Crater and a few at Lake Manyara.
While at Hardy Kruger’s Momella Lodge, John Wayne, who loved children often, spent time with Tony’s two daughters, Vibeke and Karen and with Howard Hawk’s son spinning yarns about wild animals.
EARLY LIFE , EDUCATION AND CAREER.
Tony was born in Birmingham, the eldest child of Harold a surgeon and Ida a teacher whose other children included Margaret and Alan.
From 1932 – 37 – he attended West House Prep school, Birmingham and then went on to Denstone College, Staffordshire on a Scholarship from 1937 to 1941. From 1941 – 43 Tony attended The University of Birmingham studying Human Anatomy & Physics.
The Second World War, interrupted his studies, and he then joined The Royal Marine Commandos, where he learnt bush craft and survival skills, serving time in Hong Kong and the Pacific between 1945/6. He also served in The Middle East from 1946 to 1947.
Tony went back to resume his studies from 1948- 50 at The University of Wales (Bangor) and obtained a Degree in Zoology & Agriculture.
From April 11th 1951 to 1962 Tony served in Tanganyika as a Game Warden in the Ministry of Lands, Forestry and Wildlife as a Senior Game Warden. He was stationed in various places including, Mbeya, Tabora and Ngorongoro Crater. In 1961 as a former commissioned officer with the The Royal Marine Commando Unit during the war, he utilized these skills not only in administrative duties but also in wildlife management. Specifically these included field work in wildlife conservation, research, game translocation, capture and control where they posed threats to human life. Tony was also involved in the development and enhancement of natural ecosystems, game reserves, implementation and enforcement of game laws, economicutilisationof wildlife resources, publicity to promote public understanding and awareness of wildlife conservation and the training of all ranks of wildlife personnel.
Besides writing a series of instructional radio scripts for the schools’ service of the Tanganyika Broadcasting Corporation, he also wrote the wildlife section of Ngorongoro Crater’s management in between 1960/61. Tony was also the 1961 – Liaison Officer for the Tanganyika Government’s delegate to IUCN/CCTA Symposium at Arusha. The main impact of the conference was the presentation of the 'Arusha Manifesto' signed by Dr. Julius Nyerere and in which he accepted Tanganyika’s trusteeship of its wildlife, pristine areas recognised for protection and the hope that other countries would assist scientifically and financially.
Between 1962 and 1963 Tony was first deputy Chief Game Warden and finally acting Chief Game Warden of Tanzania and was based in Dar-es-salaam. During this period, Tony was also on the board of trustees of Tanzania National Parks and an advisor to the Government. He was also on the governing body of The College of African Wildlife Management (CAWM).
In 1964 he was offered a post with UNESCO in Ethiopia, but declined preferring to return to the UK. From 1964-66 Tony worked at Edinburgh Zoo in all aspects of care and management of the animals in this 75--acre Zoological park, supervision of the keeping staff, diet, handling and treatment of animals of all species became his direct responsibility. Here, he was also involved in a fair amount of lectures and educational talks.
In 1966 Tony succeeded Dr. Hugh Lamprey as the principal of the College of African Wildlife Management at Mweka, Tanzania. At this time, Dr.Hugh Lamprey became the director of the Serengeti Research Institute which co-ordinated various wildlife research projects with Dr. R.M. Laws of The Tsavo Research Institute in Kenya.
It was between 1967 and 1969 that I got to know Tony very well and to benefit from his vast lore concerning animal behaviour, administration and leadership qualities in personnel management.
Early morning in October of 1967 Tony and I flew in the College Super Cub from Moshi and continued to Arusha, then across the Maasai Plains south to Dodoma. After lunch we refuelled the aircraft and continued in a south-east direction and arrived at Ifakara at about 4.p.m. We landed on an improvised airstrip along a maize Shamba which Dave King, a Canadian lecturer at Mweka had cleared with a 4 X 4 Unimog for us to land. This was the time of the annual cull of elephants, buffalo and hippos south of the Kilombero River and along the western fringes of the Selous Game reserve. It was the policy of the Tanzania government to ‘crop’ a limited number of animals annually which caused great havoc to the sugarcane scheme at Ifakara. In those days, the Selous Game Reserve had an estimated 100,000 elephants. This task was undertaken by the College of African Wildlife Management and its students who were wardens sponsored by their various African countries to train at the College.
We spent one month in often inhospitable areas which were hot, humid and infested with Tse-tse flies. At the end of this exercise many of us were suffering from Malaria, tick Typhus, dysentery and even Bilharzia!
Tony remained the Principal of Mweka until 1974. He then left to join the IUCN at its headquarters in Morges, Switzerland. He worked at IUCN in Switzerland until 1980 when he was transferred to the UK to establish IUCN's Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, which then became The World Conservation Monitoring Centre on the same site.
Tony retired from IUCN in 1983 but continued to undertake various consulting assignments on its behalf until 1990.
This is what Tom Gilbert of the U.S. National Parks Service, Tony’s Mweka colleague had to say :-
“In a session that I helped organize on approaches that can be used to create environmental awareness and respect for nature, Tony made the important observation that to achieve this goal and ensure acceptance of environmental education programs, keen insight, acquaintance with social, spiritual and psychological attitudesof local people was necessary. We both recognized that there would probably always be too few people working in the field of environmental education, and that it was essential to obtain the understanding and collaboration of teachers. This was the rationale under Tony’s leadership for starting the relationships between Mweka and the Marangu Teacher Training College on Kilimanjaro, and Egerton College in Kenya.
Tony also, represented CAWM, and participated in the 2nd World Conference on National Parks held in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks, from September 18-27 of 1972. Here, he made some important observations about development and training of personnel. He said that the Mweka curriculum contained a strong element of ecological understanding as well as exposure to a wide spectrum of practical skills necessary for proper management of wildlife areas and parks.”
Tony considered himself very fortunate to have worked and enjoyed a personally rewarding career in natural resource management and the opportunity of passing it all on. He recalls in particular his involvement together with colleagues in the development of new techniques, which are now standard practice, as well as their management application in many forms and in many countries.
There are so many game wardens in many African countries, who trained and studied under Tony Mence at Mweka. Many of our present day Game Wardens in Kenya owe a debt of gratitude to Tony for the many things they learned at Mweka.
Tony is due be buried in Stanford-in-the-Vale’s village church on March, 26th 2012.
There is no better tribute one can pay Tony, who was to many of us a larger-than-life individual, and who had a special place in our hearts; In conclusion I can think of no better and fitting tribute than to quote England’s greatest bard:
“His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed in him that Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘This was a man!’ ”
"My soul gave me good counsel,
teaching me that the lamp which I carry does not belong to me,
and the song that I sing was not generated from within me.
Even if I walk with light, I am not the light;
and if I am a taut-stringed lute, I am not the lute-player."