Robert and William Carr-Hartley’s hunger for adventure and their passion for wildlife and conservation is inherited from their Grandfather Tom Carr-Hartley stemming from a long family history in East Africa.
Tom, nicknamed ‘Carr’, was a high-spirited and wilful child. Born in Kenya’s capital in 1909 he grew up in a wild and rustic Nairobi, crossing swamps and encountering lions on his way to school. Yet Tom soon bored with Nairobi and school, ran-away at a young age to live with his mother on a remote ranch up-country. During these wild and free years he became at one with nature and learnt the skills of the bush. Exploring the forests and plains of the north Tom built strong friendships with the local tribes and soon became fluent in Kikuyu as well as Kiswahili. Throughout his time on the ranch he became extremely experienced with cattle, and at the age of eighteen headed off on his own to buy cattle for a trading company, during which time he ventured through some of the most remote and harsh territories within East Africa.
Tom nurtured his love for the African bush and its wildlife during these early adventures and became renowned for his ability in dealing with wild animals, and was soon approached by the Wildlife Department requesting him to accept a position within game control. The capture and habituation of big game was still unfamiliar territory during these early years yet Tom was one of the first to master the art despite sustaining many injuries, losing a couple of fingers as well as surviving lethal encounters with a buffalo and a rhino. By the mid-1950’s Tom had purchased a large game ranch in Laikipia within central Kenya. He used this beautiful area as a habituation ground for his captured game, where he supported an array of wild animals before moving them into newly established National Parks in the region. With his intimacy with wild creatures Tom was soon also sought out by Hollywood to work on some of the 1950’s big-hit African movies, such as ‘Mogambo’ and ‘Hatari’. Conservation as we know today was little understood during these years yet Tom was already laying the foundations for a better future for wildlife.
With four sons, Pat, Brian, Roy & Mike, the family tradition of game capture was continued until 1976 when the times changed and the brothers moved forwards embracing Kenya’s new plans in wildlife conservation and the popularity of ‘safari’ and tourism throughout East Africa.