Unraveling the tusker mystery

The sighting of the large tusker described in “A tusk task” was the subject of an intense exchange of messages between the bushsnob and the Emerging Tuskers Project (ETP) of the Letaba Elephant Hall of Kruger National Park.

I supplied the ETP with all the pictures and a video of the elephant. I also reviewed the approximate location of the site where the animal was observed and corrected it to the area around Shingwedzi Rest Camp. This was done after revising our route on the day of the sighting, based on bookings and pictures (both their contents and times taken).

The ETP then studied all available information and compared the unknown tusker with their elephant database and came to the following conclusion, communicated to me on 15 September 2014:

“Thank you very much for sending the additional images and narrowing down the location it did help considerably, I did receive all 11 (pictures).

 In regards to your bull the answer is perhaps not one you were expecting but nonetheless very good news in that we have what appears to be a new tusker.

 This bull is definitely not Mavalanga* as neither the ear markings from the left ear that are prominent nor is what I call the “donut”, the thickening on the middle of the trunk present. I have looked in detail at the ear markings and having compared them along with the shape of the ivory with all the possible bulls that we are currently monitoring as well as the known bulls and they do not match. The location and side images you provided eliminated my only other suspected bull, so the only feasible conclusion is a new bull.

 Interestingly we received a second image from a guest who also suspected his sighting to be Mavalanga around the same time as your image was taken. We can see the ear markings clearly in this image so I am confident in my assessment.

 It never ceases to fascinate me how these bulls can go for so long without being noticed especially with ivory this substantial, it also highlights the value of guest submissions to the project as this is how we learn about these wonderful bulls.

 I have created a file for this bull and will definitely escalate him to the top of the list when the time for the naming review comes and hopefully at that time he will be confirmed as a new bull and named.

Kind Regards,


Of course the bushsnob and his wife are both very excited to have contributed to the ETP by spotting such a remarkable tusker and, hopefully, they will be kept in the loop regarding the future naming of the tusker by the ETP.

* (see: http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger/elephants/tuskers/emerging.php#mavalanga)

new tusker cropped

A frontal view.


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