Ever since the Magnificent Seven was first named in the 1970s, Kruger's elephants with large tusks have been a source of awe and inspiration around the world. While many of Africa's elephant populations have seen the genes of their largest tuskers depleted by ivory hunting and poaching, Kruger's legends live on in what are now called the emerging tuskers.
More than thirty years ago, seven impressive elephant bulls, all with tusks weighing more than 50 kilogram each, roamed the Kruger National Park (KNP). These bulls coined the collective name, the Magnificent Seven, based on the 1960 Hollywood film.
Ever since the Magnificent Seven was first named in the 1970s, Kruger's elephants with large tusks have been a source of awe and inspiration around the world.
While many of Africa's elephant populations have seen the genes of their largest tuskers depleted by ivory hunting and poaching, Kruger's legends live on in what are now called the emerging tuskers.
Sadly recent years have seen the loss of many of the larger new era champions, such as Masunguine, Masbambela, Mashagadzi and most recently Alexander and Hlanaganini.
However it is with excitement and interest that we watch the new era of tuskers reach their potential. Visitors to Kruger can search for 14 named tuskers, 10 of which are regularly seen. All of these bulls are considered emerging and should all develop into the impressive bulls we know and love.
Origin of Name: Machachule has been named in memory of Corporal Joe Manganyi who served 33 years in service of Kruger. Machachule meaning ‘the lead dancer' this name was given by his staff as he was known as a very strict worker who did not waste time and who had to do things immediately, leading by example.
Special Features: Large uneven v-shaped tear in the right ear towards the middle of the lobe, top part of the v-shape more elongated then the bottom. Left ear has a medium sized square shaped notch towards the middle of the lobe, small flap of skin directly below this.
General: Machachule, was first seen and recorded as a tusker by Dr Ian Whyte (SANParks) in the Shingwedzi area, during the aerial census in 2004. This bull was noted as to keep track of, but seemed to have kept a low profile with only a few known recordings of him.
In 2006 SANParks helicopter pilot,Grant Knight recorded him again during the aerial census, and a guest Jose van der Hoorn noted him in November 2005 and May 2006.
This was until recently when numerous sightings were recorded in 2007 and it would seem he has now become a regular feature for guests in the Shingwedzi area. This bull was named in 2008 during the judging of the 2007 Emerging Tuskers Competition year.
Joe ‘Machachule' Manganye: (1935 – 2005) Joe was a long serving member of the SANParks family. Joe retired as a field ranger corporal from the Mahlangene section of the KNP in 2002, after 33 years service. He was well known and respected by all those who worked with him. Staff members who remember him well, knew him for his excellent work ethic. He sadly passed away on the 14 November 2005.
(Extract from KNP Lesedi upon the death of Joe Manganye)
Origin of Name: Named in honour of Johan Kloppers who served 36 years in conservation in Kruger. Madolo meaning ‘Knee's', was given to Johan due to his penchant for walking. According to staff who knew him well he inherited this name due to his unique stride when walking.
Range: Skukuza/Kruger Gate towards Pretoriuskop.
Special Features: Symmetrical ivory with left tusk slightly longer than the right. Madolo had relatively clean ears however there are small v-shaped notches in the left ear, towards the centre and lower sections of the ear lobe, a small hole below the lower notch in the left ear is also visible.
General: Matthew Durell captured a detailed photographic series of this bull on two occasions, providing a comprehensive database of the animal. This bull was named in 2008 during the judging of the 2007 Emerging Tuskers Competition and was awarded 3rd prize in the same competition.
Johan ‘Madolo' Kloppers: Johan Kloppers born on the 27 August 1933 was a long serving member of SANParks, who started his career in 1953. His first working day was on the August 1, 1955 as a junior ranger in the Tshokwane section of KNP. He was later promoted to section ranger and moved to the Letaba section on January 16, 1963. He did not remain in Letaba very long and on November 20, 1963 he moved to the Satara section as the district ranger for the central region.
Johan was transferred on May 1, 1967 to the Punda Maria section as the district ranger for the Far North. He ended his career with one final move to Skukuza as the chief ranger on December 1, 1973 where he served in this position until February 1, 1974. He remained in service of SANParks as assistant director: nature management, based in Skukuza.
On January 1, 1976 Johan was again promoted to the position of head: nature management in Skukuza, and on July ,1 1979 as head manager: nature conservation where he remained until his retirement on November 1, 1993.
Johan has since been living at Mtunzini on the KwaZulu Natal North coast with his wife Pat, whom he married on 12 October 1957. Their son Jacobus [Koos] was born on 27 March 1974.
Johan had many highlights in his esteemed career and was the driving force in the development of the first accurate official maps of the KNP and knew the park better than anybody. He was a foot patroller par excellence covering the better part of the park leaving his foot prints at places seldom visited since on foot by anybody else.
Apart from his long illustrious career lasting 36 years, Johan will be remembered for two publications: "Butterflies of the Kruger National Park." "A Dictionary of Kruger National Park place Names." (Information provided by Johan Kloppers via Louis Olivier).
Origin of Name: Named in memory of Douw ‘Swannie' Swanepoel who served in the KNP as a ranger from 1982 – 2001. Mandhevhu meaning ‘beard' was given to Swannie due to the wild red beard he always sported during his time in Kruger. Range: seven kilometres south of Mopani up to Shingwedzi.
Special Features: Small hole in left ear lobe towards the lower middle of the lobe and the point at the bottom of the lobe, as well as small wide v-shaped a notch towards the top of the same lobe. Right tusk shows signs of being broken some time ago and has since smoothed over and grown in length.
There is a notable hole right in the tip of the broken tusk visible from the left side. From sightings by Johan Marais it would appear that one of his back legs is stiff so he walks with an audible "sleepvoet".
General: In March/April 2008, this bull was spotted several times, the first recent submission was from Michele Henley (researcher) who tracks the famous ‘Mac' from the Timbavati. She recorded this bull associating with Mac in the Mooiplaas area.
On the April 1, Mooiplaas section ranger Johann Oelofse photographed the same bull in the surrounding area and was curious as to the identity of the bull, as he is a frequent visitor to Mooiplaas. Coupled with a guest submission at the same time it was decided to immediately name the bull and to continue to monitor him.
Upon further investigations revealed that a bull previous labelled as unknown in the Shingwedzi shares the same characteristics as Mandhevhu and was sighted as far back as October 2004. However in this recording the break in the tusk was considerably newer. It is thought that this could be identification cannot be confirmed.
Douw/Swannie ‘Mandhevhu' Swanepoel: Douw Swanepoel, better known as ‘Swannie' to most, joined Kruger during 1982. For the next four years he was heavily involved in the training of all new and already employed field rangers, whenever the need arose.
He became a wilderness trails ranger at the beginning of 1983 and was promoted as section ranger to Mooiplaas during December of the same year. In 1987 he was transferred to Kingfisherspruit until 1994 when he was sent to Olifants where he remained until his career ended in 2001 when he was declared redundant as a result of operation prevail.
During his time in Kruger, he attained the National Diploma: Nature Conservation in 1986 by part time studies. In 1995 he completed the Higher Diploma. He received his MSC in 1999. His thesis was: The ecology of the Nile Crocodile in the Olifants River, KNP.
Because of this unique study and subsequent intense knowledge on crocodiles, Swannie was invited to address the International Crocodile Specialist Group in Australia during 1996. In 1997 he and the late Tony Pooley, the only South Africans ever, were invited to join the IUCN Species Survival Group on Crocodiles. He also appeared in four TV documentaries based on the Nile crocodile.
Swannie was by far the most knowledgeable ranger when it came to computers and electronic communications technology. When the Honorary Rangers (HR) kindly donated a PC to each KNP Ranger in 2000, Swannie had the daunting task of training the KNP rangers at the time. The Cyber Tracker, a tool used daily by SANParks rangers. He recognized the value of the palmtop computer way ahead of anyone else in the organisation at the time.
He strongly motivated its use, acquired the hardware and subsequently, once again, trained the rangers. This effort has put and kept KNP a leader in their field, worldwide.
After leaving SANParks, Swannie was instrumental in the translocation of the first elephants into Limpopo National Park. Several dignitaries, such as former state president Nelson Mandela and the late Anton Rupert, witnessed the historic release of these animals in Mozambique.
At a gala function towards the end of 2005 he received the Phalaborwa Chamber of Commerce's Award as newsmaker of the Year. Swannie was loyally supported by Louisa ever since they married in 1981. They have two children Jirah-Marì and Wessel.
Douw Swanepoel sadly passed away on the 1September 11, 2007 after a long battle with cancer. (Information provided by Louisa Swanepoel)
Origin of Name: Named in honour of Mike English, who served in conservation for 33 years as a section ranger in Kruger. Ma Xangane, meaning ‘one who speaks Shangaan' refers to Mike's ability to converse fluently in the Shangaan language.
Range: Letaba Rest Camp.
Special Features: Prominent large square shaped notch in the left ear lobe towards the top of the lobe. Right ear severely ragged, with several v-shaped notches along the full lobe. Left tusk longer and straighter than the right tusk.
General: This bull was first seen and photographed by Kirsty Redman and Johan Marais in the Letaba Rest Camp area. He has substantial ivory and has the time and ability to develop into a notable tusker. Mashangaan was named in 2008 during the judging for the emerging tuskers competition and was the joint 4th place winner for the same competition.
Mike ‘Ma Xangane' English: Mike English had a notable career in Kruger, starting in 1963 as a section ranger in Shangoni and was well known amongst his colleagues for his fluency in the Shangaan language. In 1972 he was transferred to Pafuri section, where he surveyed the main tarred road from Baobab Hill to Pafuri Gate.
In 1977 Mike was on the move again this time to Stolsnek section where he started the wilderness trails in 1978, a popular activity to this day, and the documentation of many of the Bushman Rock Art sites in the KNP. In 1991 Mike moved to Satara where, at retirement in 1992, Mike was the regional ranger for the central region. He continued his efforts in conservation after this and remained in the park as the caretaker for THEBA in Pafuri, until 1996.
Mike's legacy continues through his eldest son who has been a SANParks employee for 21 years and is currently the section ranger at Malelane. Don is married to Sharon the daughter of retired section ranger, Ted Whitfield,who has also had a tusker named after him through the emerging tuskers competition. (Information provided by Don English, section ranger Malelane).
Origin of Name: "Masthulele, meaning ‘the quiet one' has the honour of sharing his name with Dr Ian Whyte, who was given this name by the staff he worked with.
Range: Mooiplaas/Giriyondo, but this bull has also been seen as far south as Letaba and more recently in Cleveland Private Nature Reserve to the south of Phalaborwa.
Special Features: Small v-shaped notch in the left ear towards the centre of the lobe. Masthulele has a thickened skin growth on the trunk, towards the narrowing section of the trunk. His tusks are fairly symmetrical with the left tusk curving slightly higher then the right.
General: His name is very appropriate as he lives up to being the ‘quiet one' by being seldom seen. He has only been photographed twice since the time of naming. The first two series of photographs were both taken from the helicopter during the elephant censuses of 2003 and 2004. Both series were taken in the Tihongonyene Windmill area.
This elephant is named after the ethnic name of Dr Ian Whyte after motivation by Dr Johan Marais, Kirsty Redman and regional ranger. Louis Olivier, in July 2005.
Dr Ian ‘Mastulele' Whyte: Dr Ian Whyte completed his PhD at the University of Pretoria with a thesis titled "The Conservation Management of Elephants in the Kruger National Park". He retired recently after 37 years dedicated service to the KNP. Born in 1947 in Vereeniging, Dr Whyte started his career in 1970 as technical assistant: department of agricultural technical services and proceeded to advance in the research field to the position of program manager: large herbivores in the scientific services section of the KNP, from which he retired in July 1997.
Dr Whyte's many talents included serving as pilot in the annual fixed wing census over 20 years in Kruger. As an avid birder, Dr Whyte has acted as ornithologist in Kruger between 1985 and 1998, co-ordinating ornithological research and other projects such as the translocation of Red billed Oxpeckers.
He has had many other influences on conservation, such as co-authoring a book on the birds of the Kruger National Park. He has also been the sole or senior author of 16 scientific publications and co-author of 15 others, senior author of seven chapters in technical books, plus two as co-author. Dr Whyte has authored 38 scientific reports to SANParks and 28 articles in popular journals.
He is married to Merle (née Retief) and has two children, Lorna and Neil, who followed in his father's footsteps in the conservation industry. Dr Whyte has five grand children.
Origin of Name: Named in memory of Sergeant James Maluleke, who served a combined 33 years in service to the KNP. Ngunyupezi means ‘one who likes to dance with woman but who will always go home at the end of the night'. Range: Red Rocks area, between Bateleur and Shingwedzi.
Special Features: Left tusk is considerably longer then the right. Uniquely the left tusk has grown with the curve backwards towards the body making this a very unique elephant.
General: This bull is very shy and is seldom seen and there have only been two visitor reports of this unique elephant. A previous employee of DataCentrix, Desmond Swart on March 12, 2007, first photographed him. The second sighting was by AJ de Wet as part of the Emerging Tuskers competition on the April 30, 2007. Ngunyupezi was named in 2008 during the judging of the Emerging Tuskers Competition and was the 2nd prize winner in the same competition.
James ‘Ngunyupezi' Maluleke: (1919 – 1996) Sergeant Maluleke started his career in 1956, as a field ranger at Mahlangeni and served at many sections within Kruger, including Shingwedzi and Punda Maria. He worked with section rangers Lynn van Rooyen, Johan Kloppers, Ben Pretorius and Louis Olivier. He retired in 1976 but returned in 1982 to work as a security guard at Punda Maria Gate, where he stayed until he permanently retired in 1995.
James passed away in 1996 and is remembered as a dedicated employee whose legacy continues through his son Albert Maluleke, a field ranger sergeant in the Stolznek section.
One of the many stories he had teels of the day he was cycling from Punda Maria to the gate when he came across eight lions. His ‘padkos', a few strips of biltong strapped to the back of the bicycle, caught the attention of two of the lions whose unequivocal understanding of padkos became very clear when they gave chase.
They caught up with the bicycle and chomped through the tyre. With no torch and only his trusted (Lion?) matches, which he lit one at a time, James dodged the determined lions on foot for the remaining five kilometres to the gate.
Yelling so loud he would have deafened a vuvuzela, he crashed through thick thorny bush in such desperation he arrived at his Matiane home, his clothes shredded and his voice gone.
Origin of Name: Named in memory of Ampie ‘Tsotsi' Espag, who spent many years in Kruger as section ranger and hospitality manager. Tsotsi means sneaky, trouble maker, or skelm. Range: Letaba Rest Camp.
Special Features: Tsotsi has very symmetrical substantial weighted ivory, with the left tusk slightly more curved upwards than the right. There is a notable u-shaped notch in the right ear lobe towards the top, with a square notch approximately 15cm below this. He has two small holes approximately five centimetres apart on the right ear lobe slightly below the centre part of the ear lobe, which are not always visible.
General: Tsotsi is a well-known inhabitant of the Letaba area. He has a penchant for destroying fences around the camp and staff villages, and it was for this reason that the staff felt it appropriate for him to share the name with Ampie Espag, who earned the same for his cheeky habits. He was first recorded photographically in 2004 by Kirsty Redman.
At this stage while his tusks had significant weight they had not developed in length. He lived up to the potential shown as young bull and his tusk length has almost doubled since he was first recorded. Many believe he could become one of Kruger's big tuskers. Tsotsi was named in 2007 during the judging for the 2006 Emerging Tuskers Competition year.
Abraham/Ampie ‘Tsotsi' Espag: (1924 - 2006) Abraham Jacobus (Ampie) Espag spent most of his adult life in the KNP. He knew the Park like the palm of his hand and was a gifted storyteller, spending many hours around campfires, sharing his experiences.
He started his career on February 1, 1954 as section ranger at Malelane. Poaching in that part of the Park was rampant at the time and Ampie's relentless, often clandestine and highly successful efforts to curb the problem, soon earned him the nickname of Tsotsi.
He was still part of the generation of section rangers who patrolled the veld on horseback, bicycle or foot. After 10 years at Malelane, Ampie was transferred to N'wanetzi, a ranger section east of Satara rest camp, bordering Mozambique. Here, for the first time, he had to curb elephant poaching, escalating from out the neighbouring country.
Six years later he was transferred to Tshokwane where, apart from his normal duties, he became very involved in the capture and translocation of game to other parks. He transferred to the Mooiplaas section at a time when elephant poaching from Mozambique was a huge problem in the northern parts of the KNP. His experience and knowledge of old, which he gladly shared with the younger generation, was instrumental in the success of many anti-poaching operations during that time, resulting in a number of poachers being apprehended.
From there he went to Kingfisherspruit at Orpen Gate where he met with Phelwane, one of the biggest ivory carriers in the history of the KNP. Ampie and this legendary elephant shared various management incidents, some of which can be described as rather hilarious as well as awe-inspiring.
After retiring as section ranger, Ampie assisted at Punda Maria in the tourism department until he eventually retired in Pretoria. He passed away in July 2006 at the ripe old age of 82. (Information provided by Tant Sannie, Ampie's much loved wife of many years).
By Kirsty Redman