The Kruger National Park is home to all kinds of animals but it is the massive elephants which once roamed the park that have become the stuff of legends. In this second part of a 2 part blog series, we cover the rest of the Kruger’s Magnificent Seven.
Kambaku is a Tsonga word that means “Great Tusker” or “Old Elephant Bull” and he was the third member of the Magnificent Seven. This elephant bull meandered in a large area of the Kruger National Park, covering ground from Satara all the way to Crocodile Bridge.
Kambaku had some very distinctive markings, one was a perfectly round hole in his left ear and the other was a smooth round patch of skin on his trunk. Towards the end of his life he also had no hairs on the end of his tail. Kambaku was frequently seen in the Kingfisher Spruit area where he was photographed by many visitors. He was unique in that he was never seen with other lone bull elephants.
Kambaku used to cross the Crocodile River and invade the neighbouring sugar cane fields. While on one of his outings, he was shot in the left shoulder. This large wound eventually became septic and when he could no longer walk he was mercifully shot by a ranger late in 1985, when he was 55 years old.
Joao was named by Anthony Hall Martin after Prester John who was a legendary priest king of ancient Africa and also because he was often found at a waterhole in the Shingwedzi area that had the same name.
Joao made his home in the Shingwedzi area but was also seen in the south near Mahlangene and Shilowa. He was a large bull that was 340cm at the shoulder. In 1982, Joao was wounded by poaches and had to be immobilized so that the wound could be inspected and antibiotic administered. At the same time he was fitted with a radio collar and had his tusks measured. It was estimated that his tusks weighed about 130kg which made his tusks the heaviest of the Magnificent Seven at that time. His wounds healed and in 1984, he presumably had a fight with another elephant bull which resulted in both of his tusks being broken off and they were unfortunately never found. He is the only one of the Magnificent Seven at the Letaba Elephant hall that does not have his tusks on display.
Mafunyane did not like humans, was quick tempered and was named by Kruger Park Ranger Lou Steyn from a Tsonga name which means “The Irritable One”. His range of wonderings was from the Shangoni region to Shingwedzi and also to the Bububu stream. As he walked around his huge fairly straight tusks rubbed the ground making their tips as sharp as a chisel edge. Mafunyane’s tusks were beautifully symmetrical, the same length and weight. He was not without quirkiness, he breathed through a perfectly round hole of about 10cm on the right side of his skull that went down to his nasal cavity. He was also easily found because of his footprint. One of his hind toes on his left foot was splayed.
Mafunyane was a shy elephant and was rarely seen by visitors to the Kruger National Park. He made sure he kept well away from the roads, choosing to roam in the bush in remote areas. He was a large elephant that stood 327cm at the shoulder. In 1983, after being immobilised so that a radio collar could be fitted, it was almost the end of his life. Due to the weight of his huge tusks, he had extreme difficultly rocking himself back up again. After several hours of struggle, a front end loader was called in to help. Eventually to the great relief of both elephant and capture team, he was scooped to his feet and went running into the Mopane bushes. His body was found on the 16th November 1983 where it was estimated that he had died 3 or 4 weeks previously of natural causes. He was 57 years old.