As the 1800s came to a close, Frederick Russell Burnham and Fritz Duquesne were two scouts fighting on opposite sides in the Second Boer War. Burnham “could read the air like a river and pull the scent of a campfire out of the warmer currents floating along high ridges.” Duquesne modeled himself after the black panther, a mysterious and lethal predator. At one point, each had been tasked with killing the other.
By the end of the twentieth century’s first decade, however, Burnham and Duquesne were working together to solve America’s food crisis. Their idea, while undoubtedly odd, was also reasonable for the time. The U.S., they proposed, should introduce hippos into Louisiana’s swamplands.