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