Kruger’s Big Tuskers

There’s more than 14,000 elephants in the Kruger National Park, and of course they are a big drawcard for visitors to this game reserve, being charismatic animals and members of the famed “Big 5”.

For us too, encountering elephants is always a special treat: witnessing the interactions between different herd members or the playful antics of the calves, and there’s few things in nature as beautiful as the gait of a confident elephant bull, his massive head swaying from side to side,  intent on ensuring anything and everything in his way clears out before he gets there.

The Kruger Park is known as one of the few remaining places on the African continent where you still have the chance to see elephants carrying impressive tusks, sometimes in excess of 2 or even 3 metres in length and weighing anything between 40 and 70kg. In the Letaba Rest Camp there’s a fascinating  museum dedicated to the elephant, where visitors can also marvel at the tusks of some of Kruger’s most famous tuskers.

Over the years, we’ve been extremely fortunate to have encountered a handful of these living monuments while exploring the Kruger National Park, especially in the northern regions of the park in the vicinity of Shingwedzi, Letaba and Mopani Rest Camps. Traditionally, these remarkable giants are given distinctive names, either for the area they roam or in honour of Kruger staff members who have dedicated their lives to the protection of this special place.

Eventhough I was then only a child travelling to the Kruger Park with my parents, long before the advent of cheap (digital) photographic equipment, encounters with the magnificent Mandleve and Mabarule will live in my memory forever.

The photographs we’re sharing here are more recent. In January 2006, Marilize and I became two of the very small number of people to have had the honour of seeing Masbambela -we’ve already posted some pictures of him in a previous post (here)

MASBAMBELA_JAN06

Masbambela

Our sighting of Ngunyupezi in April 2007, when the whole de Wet clan went camping at Shingwedzi, was just as special – it was only the second officially recorded sighting of this enigmatic bull, whose left tusk characteristically grows almost straight down. At one point he charged at us, head held high and that straight tusk leading the way like the lance of a medieval knight! Ngunyupezi is still seen in the Shingwedzi area from time to time.

Ngunyupezi_APR07

Ngunyupezi

Hlanganini was a well-known tusker, regularly seen around Letaba Rest Camp. This is also where we met him, in September 2007. Hlanganini died a couple of years ago, following a fight with another bull.

HLANGANINI_SEP07

Hlanganini

During the same visit in September 2007, we also encountered Tsotsi. Sadly there hasn’t been any recent reports of sightings of this bull and he is presumed to have died somewhere in the wilderness.

TSOTSI_SEP07

Tsotsi

During a visit in June 2011, my brother Niel and I came accross two of the new generation of Kruger  Tuskers: Machachule, right at Shingwedzi’s back gate, and Masanana, near Letaba.

Machachule_Jun11

Machachule

Masasana_Jun11

Masasana

We’ve already had five encounters with Masthulele, believed to be Kruger biggest tusker at the moment, over the years. This sighting was in April 2012 near Letaba, while visiting the Park with our friends the du Plessis’

Masthulele_Apr12

Masthulele

During our visit in September of 2012 we were lucky to see two more tuskers: Mandzemba welcomed us back to our beloved Shingwedzi, while Ngodzi bade us farewell us we departed from Mopani. These two tuskers haven’t been named “officially” by Kruger’s management (yet) and their names are, for now, derived from waterholes found in their home ranges.

Mandzemba_Sep12

Mandzemba

Ngodzi_Sep12

Ngodzi

Everytime we visit the Kruger Park, we hope for another special appearance by one of these majestic animals. It may be years before we are fortunate to have our path cross one of theirs again, but when it happens it will surely be another thrilling experience!

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23 thoughts on “Kruger’s Big Tuskers

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We know that we are extremely fortunate to live in a country where these beautiful animals still roam Jeanne. Thank you for your visit and kind comment, and welcome here at de Wets Wild!

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  9. ilargia64

    OHHh!! I love it!!! But how can you be sure about the elephants<? Only because of the tusks? Because of their colour? To me it is so difficult! May be it is because I am not so used to them?

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    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Thank you very much Ilargia!

      You ask a very good question!

      Firstly their unique tusks – both in length and shape – helps with the identification. Then, every elephant has unique notches on the edges of their ears and unique patterns of wrinkles on their faces and trunks that distinguishes them from one another.

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  10. mjculverphotography

    Jumbo are some of my favorites. I love their whole sense of family which, we as humans, can learn so much from. Their love and support of each other is magical and amazing. I will never tire of seeing them. Love this post Dries and Marilize. Lovely that all of these elephants have names. You make all of this come alive for anyone and everyone who reads this, even if they’ve never been to Africa. Very special guys.

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