Ralph Camroux Morris

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R.C. Morris (left), Arthur S. Vernay (centre, seated on the elephant's leg) and J.C. Faunthorpe with a bull elephant shot in the Biligirirangans that is now in the American Museum of Natural History (1923)

Colonel Randolph "Ralph" Camroux Morris (1895-19 December 1977, London) was a coffee planter, British Army officer, and hunter-naturalist who was born in India. A pioneer of wildlife conservation in India, a member of the Bombay Natural History Society, he also represented South Indian Europeans in the Indian parliament after 1947. Along with Jim Corbett and Hasan Abid Jafry, he organized an all-India conference for the preservation of wildlife in 1936. Morris was among the first to make use of electric fences to protect crops from elephants and other wildlife in India. He was a member of the first Indian Wildlife Board which made efforts to establish laws to conserve wildlife in post-Independence India.

Memorials and family graves in Bellaji

Ralph's father Randolph Hayton Morris[1] was the son of an Oxford parson. Morris Sr. left home at the age of 18 to work on a ship. He landed in India in 1877 at a time of famine and worked at various estates before starting the first coffee plantation in the Biligirirangans, an area he identified while out hunting.[2] His mother was Mabel Camroux Morris.[3] Ralph was born at Attikan estate and was sent to study in England at Blue Coat School and at Blundell's in Devon before joining his father back at the estate. In 1895, his father was gored by a wounded gaur while out hunting. He was taken to Mysore and survived but died in 1918 from pneumonia in the one lung that remained. Ralph became a member of the Bombay Natural History Society in 1919, the same year in which he married Heather, daughter of another BNHS member Angus M. Kinloch, who lived in Kotagiri in the Nilgiris. In 1935, Ralph joined the Vernay-Hopwood expedition, sponsored by Arthur S. Vernay, to the Upper Chindwin of Burma. Another expedition was made into the Malay jungles in the same year in search of the Javan Rhinoceros. He was a President of the United Planters' Association of South India (UPASI) for one and half years in 1937-38 before joining as a volunteer officer in the war. He served in the Middle East and North Africa, seeing action at the Siege of Tobruk. He returned after the war to work at his estate and extended it to Honnametti. After Independence, he represented the South Indian Europeans in the Legislative Assembly. In 1955 he sold off his estate to the Birlas and settled in the UK.[4][5]

Kaati Basava - a shrine that marks the spot where Randolph Hayton Morris was gored by a gaur

He documented the wildlife of the region in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. His estate was visited by numerous people including the ornithologist Salim Ali as well as the Maharaja of Mysore.

In 1933, a fellow sportsman and friend Major Leonard Mourant Handley wrote a book called "Hunter's Moon" with a chapter on "The Great Blue Hills of Ranga"[6] which was reviewed by Morris (under his initials "R.C.M.") in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society who stated that "there should surely be some limit to the inaccuracies which find their way into modern books, which purport to set forth observations of interest to natural scientists and Shikaris."[7] Morris found 38 inaccuracies and Handley filed a case of libel in Middlesex and was awarded a damage of 3000 pounds in 1937. Morris never attended the trial and it was suggested the friction between the two former friends arose from differences between Mrs Morris and Mrs Handley.[8]

The secretary of the Bombay Natural History Society noted in volume 51 of the journal:

At the request of the Kashmir Government, who desired expert advice for rehabilitation of their badly depleted wild life Messrs. Salim Ali and R. C. Morris visited Kashmir as the Society's representative in October 1952. They surveyed the various game sanctuaries and submitted a report recommending suitable measures which it is hoped are being duly implemented by the authorities. He was a member of the first sittings of the Indian Board of Wildlife.

In 1994, one of Ralph's three daughters Monica Jackson, a mountaineer and anthropologist, reflected on her roots in a book called Going Back.



  1. ^ Sukumar, R. 1994 Elephant Days and Nights: Ten Years with the Indian Elephant. Oxford India.
  2. ^ Shepherd, Gordon (1960). Where the lion trod. London: John Verney. p. 15.
  3. ^ Private papers in the India Office of the British Library
  4. ^ Ali, S (1978). "Obituary: Ralph Camroux Morris (1894-1977)". J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 75: 192–196.
  5. ^ Morris, Randolph C. (1936). "When elephants attacked my camp at night". In Jepson, Stanley (ed.). Big game encounters. London: H.F. & G. Witherby. pp. 22–26.
  6. ^ Handley, Leonard M. (1933). Hunter's Moon. London: Macmillan and Co. pp. 240–264.
  7. ^ "Reviews. Hunters' Moon". Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. 37 (3): 716–718. 1934.
  8. ^ "Libelled hunter gets £3,000 damages". The Strait Times. 27 April 1937. p. 8.