In 1909, ex-President Teddy Roosevelt went on his own safari to eastern Africa — and the list of casualties is positively massive, with more than 500 kills shot by him and his son.
In his 1910 book, African Game Trails; An Account of the African Wanderings of an American Hunter-Naturalist, Roosevelt presents the 512-animal tally for himself and his son, Kermit Roosevelt (noted as "TR" and "KR" in the table):
The menagerie includes:
- 17 lions
- 29 zebras
- 27 gazelles
- 9 black and white monkeys
- 8 hippopotami
- 2 ostriches
- A pelican
- No less than 4 crocodiles
Omitted from the list are a bevy of other birds.
This massive safari was actually billed as a conservation mission. Though Roosevelt took a lot of pride describing the thrill of the hunt, he included the following paragraph in his book:
Kermit and I kept about a dozen trophies for ourselves; otherwise we shot nothing that was not used either as a museum specimen or for meat...the mere size of the bag indicates little as to a man's prowess as a hunter, and almost nothing as to the interest or value of his achievement.
Many of the animals Roosevelt collected were donated to scientists or used as taxidermy specimens for the Smithsonian — the safari was officially known as the Smithsonian-Roosevelt African Expedition and included a group of explorers in addition to the Roosevelts. The total collection exceeded the Roosevelts' 512 animals to include more than 11,000 specimens in total (which included plants, bugs, and other less daunting game).
Mores around conservation and hunting were dramatically different in 1909, and the countries Roosevelt visited — today's Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan — had very different big-game politics, as well.
Roosevelt also wrote that "game butchery is as objectionable as any other form of wanton cruelty or barbarity." His safari, even though it had a massive tally, arguably helped improve knowledge about a continent and animals that remained mysterious to many Americans. Just as some hunters fund conservation efforts today, Roosevelt's hunt was meant to promote the natural world and science.
Still, Roosevelt included that tally of bagged animals for a reason. As he crept after game, he wrote that "it made our veins thrill." At one point, he even praised elephant poachers, writing that few careers are "more adventurous, or more fraught with more peril."
So really, Roosevelt's journey was probably a mix of two impulses in the famous ex-president: a dramatically different approach to conservation and the swagger that made it all so memorable.