S2A3 Biographical Database of Southern African Science

Latour, Mr Ernest (pisciculture)

Born: Date not known, Place not known.
Died: Date not known, Place not known.

Ernest Latour, an English pisciculturalist, came to the Cape in March 1892 in charge of a batch of 100 000 brown trout ova for the Cape Town Fisheries Committee, headed by Lachlan MacLean*. A hatchery had been established at an old brewery in Newlands with financial support from the government, and there Latour supervised the hatching and rearing of the trout. The fry were released in the Eerste, Lourens, Berg, and Brede Rivers and thus trout came to be successfully established in South Africa for the first time. In 1893 Latour supervised the establishement by the government of the Cape Colony of the first permanent fish hatchery at the Cape, at Jonkershoek. However, he had no love for roughing it in remote places and strongly disliked Jonkershoek, continuing his work at Newlands until the hatchery there was closed early in 1894. Hence he did not continue his work to its logical conclusion, namely to take eggs from the trout that he had reared locally.

In June 1894 Latour was brought to King William's Town by J.D. Ellis* to inspect the facilities and streams near the town with a view to hatching and establishing trout in the region. His resulting report was very favourable and in June 1894 he was retained by the Frontier Acclimatisation Society to carry out the project. Two prominent members of the committee that supervised his work were J.D. Ellis* and Dr H.M. Chute*. Hatching troughs were set up at the source of the Buffalo River, in the Evelyn Valley Forest Reserve, high up in the Pirie Mountains some 30 km from King William's Town. The first batch of ova arrived in February 1895 and soon almost 50 000 fry were brought down from the hatching troughs and placed in rearing ponds at a lower altitude. However, by July only some 6000 remained and Latour's explanation of the attrition was not found entirely satisfactory by the committee. Most of the remaining trout were released in the Buffalo River, but a few hundred went to each of the Gonubie, Carnarvon, Little Kabusie, Toise, and Keiskamma Rivers. The experiment had not been as successful as had been hoped, probably partly because Latour was unfamiliar with local circumstances and had to learn the hard way.

In February 1896 the next batch of 15 000 brown trout ova and 15 000 "Loch Leven" trout ova arrived. The latter were in poor condition and a total loss, but the brown trout ova hatched successfully. Another shipment received early in April was also in an unsatisfactory condition. Meanwhile Latour complained to the committee that his position had become irksome and his health poor, and asked for his return fare to England. He left his post on 30 April and returned to England in May 1896. The work was continued later that year by A.N. Stenning*.

During his stay in the Eastern Cape Latour was a regular contributor of specimens to the King William's Town Museum (later the Kaffrarian Museum).

List of sources:
Gilchrist, J.D.F. The early history of trout acclimatisation in South Africa. In: Cape of Good Hope, Report of the Marine Biologist for the year 1897, pp. 137-140.

Harrison, A.C. Trout pioneering in the Eastern Province. Piscator, 1950, Vol. 5(15), pp. 76-79; 1951, Vol. 5(19), pp. 92-96; 1952, Vol. 6(21), pp. 27-32.

Kaffrarian Watchman, 4 September 1896, p. 5, King William's Town Naturalists' Society: Annual report and financial statement.

Standard encyclopaedia of southern Africa (SESA). Cape Town: NASOU, 1970-1976.

Compiled by: C. Plug