The 2006 Kruger National Park (KNP) Emerging Tuskers Competition attracted more than 180 individual entries and has identified eight new emerging tuskers, bringing the total to 50.
Launched in March 2006, the KNP Emerging Tuskers Competition is part of a research project to identify the new crop of elephants with large tusks and encourages visitors to the KNP to take photographs or video footage of any elephant with large tusks so that this record can be used for research purposes. Each entry was evaluated on its clarity, visibility of the animal and ivory, significant markings (eg ear notches), aesthetics, value to research and the information recorded.
The winner, who will be given a chance to accompany the KNP's elephant researcher, Dr Ian Whyte and KNP veterinary surgeon Dr Markus Hofmeyr on a research trip to capture and put a tracking collar on an elephant, plus two night's accommodation at the camp closest to this operation, is Arks Smith.
Smith's contribution identified a new tusker and provided an exact location of where the elephant was seen, plus provided photographs taken from all angles of the ears, tusks and a full frontal of the bull, as well as DVD footage. On the strength of this data and the identification of a new tusker, this contribution was a unanimous winner.
In line with the KNP's policy on naming tuskers after KNP rangers, this bull has been given the name Bidzane, which was the nickname given to long serving ranger Gus Adenhorff. The second place prize, which is two night's accommodation for four people at Letaba Rest Camp with one free activity (ie game walk, night drive etc) and a guided tour of the Elephant Hall, has been awarded to Paul Mcay.
Mcay submitted photographs of the late Masbambela and the value of the print comes from the information provided. The photograph was a clear shot of this famous bull and showed a characteristic hole in the right ear that was previously missed.
This entry also provided an earlier sighting of Masbambela than the KNP's earliest record of this tusker, which was 2004. The third place winner, who wins a night's accommodation for five people at either Shipandani or Sable Dam sleepover hide, has been awarded to Trevor Fourie. Fourie submitted photographs of the usually elusive Massunguine, providing the KNP with the first recorded pictures of this bull from the ground.
As all previous recorded photographs of this bull have been taken from the air, this entry's value to the project is important as the distinguishing characteristics of this bull can now be easily identified. Although it was previously not announced, a fourth place was also awarded this year.
The winner, Harry Kritzinger, will receive an autographed copy of Dr Johan Marais' new book "Great Tuskers of Southern Africa" for sending a variety of footage of many of the tuskers and the judges felt this effort was worth recognition. There were also a number of highly commended entries.
These include: Ghreta Viljoen (photograph of Masbambela), Dries de Wet (photograph of Masbambela), Leon Jenner Kotse (photographs of Duke with a calf), Owen le Roux (photograph showing Mambrr's tear on right ear clearly), Ardus van der Westhuizen (photograph of Masbambela which enabled researchers to close the "gap" on time between when the tusk broke and the elephant's death), Ann Evans (photograph of Duke in an area where he has never been seen before) and Catharina Roelfse (newly named elephant bull Tsotsi, the photograph showing the ear markings clearly).
Judges for the competition included: Dr Ian Whyte (KNP elephant scientist), Piet Andjelkovic (Honorary Ranger who has provided much of the logistical support for the project), Louis Olivier (legendary KNP ranger), Dr Markus Hofmeyr (KNP veterinary surgeon), Dr Johan Marais (author and veterinary surgeon from the Tswane University's Onderstepoort) and Kirsty Redman (Co-ordinator of the Emerging Tuskers Competition).
As the 2007 Emerging Tuskers Competition is now in full swing, visitors to the KNP are urged to keep their cameras, video cameras and digital cameras ready when they enter the Park and, if they are lucky enough to see an elephant with really large tusks, they should take as many images as possible.
This competition will be run annually until further notice and all entries should be received by December 31 each year. That year's winner will be announced during March or April the following year. Details of prizes for the 2007 competition will be announced later