Six new Kruger tuskers named


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Six elephants have been added to the Kruger National Park's (KNP) list of upcoming tuskers, courtesy of the enthusiastic participation of visitors in the emerging tuskers project of the KNP. "In keeping with the policy on the emerging tuskers, these magnificent animals have been named after previous rangers and field rangers who have made notable contributions to conservation and Kruger," says Kirsty Redman, coordinator of the project in Kruger. The new tuskers are:

MAVALANGA

This bull was named in memory of Piet Otto, who served firstly as a helicopter pilot and later as head of flight and game capture operations in Kruger for 25 years. Mavalanga is the Shangaan name for ‘one who has very good eyesight', which refers to Piet's exceptional ability to spot game during the annual aerial census, long before anyone else and which earned him the nickname, "Mr Eyes" from those who worked with him. Mavalanga has a very large home range and has been recorded in Pafuri, around Babalala and as far south as Bangu in the Olifants trail area. He has substantially curved ivory and a notable thickening on his trunk that has a "doughnut" appearance with a definite depression in the middle. His right ear has a small R2-sized hole towards the upper edge of the lobe as well as a small v-shaped notch with the bottom part of the notch extending past the end of the lobe line. The left ear has a prominent wide u-shaped notch below the middle area of the lobe as well as a similar-shaped notch slightly above the middle of the lobe that is bisected by a small extension of skin. This is not usually visible unless the ears are open. A small ‘R2' hole at the tip of the ear lobe is also visible from a frontal or left side angle. This elephant was first recorded by Anja Stolk in September 2008 as part of the emerging tuskers competition. Due to the immense distances between locations of other submissions in 2008 by Johan Marais (author Great Tuskers of Southern Africa) and in 2009 by Robert Bryden (coordinator of guides, Nxanatseni Region) these were originally thought to be of ‘new bulls'. Upon investigation and the recording of the identification features for Mavalanga it is now clear these sightings are of the same bull and have served to highlight the immensely large roaming range of this magnificent tusker.

MBAZO

Named for Lynn van Rooyen who served in conservation for SANParks for 39 years. Mbazo meaning ‘axe' refers to Lynn's early years as a ranger where he was known to lead field patrols armed only with an axe. This bull has been in the Orpen Gate area, and is also known to frequent the area around Satara and Nwanetsi and slightly north of there towards Balule. Mbazo has very unusually shaped ivory that makes him easily recognisable, with right tusk fairly straight and the left considerably curved. Two areas of thickening on the truck between the tusks are visible in all footage of this bull. No ear notches are easily visible, although a U-shaped notch exists at the extreme bottom of the right lobe alongside the neck area. This bull was first recorded in December 2008 by Nicole Cordes as part of the emerging tuskers competition in 2009, and was noted as unusual. Several submissions followed subsequent to this that clearly identifies this bull's stomping grounds. He was recently named confirming his status amongst the ‘new' era.

MCULU

Named in honour of Ben Lamprecht who served in conservation in SANParks for 26 years. Mculu is a Shangaan word referring to the manner in which Ben was known to walk with his shoulders pulled up high. This bull seems to have a relatively small home range at present and is seen frequently in the immediate vicinity of the Letaba Rest Camp. He has also been recorded on the tar road towards Phalaborwa Gate. He has notable upright curved tusks. A prominent growth/thickening on his trunk can be observed. His ears also have very distinguishing characteristics. His left ear has a ragged "w" shaped notch in the middle of the lobe, while the right ear has a significant u-shaped notch in the upper lobe, as well as a small R2- sized hole towards the middle to lower area of the lobe. Mculu was first spotted in early 2009 by Kirsty Redman in the Letaba area, but a lack of good quality photos and a similarity in ear notches to known tuskers failed to determine if this was a ‘new tusker' or one of the known bulls. A series of good photos taken by Richard Sowry in August 2009 allowed this bull to clearly be identified as a ‘new tusker' as well as a previously unidentified submission to be clearly identified as the now known "Mculu". Mculu is a relatively young bull and his home range is fairly small when compared with other tuskers, however, now that his characteristics have been identified it will become easier to record him from submissions and to determine his home range.

NGONYAMA

Named for Uys de Villiers (Tol) Pienaar who served SANParks in conservation for 36 years. Ngonyama is the Tsonga word for ‘lion'. This nickname derives itself from an incident on July 21, 1956 when Tol was bitten by a lioness along the Timbavati spruit , where present day Roodewal camp is. Tol was also known for his green eyes that could flash like a lion's when angry. This bull has an average sized home range. He is known in the area between Phalaborwa and Mopani (Mayumbeni and Xilawuri Koppies) and stretches to Letaba Rest Camp. The elephant has very widely splayed ivory, with the left tusk appearing to be slightly longer than the right due to the curve of the tusks. There is a conspicuous lump (or lumps) on his left backside as well as a tiny hole at the base of the left ear lobe. Some thickening on the upper trunk can also be observed. He was first sighted by Kobie Naude on October 5, 2008 on the tar road towards Mopani from Phalaborwa. At the time with only one submission it was decided not to name him. He was noted as an impressive bull and monitored to see if he appeared again. This was the last heard of him until December 2009 where a sighting from Christiaan Janse van Rensburg found him in the Letaba region of Kruger. Two subsequent sightings by GVI volunteer Jasmine Brown in February and March 2010 again in the immediate vicinity of Letaba helped cement his status as a large tusker and the decision was made to name him. He appears docile and does not seem to mind the presence of guests providing good sightings.

NTOMBAZANA

Named in memory of Bruce Robert Bryden who served in conservation with SANPArks for 29 years. Ntombazana is the Shangaan word meaning ‘young lady'. This name was affectionately bestowed on Bryden by his staff referring to his love of the ladies when he first arrived in Kruger. This bull has been recorded predominately in the Letaba and Olifants area, around the junction of the H1-5 and the S46. He has substantial and thick ivory. Ear notches are particularly prominent with a notable ‘punch hole' type notch in his left ear with a R2-sized hole slightly above this. His right ear has a ‘w' shaped notch towards the upper lobe (this is a u-shaped notch with a loose skin piece dividing the area). Several other ragged notches are also evident in the right lower ear lobe. This bull was first recorded in 2008 by Anja Stolk as part of the emerging tuskers competition in 2009 and was recently named. Little is known about this bull as he seems to shy away from cameras. It is hoped over time footage will improve given his recent confirmed status amongst the ‘new' era.

THANDAMAMBA

Named for Sgt Aaron Nkuna who served as a field ranger in the KNP for 37 years. Thandamamba is the Zulu word for "the one who is fond of the black mamba snake" or "the black mamba snake lover". This unusual name came about during a conversation with Brian Harris, ex-section ranger Stolznek, where Aaron indicated the one thing he loved most about the KNP was the snakes particularly the black mamba. This bull predominates in the very southern area of the KNP and has been sighted in the Malelane/Stolznek areas of the south, around the Gardenia Hide and the Mlambane confluence and is a regular visitor to the Jock Concession. He has very substantial ivory in weight and given he is a younger bull it is hoped he will continue to develop further. His ivory is fairly splayed with the left tusk slightly straighter and longer than the right. His right ear has several distinguishing ear notches, the most notable being a v-shaped tear in the middle of the outer lobe and a u-shaped notch at the base of the lobe close to the neckline. This bull has been a regular sighting from the aerial census since 2007 and has been recorded by 

Stolznek ranger Rob Thompson. However it wasn't until a sighting in January 2008 by Jenni Lane submitted as part of the emerging tuskers competition that this bull's distinguishing features could be identified and therefore allow his status as a new tusker to be confirmed.

More information

The "Emerging Tuskers Project" is an ongoing project within Kruger. Submissions of potential and known tuskers are welcome in order to improve the database of these animals. Photos can be submitted as follows: Emerging Tuskers Project, Letaba Elephant Hall, Private Bag X402 Skukuza, 1350 E-Mail:Tuskers@sanparks.org or directly to kirtsyr@sanparks.org. Queries: (013) 735 6664 or if people want more information on these tuskers and others they can go to http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/elephants/



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