Biography of English Naturalist and Eccentric Charles Waterton Part 2

About the English Naturalist and Eccentric Charles Waterton, his biography, history, adventures and crocodile hunter lifestyle.

CHARLES WATERTON (1782-1865). English naturalist and eccentric.

On another occasion he was trying to capture a crocodile, but his helpers were having great difficulty in pulling the creature from the river. Finally, they got the crocodile within a few yards of the bank. "I saw he was in a state of fear and perturbation. I instantly dropped the mast, sprang up, and jumped on his back, turning half round as I vaulted, so that I gained my seat in a right position. I immediately seized his forelegs, and, by main force, twisted them on his back, where they served me for a bridle." His helpers dragged the crocodile with Waterton astride it onto the bank. "It was the 1st and last time I was ever on a cayman's back," he wrote.

On another of his trips into the South American jungle, Waterton developed a passion for having a vampire bat suck blood from his big toe. He brought one of the creatures into his quarters and purposely slept with one foot exposed. Yet despite his best efforts Waterton was frustrated in his desires. The vampire bat ignored him and instead sank its teeth into the big toe of an Indian sleeping nearby.

Waterton inherited the estate of Walton Hall in Yorkshire upon his father's death in 1806, while the wanderer was still managing the family estates in South America. When he returned to England he decided to convert Walton Hall into a sanctuary for any sort of wild animals (especially birds) that wanted to live there. Waterton brought in an ex-poacher to serve as game warden; presumably such a person would know all the tricks of the trade. No guns were allowed on Waterton's property, and he had an 8' barrier constructed around the 3-mi. circumference of the estate to keep out anything or anyone that would have preyed upon all the creatures Waterton wanted to protect.

Besides his love for animals, Walton Hall also fulfilled Waterton's other great passion, climbing. Although he set up a telescope in a room of his residence, his favorite pastime was shinning up trees to observe his winged wildlife as closely as possible. It was not unusual, especially during nesting season, to see Waterton scrambling to the top of a tall tree with great agility. He invited his guests to climb with him, and he was still clambering up trees when he was 80 years old.

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