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Photo / Published Obituary:
Mr Mulji Modha
Years at RTC:
1959-1964 and 1967-1968
Academic Field:
Biology and Zoology
Place of residence:
Winnipeg, Canada
Year of death:
Age (yrs):
In Memoriam:
The following contribution is from Prof Malcolm Coe under whom Modha studied at RTC and with whom he performed amazing research on crocodiles. Mulji was popularly known as " CROCODILE MULJI" !!!!

Memories of a natural historian.

Mulji was a student at Makerere College in Kampala but he was very unhappy there and Professor Leonard Beadle suggested that he should transfer to us in Nairobi where we were about to start degree courses through the University of London. Thus it was that Mulji, Abdul Munim Mjeni and our Ugandan, Wilson Nshangano became our first Zoology undergraduates. After graduation Mjeni went to Oman via Canada, Nshangano returned to Uganda where we lost contact and Mulji began his renowned study of crocodiles on Lake Rudolf (now Lake Turkana) with the Kenya Game Department.

It was not easy living with two Turkana tribesmen on Central Island with no means of reaching the mainland in an emergency, before the advent of mobile phones and the like. His study was a masterpiece of reptile natural history and included confirmation of the manner in which crocodiles responded to the sounds made by the young as they emerged from their eggs. One of my abiding memories is of sitting with Mulji and Don Stewart (his boss) on the shore of his study lake on Central Island, switching on my recorder and playing the sounds of the calling young and watching dozens upon dozens of crocodiles converging on the shore below us. For good measure Mulji was taken by a crocodile while he was taking a bath in the lake, he fought the saurian and recalled Malcolm's advice "if you are taken by a croc poke your fingers in his eyes and he will probably let go". He did and wrote to me in Oxford from his hospital bed to say that he had just counted 200 holes. Mad, yes but we would have never had it any other way. For good measure he was bitten by a Spitting Cobra that decided to sleep on top of him in his tent and when he administered the anti venom he developed anaphylactic shock and had to wait to be rescued. Oh, I almost forgot, his tent burned down while he was croc-watching and they had it live on a bag of posho and fish from the lake until they were rescued. If you think these incidents demonstrated a touch of accident proneness you would be right, for on returning to Nairobi he bought a motorbike which he crashed and for a while could not remember having been to Lake Rudolf. How have we survived for so long, which is another story?

All forms of natural history were of interest to Mulji but he developed a special interest in snakes where he developed an uncanny ability to find them. On a field course with the younger students on Lake Magadi in the Southern Rift Valley we went out at night and Mulji caught six in about half an hour, the pride being a splendid Sand Boa. His most enjoyable encounter was with
Ugas as the young lion that later became famous in the film Born Free. I only wish I had a photograph of the look on Mulji's face when Ugas placed both his huge paws on his shoulders and breathed his halitotic breath in his face. A small scratch on his leg from Ugas was an injury that he swore he would keep so that he could show his children and tell them of his encounter with a lion in Stephen Ellis's house.

My great sadness is that my friend and I did not meet again.

Lala salaama rafiki yango.

Malcolm Coe

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