If we’re honest with ourselves, all most of us know about the Victorian explorer David Livingstone is the famous and oft-repeated line: “Doctor Livingstone, I presume,” as spoken by Sir Henry Morton Stanley and the fact that he discovered Victoria Falls.
Dr Livingstone was born in Blantyre near Glasgow in Scotland in 1813. As a child he worked in a cotton mill but he pursued his education in the evenings and in 1836 began studying medicine and theology. He was posted to the edge of the Kalahari Desert in South Africa as a missionary in 1841. Convinced that his purpose was to bring Christianity and freedom from slavery to ‘darkest’ Africa, Livingstone began exploring central and southern Africa. He came upon the wonder of Victoria Falls in 1855.
Back in the UK, Livingstone spent his later years exposing the horrors of the slave trade before returning to central Africa to search for the source of the Nile. He remained in Africa until his death in 1873. During this expedition, in 1871, he was not heard from for several months until Stanley came upon him near Lake Tanganyika in October and uttered that famous phrase.
Livingstone must have been amazed, at least initially, by many of the animals that he saw in Africa. He had two elephants, Sussi and Chuma that accompanied him on his expeditions and carried his body back to England after he died. However, there is also a letter that he wrote that details how his party killed and ate an elephant. Very telling, for those of us passionate about animal volunteer work, that he relates how he saw the rest of the herd apparently mourning, and that the local people appeared to be afraid to kill elephants for the ivory, as the animals were “not disturbed by the presence of man”.
Livingstone’s exploration of Africa has ramifications in the 21st Century, as people from around the world are inspired to visit the stunning Victoria Falls and see the wildlife that abounds in the region.
Victoria Falls offers a great experience to those that not only wish to see the area but also those who would like take part in voluntary work with animals projects, community outreach and research programmes. Though much more ‘civilized’ than when Doctor Livingstone explored the area, there are now wildlife conservation holidays which offer visitors the experience of a lifetime.
Doctor Livingstone, we doff our pith helmet to you, sir.