The Magnificent Seven, impressive elephant bulls all with tusks weighing more than 50kg each that roamed Kruger in the latter half of the 20th century, earned themselves a name based on the 1960 Hollywood film.
While many of Africa’s elephant populations have seen the genes of their largest tuskers depleted by ivory hunting and poaching, Kruger’s giants live on in what are now called the emerging tuskers.
In recent years, some of these new tuskers have died, notably Masunguine, Masbambela, Mashagadzi and most recently Alexander and Hlanaganini. “Visitors to Kruger can search for 14 named tuskers, 10 of which are regularly seen. All of these bulls are considered emerging and in upcoming years should all develop into the impressive bulls we know and love,” says Kirsty Redman, interpretive officer, Nxanatseni region.
Origin of Name: Unknown
Range: Timbavati/Klaserie and Umbabat Private Reserves adjoining the KNP. This bull is known for his extensive wanderings and is a regular feature as far north as Shingwedzi and Mopani as well as in the Letaba and Phalaborwa areas. Special Features: Mac wears a radio collar. He has fairly symmetrical ivory. There is a prominent wide u-shaped notch in his left ear towards the middle of the lobe.
In the same ear there is a large and wide v-shaped tear at the bottom of the ear lobe. In the right ear lobe there is a wide v-shaped notch in the top part of the ear lobe, with a smaller same-shaped notch towards the lower to middle area of the lobe. General: This bull is not considered to be a ‘Kruger Tusker’ due to his home range predominating in the Timbavati Private Reserve. However due to his extensive wanderings into the KNP, he is definitely worth recording and keeping note of.
Origin of Name: Named after section ranger Harry Kirkman, who served Kruger between 1933 and 1958. Muliluane means ‘small fire’. Range: He is known to move between the Sabi-Sands Private Nature Reserve and the Skukuza section of Kruger. He was recently sighted as far south as Biyamithi Bushveld camp, which is a new area for this bull.
Special Features: The elephant has very widely spaced straight ivory with the left tusk being notably longer than the right. He has a prominent square notch/tear in his left ear towards the top of the ear lobe, with a loose piece of skin just below that. On the same ear, there is a notable hole towards the outer edge of the earlobe towards the bottom of the lobe.
General: Muliliuane seemed an appropriate name for this bull as he is known to move between Kruger and the Sabi-Sand Private Nature Reserve. Harry Kirkman started his career in the Sabi-Sand, then moved to Kruger as a section ranger and returned to Sabi-Sand as warden after his retirement from Kruger.
Walter Henry (Harry) Kirkman was born in the Steytlerville district of the Eastern Cape on March 31, 1899. Being legally under aged, he joined up with the armed forces at the age of 15 and served in the East African campaign.
After the war he took over the management of the TCL. cattle ranch on the Sabie River, now the Sabi-Sand Game Reserve. He took over duties in 1927 from his friend Bert Tomlinson who left this position to become a section ranger in the KNP.
Many of the duties of this position such as predator control, fire management and anti-poaching, were similar to those of a ranger and in 1933 he followed his friend Bert Tomlinson into service with SANParks.
Initially, he was employed by colonel James Stevenson-Hamilton in a clerical position, which was not much to his liking, but he accepted the job as it gave him a foot in the door. In 1935 he was appointed to a section ranger’s position and was given the Sabi section of the park. Given his new status, he promptly married Ruby Cass.
During this time, Harry followed up on reports of black rhino in the Gommondwane area of the KNP and while he found tracks the animals eluded him. He was thus the last person to record this species in KNP, as thereafter black rhinos were not recorded again as they had become locally extinct until their re-introduction to Kruger in the 1970s.
In 1938 Harry was moved to a new ranger’s section, known as Shangoni and he was instrumental in its development. Once, while patrolling on horseback, his horse was attacked by a lion. He was thrown from the saddle, but still had his rifle in his hands. He fired a shot at the lion; wounding it and watching it take off.
After retrieving his badly wounded horse, he followed up the spoor of the wounded lion and destroyed it. Once elephants became more common, Harry and Harold Trollope were detailed to drive marauding elephants back into the park, which resulted in many close encounters.
In 1942 Harry again joined the armed forces and served in the Western Desert, but he returned to Kruger to resume his duties in 1946. In 1947 he was again transferred to Skukuza, where among other duties, he was also placed in charge of the roads section. Harry Kirkman retired from service with National Parks at the end of 1958, and was appointed warden of the Sabi-Sand Game Reserve.
His place of work had come full circle – his movements mirrored by the elephant bull “Muliluane” which has been named after him. While following up a wounded lion in the reeds of the Sand River in 1964 the lion charged Harry from short range. His rifle belt hooked on the vegetation, preventing him from bringing the rifle to bear on the enraged lion. The lion severely mauled Harry’s left arm.
Wounded by one of Harry’s companions, the animal took off into the reeds, and in spite of his wounds, Harry followed it up and shot it, using only his right arm. This at the age of 65! Harry recovered completely from his wounds and eventually retired from service in the Sabi-Sand in July 1969. He passed away on June 12, 1989 in an old age home in Eshowe, Zululand, at the age of 90.
Origin of Name: Named in honor of Ted Whitfield, who was a section ranger in the KNP for 24 years. Nwashinangana can be translated as ‘somebody that blows the animal horn’, due to his habit of whistling softly while he was working, Range: Imbali (Mluwati) Concession, Kingfisherspruit, Tshokwane and Lower Sabie.
Special Features: Very substantial thick ivory widely splayed. This bull has two small v-shaped notches in his right ear, towards the centre and bottom of the lobe. His left tusk is longer and less curved than the right tusk. There is a tennis ball sized growth on the left flank about 50cm from the tail of the bull.
Two small notches spaced approximately 10cm apart at the top of the left ear lobe General: This bull has been seen on numerous occasions in recent years and seems to be a popular tusker to photograph.
From the submissions it has been noted that this bull has a very large home range stretching from Orpen Gate to Lower Sabie Rest Camp. He was first recorded in 2006 and has grown substantially since then, attracting far more attention in recent years. He was named in 2008 during the judging for the 2007 Emerging Tuskers competition and received 1st prize in the same competition.
Ted ‘Nwashinangana’ Whitfield was born on the April 12, 1936 in Pilgrims Rest. He attended Pretoria Boys High and Belfast High School. He started his career in the KNP as a section ranger at Klipkoppies, now named Mooiplaas, section on April 1, 1970.
He worked at seven of the 22 ranger section throughout his career (Mahlangeni, July 1970; Malelane, January 1972; Nwanetzi, April 1976; Kingfisherspruit, October 1977; Satara, November 1977; Houtboschrand, April 1982). Ted retired on November 1, 1994 and lives in Graskop. Ted’s legacy continues in Kruger through two of his three children. Steven is section ranger at Tshokwane and Sharon is married to Don English, section ranger at Malelane.
Ted is very keen on musketry and was an outstanding marksman. He played a mayor role in the South African development of the monolithic bullet point for heavy calibre hunting rifles. He started making hunting knives as a hobby during the mid 1970’s and is a founder member of the South African Knife Makers’ Guild. (Information provided by Ted Whitfield to Steven Whitfield and Louis Olivier)
Photo: Mac, photographed by Michele Henley