MANNERS TUSKS MYSTERY REVISITED
Who shot the bull whose tusks appear in Kambaku?
“Truth sits upon the lips of dying men” – Matthew Arnold 1853
THE ARTICLE “Que stf or Big Ivory” by D r 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 This previously unpublished photo of four extraordinary tusks has expose d a tr uth which I have kept secret for a quarter of a century, and did not wish to reveal for reasons that will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 article 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 gunwriter 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.
The tusks in the picture are not those of the “Monarch of Murripa”, though they are the tusks presently hanging in the Maputo Museum
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, reveal
ing 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.
Prior to Mozambique’s independence in 1975, its most famous hunters were Harry Manners, Wally Johnson, ‘Baron’ Werner von Alvensleben, Leo Kröger and Adelino Serras Pires
I SAID EARLIER that the tusks in Dr Rall’s photo were not those of the Monarch of Murripa. Leon’s evidence would appear to prove me wrong, would it not? Well, let me explain. The tusks on the cover of the latest edition of Harry’s book (and also inside every edition of Kambaku) were not those of the Monarch of Murripa. I have known this for 25 years.
Dries Gouws, Jürgen Hoffmann and others can be excused for assuming the big tusks in Dr Rall’s photo were the famous Manners tusks – after all, Harry does appear in the photo. However, in addition to Walt Johnson’s very credible testimony that his father shot both elephants, the photo shows Wally Johnson as the focal figure. Harry Manners is standing off to one side and slightly behind Wally, partially obscured. Wally’s central position and stance clearly lay claim to both sets of tusks.
Not convinced? Okay – study both photos closely. The tusks in Dr Rall’s photo have not been cleaned. Those on Harry’s book cover have (though the tell-tale stain remains). Secondly, in Dr Rall’s photo, Harry is clean-shaven. On his book cover he is bearded. Time has passed between the two occasions. Walt Johnson’s mother later sold the tusks to a trader, remember? The photo on (and in) Harry’s book was taken on the sidewalk outside the shop of the Indian trader. Harry asked for the tusks to be carried out into the sunlight for the photograph. I knew the person who took the photo. In Part 3 of this article I’ll reveal who it was and how I know this – as I said, it’s a long and complex story. If still not convinced, please bear with me – I have further compelling evidence.
Prior to Mozambique’s independence in 1975, its most famous hunters were Harry Manners, Wally Johnson, ‘Baron’ Werner von Alvensleben, Leo Kröger and Adelino Serras Pires. After the Portuguese government banned unrestricted ivory hunting, Von Alvensleben formed the sport-hunting safari company Moçambique Safarilandia, employing Manners, Johnson and Kröger as PHS. Pires started his own safari company. With independence and the ensuing civil war, all but Kröger left Mozambique. Manners worked for Kruger National Park in SA as a fencebuilder and tourist officer then retired to an old age home in Nelspruit – which was when I first met him. Johnson joined Safari South in Botswana, where his son Walt was already a PH. Von Alvensleben moved to Portugal. Pires guided safaris elsewhere in Africa. Kröger remained in Lourenço Marques (Maputo) running a commercial fishing boat and export-import business.
After the civil war ended, ex-safarilandia PH, Luis Pedro Sa è Mello, visited Maputo where, in the museum, he saw
a huge pair of tusks. The curator said these were Manners’s “Monarch of Murripa” tusks. They’d been stolen from the Indian trader who’d bought them. After an indeterminate period, they were recovered by the Frelimo police and donated to the Beira Museum, who presented them to Samora Machel, President of independent Mozambique. They hung in his Presidential palace for some years before he presented them to the Maputo Museum.
LUIS PEDRO INFORMED Von Alvensleben, who informed Magnum’s Brian Marsh, who informed me. Wanting a positive identification of the tusks, I flew with Harry Manners to Maputo, where we stayed with Leo Kröger, then 82 years young.
I was now told the official Rowland Ward measurer who’d registered Harry’s “Monarch of Murripa” tusks had been a missionary named David Hall, then working in Lourenço Marques. Regrettably, I did not think to query when this had taken place. However, I knew an American missionary named David Hall, a Magnum subscriber who worked in Togo, West Africa and had invited me to hunt there. By 1995, however, he was living back in America. The problem I now faced was that the tusks on the museum wall, while huge, did not appear to weigh 185 and 183lbs as registered in Rowland Ward’s. They were bolted to the wall facing the main stairway, high up, and the museum would not take them down for weighing, which I considered crucial for positive identification.
The tusks had been scraped clean but retained some marks which I was hoping Harry might recognise. However, we could not get close enough. If we stood beneath them, their bases were a metre above our heads, their tips three metres higher. If we climbed the stairway to their level, we were several metres away. They were also splayed widely outwards, not like those in the two photos, making comparisons difficult. One tusk appeared slightly thicker than its mate.
The accompanying plaque, in Portuguese, seemingly posed a mystery. The curator translated: “Tusks from an elephant shot in 1946 in the Manjacaze district of Chibautu, weighing 68kg (150lbs) and 65kg (143lbs) respectively,… holding a position of high standing in the scale of the world’s records. Being on display at the Beira Museum and afterwards in the palace of the President of the Republic, they were put on trust to this Museum in 1980 by decision of His Excellency, the President of the Republic, Samora Moses Machel.” These weights appeared to match the tusks on the wall. The story of these being Harry’s tusks, stolen from the trader and recovered 30-odd years later by Frelimo police, was clearly false, since the plaque gives the district and year in which the bull was shot – where could this information have come from? Readers please note these plaque details, and the tusk weights, for they will come up again presently.
Harry said he couldn’t be sure whether these were his tusks. I wrote an article about this (Magnum, November 1995), leaving the question hanging. If I’d known then what I learned later, my article would have been very different.
Incidents during and after our trip made it clear that, at 78, Harry’s memory was failing him. Then, later – after I’d written the article – we were discuss
ing ivory, and Harry told me that not long after he’d sold his Monarch of Murripa tusks to the Indian trader, he’d visited the shop, and was angry when the trader told him he’d sawn the tusks into shorter sections to crate them for shipment to India. I believed this, and of course it immediately struck me that it meant Harry had known all along that the tusks in the museum were not his. He misled me.
I couldn’t blame him one bit. Harry and I had become close friends. I’d thoroughly enjoyed our trip, learned much, and formed a lasting and highly entertaining friendship with Leo Kröger. Harry was frail and near the end of his life (he died two years later). He had nothing, and lived a dismal life in an old age home. Magnum offered him a fully paid trip to his old country after a 20-year absence, to stay with his good friend from their old hunting days. Harry went along with it. Who in his circumstances wouldn’t? I was glad for him. And I chose not to divulge this information, not wanting to hurt Harry in his waning years.
I SUBSEQUENTLY CAME to doubt his story about the trader – I’ll explain why in Part 2 of this article – but either way, it did not change the fact that the big tusks in Harry’s book were not those of his Monarch of Murripa. You see, after our trip, I set about locating the missionary Dave Hall. He’d moved to Portugal, but when his Magnum subscription finally caught up with him, he wrote to me on 16 October, 1996, saying he’d been keenly following the Manners tusks odyssey and was indeed the David Hall responsible for registering Harry’s tusks with Rowland Ward’s. However… he had not weighed them – nor even seen them. Dave Hall’s sojourn in Mozambique and friendship with Harry took place in 1974-75 just before independence.
Dave wrote: “Being an official measurer for Rowland Ward, with a picture supplied by Harry [doubtless the same one Harry put in his book – GW] I wrote to RW and asked if it would be possible to at least mention such a magnificent set of tusks, even if with an asterisk and footnote. They took my (Harry’s) word for the weights, which, seeing the photo, wouldn’t be hard to do! The next issue of the book listed Harry’s elephant without any asterisks or comment. Made me happy! Thus, although the monarch was slain on the slopes of Mt Melange on the southeast border of Malawi in 1952, it was only 25 years later that it was officially registered.”
Enclosed with Dave’s letter was an article listing known big elephant tusks of Mozambique, published in the Aprilmay-june 1974 edition of Rota Sul Southern Route, a Lourenço Marques dual Portuguese-english magazine. An excerpt: “Two tusks are on display at the Beira Museum, which, to our point of view, are to the present the most valuable trophies belonging to Moçambique patrimony. They came from an elephant shot in the area of Maqueze (Chibuto, District of Gaza) in 1946 by the big game hunter Wally Johnson who sold them to a merchant in Beira, Damodar Anandjee, who donated them to the Museum later. Their weights are 68.500 kg and 66.000 kg (151.015 lbs and 145.504 lbs), respectively, according to an information kindly supplied by the Mayor of Beira, Engineer J.R. Simöes Cordeiro. Those tusks, in view of the data contained in the Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game would place Moçambique in the 21st place in the list of world records.”
Compare this data with that of the plaque in the Maputo Museum. Allow for differences in place-name spellings (1974 Colonial spellings were later Africanized), and for insignificant differences in weight. I think you’ll agree, these are the same tusks. Those in Maputo’s museum are the Wally Johnson tusks that appear in both Dr Rall’s photo and in Harry’s book. The photo I took in the Maputo Museum reveals the right-hand tusk to have the same tell-tale stain. Furthermore, I suspect these are the same tusks at 35th position in Rowland Ward’s 2020 edition, shot in Mozambique, owned by the Mozambique government, now weighing 149 and 143lbs due to further drying out since 1981, the entry date. Both are 8ft long but differ in circumference by 4½ inches. In my April Gallery piece on the Dr Rall photo, I said if you paired the tusks according to colouration, one tusk appeared slightly thicker than its mate.
Harry was frail and near the end of his life. He had nothing, and lived a dismal life in an old age home
HOW DID HARRY Manners come to be photographed posing possessively with Wally Johnson’s tusks, and why did he put this photo in his book, implying they were those of his Monarch of Murripa? I’ll answer this in Part 3 (July edition), in a story which I think you’ll find intriguing, albeit saddening.