The Freelanders – A Mad Socialist Experiment in Kenya

The Freelanders – A Mad Socialist Experiment in Kenya

The Imperial British East Africa Company, which administered Zanzibar and part of East Africa, received enquiries in June 1894 from an organization calling itself the British Freeland Association of the International Freeland Association. It had devised a plan for a socialist settlement in the area of Mount Kenya. Initially a small expedition was to travel up the Tana River to the head of navigation and from there move to an area north of the mountain which was purportedly extremely fertile and virtually uninhabited. The plan was referred to the Foreign Office, whose internal memorandum expressed doubts, saying it was a little bewildered by the whole project, not really understanding what the Freelanders wanted. Who were the Freelanders? The International Freeland Association had been formed following the publication of a book called Frieland written by Dr Theodore Hertzka who was well thought of in Austria as a journalist. In his book Hertzka laid out his plan for a utopian settlement operated on socialist principles, each member of the community working to his ability and being rewarded to his needs. All property would be held communally. The International Freeland Association was formed in Vienna to implement the plan and a British group was established with an office in London. The first batch of sixteen potential colonists, with at least two wives, the ‘Pioneer Party’, sailed from Hamburg on 28 February 1894. It was a bizarre assortment: along with German, Austrian and British anarchists, were a Russian, who was apparently the son of a Danish cabinet minister and the lieutenant in the Danish navy, a New Zealand seaman, and a serving Austrian...
Retired Elephants

Retired Elephants

When a person thinks about animals living in South East Asia they automatically think “elephants”. This is truly the home of Asian elephants, but they are becoming increasingly rare in in the wild. On a recent visit to Cambodia, I learned that in the whole country there are now fewer than 300 wild elephants. There are another 85 elephants in captivity and historically these captive animals have been used to move logs in the forest. The indigenous Bunong people of Mondul Kiri have kept elephants for such work, but most of these elephants are now old and tired. They can no longer work and the Bunong owners don’t have the money to care for them properly. To solve this problem an organization run by expatriates has been formed to provide a retirement home for these elephants. Bunong mahouts can now bring their old elephants to this retirement home. The mahout stays with his elephant and is paid a salary for caring for his animal. This way the Bunong family who owns the elephant continues to get an income and the elephant gets to rest. The elephant retirement home is located in the forest and the retired elephants are free to wander around the jungle and feed themselves. In the afternoon they come into the base for supplementary feeding and to have a bath. Tourist can pay a hefty fee to come see the elephants at the base. They are allowed to help wash the elephants by throwing buckets of water on them. Most of these elephants were loners in their working life. But elephants are naturally social creatures and...