CONSERVATIONIST, FARMER, FOUNDER OF FOREST INN

Barry Shenton, 1929 -2007

Barry Shenton was born on the 30th April 1929 in Eshowe, Zululand. His father John Lindsay Shenton, “Shen” had moved with his family to the goldreefs of South Africa from the UK 1894. “Shen” worked as a mining engineer until the 1st World War in which he rose to the rank of captain and came back from service in France, Russia, Italy and German East Africa to a cattle/cotton farm in Natal. Barry’s mother Pat was a strong-willed Scot born in Swaziland of third generation South Africa. By 1936 the cattle had been decimated by Nagana, the fatal tsetse disease so Shen joined the Parks Board and the family moved to Hluhluwe Game Reserve where Shen headed the Tsetse Control Department for Mukuzi, Umfolozi and Hluhluwe. Barry and his younger brother Bob joined the Union Vetinary Board. In 1948 the family moved north to Northern Rhodesia where they started farming eggs, citrus and maize on a piece of virgin land in Mazabuka.

Times were tough so Barry joined the Northern Rhodesian Game and Tsetse Department as a Game Ranger on the 19th June 1950. In 1951 controlled hunting was introduced by the department under the Conducted Hunting Scheme and A.E.P Shultz and J.B Shenton were the first ever Professional Hunters in Northern Rhodesia from 1950 to 1954.  Barry was based at the “Castle” in Lundazi which was built and run by the DC Errol Button and was responsible for elephant control on crop raiders in Eastern province. Fluent in Zulu, he now learnt ChiNyanja and became a fulltime ranger, opening up the west bank of luangwa game reserve in Chief Nsefus area to tourism. In 1952 Barry blazed the boundaries of Nsefu and established a Game Guards Training Camp at Milyoti. Nsefu Game reserve was declared on the 5th May 1966. Profits from commercial hunting were given to Chief Nsefu to develop his area – this the earliest of this form of community-based project, developed under the vison of Norman Carr, a system not unlike today’s Community Resource Boards. Barry built the first permanent camp in South Luangwa, “Nsefu” and he built the Nyika Rest Camp on the 8000ft Nyika plateau.

Barry, a keen photographer, developed his own photographs, many of which were used by the department in their scientific work in ornithology and mammalian systematics in cooperation with Bulawayo Museum, and the Kaffrarian museum in King Williamstown. In 1963 Departmental staff established the Livingstone Museum Natural History Department.

In 1958, the Game Department was given eleven months to open Kafue National Park to tourism, failing which the area would lose its status and be re-settled. Norman Carr selected Barry and Johnny Uys to help him and between April and September 1958 Barry built 900km of roads from Dundamedzi in the South to the Busanga plains in the North and the two men built 6 camps – Moshi, Ntemwa, Nanzila, Chunga, Lufupa and Kafwala. Roads were surveyed on foot, cleared by hand and then smoothed with a railway line triangle pulled behind a Landrover. Bridges were built with rock and concrete around 44-gallon drum forms, all carted by an old three-ton Morris truck via Namwala. The Morris chassis eventually broke, and was repaired with a mopane pole wrapped with wet buffalo hide – good enough to finish the job. By the end of 1959, the game department had won its challenge, and Africas biggest National Park at the time was open to visitors. Barry’s parents Pat and Shen ran Ngoma Lodge, the original hotel in the area. During this time Norman Carr had two lion cubs to care for, and once they were weaned from bottle milk, they joined their human ‘uncles’ Barry and Johnny at Ngoma to learn to hunt and fend for themselves. The story of these two lions, Big Boy and Little Boy, is written in Norman Carr’s book, “Return to the Wild”. In 1961 Barry, Howard Alker, Johnny Uys and Bill Bainbridge transported and relocated the first six rhino from Natal to Mosi O Tunya National Park. The rhino thrived until the last was poached in the mid 1980’s.

In 1961 a pretty Swedish nurse, Marianne, working at Bonda mission hospital in eastern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) escorted her visiting parents to KNP in an old Morris minor. The car broke down and Barry took four days to fix it, by which time he had proposed to her and Marianne, moved to Kafue to join him and became his lifelong partner. Their first son Rolf was born in 1963, followed by Derek. Barry was dedicated to duty, efficiency and discipline and was promoted to Warden of KNP from 1962 till 1966. In 1967- 1968 he was transferred to Livingstone as Warden of Southern Province, Marianne worked as a nurse at the “Non Fee Paying” section of Batoka Hospital. In 1969 Barry transferred to headquarters in Chilanga where his daughter Allison was born. In 1970 his last posting in the Game Department was at Kasama, as Warden of Northern Province.  In 1972, Barry retired from the Game Department to manage brother Bob’s farm in Mazabuka. In 1975, his youngest son Clive was born. He later managed Dimba farm for Zambezi ranching. In 1982, Barry bought his own farm in Mkushi and proved, at 53, that one is never too old to start a new life. He became one of Zambia’s biggest seed growers, both in soya and maize. He diversified whenever opportunities arose, ran a borehole drilling rig, contract harvested maize, and built Kaingo Lodge under Shenton Safaris in South Luangwa National Park in 1992 with his son, Derek. In 1994, when the Great North Road was almost impassable, he began his last major project: The Forest Inn. The well-appointed, peaceful Forest Inn has become the place to stay for almost all visitors to Mkushi.

Barry slipped away quietly, on the 21st of March 2007, in his bed surrounded by his wife and children, surely a satisfied man. The Forest Inn remains run by youngest son, Clive and daughter Alli. His children and grandchildren have continued his sense of nation building, social conscience and sustainable resource management.