The article “Quest for Big Ivory” by Dr Henk Rall in Magnum’s February 2020 edition drew reader response pointing out errors both real and perceived. This previously unpublished photo of four extraordinary tusks has exposed a truth which I have kept secret for a quarter of a century, and did not wish to reveal for reasons that will become clear as I proceed. This photo became a Pandora’s Box, placing me in an invidious position – obliged to reveal information that will doubtless cause sadness and disappointment. It’s a long and complex story…
Dr Rall’s text and captions indicated the tusks were shot by the ‘German’ appearing centrally in the photo, the two sets weighing 240lbs and 220lbs a side. Reader Dries Gouws responded to say the bigger tusks were shot by Harry Manners who appears slightly behind and to the right of the ‘German’ (i.e. on the German’s left side), and these tusks now hang in the Maputo Museum in Mozambique. Dries is correct in that the man on the right is Harry Manners, so it is understandable that he believes these to be the famous Manners tusks – “the Monarch of Murripa” as Harry described the elephant in his book Kambaku. However, the tusks in the picture are not those of the Monarch of Murripa, though they are the tusks presently hanging in the Maputo Museum.
I had not seen the photo when I edited the text, hence didn’t correlate it with the stated weights. When the art-icle appeared, Royce Buckle, an ex-East African PH, and I discussed the tusks, agreeing that the weights could not be right. Next, Bill Feldstein (of .700NE fame) emailed to say the tusks in the photo clearly do not weigh 240lbs. Likewise, Ludo Wurfbain, publisher of Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game, on receiving his copy of Magnum, emailed me a similar message. Bill Feldstein contacted American gun-writer Joe Coogan, who also challenged the weights, and opined that the central figure in the photo was Wally Johnson, Harry Manners’s mentor and hunting partner.
Joe Coogan emailed Wally Johnson’s son Walt, an ex-PH, retired in America aged 80. Walt positively confirmed that the central figure in the photo was his father, who shot both elephants, and Walt clearly remembers, as a boy, seeing the very same photo in the Johnson family album, adding that while his father was away on a trip, his mother, needing money, sold both sets of tusks to a trader for a total of £300 sterling. This fact is important and will come up again later.
Joe Coogan and Walt Johnson emailed me to confirm this. So we know for sure who shot the two elephants whose tusks appear in the photo. We asked Dr Rall where he’d obtained this photo and the tusk weights. He said ex-Mozambican Otilio de Vasconzales, who features in his article, gave him the photo and details years ago. Dr Rall accepted Otilio’s word in good faith.
The clincher was an email from Leon Hansmeyer showing an enlargement of a section of the tusk held by the man on the far right of Dr Rall’s photo, revealing a particular stain on the tusk roughly at his forehead level. Leon also attached an enlargement of the same section of tusk which appears on the cover of the latest (Rowland Ward’s) edition of Harry Manners’s book Kambaku – ostensibly the tusks of the “Monarch of Murripa”. The identical stain appears, conclusively revealing these to be one-and-the-same tusk.
Read the full article in the May 2020 issue of Magnum.