The notorious ivory poachers of old
In the far north east corner of South Africa where the Levuvhu River joins the Limpopo is an island in the middle of the Limpopo. In the centre of this island stands a beacon which indicates the geographical position where South Africa, the old Southern Rhodesia (now called Zimbabwe) and Portuguese East Africa (PEA - now Mozambique) meets. The beacon is the apex of the triangle to the south and east formed by the two rivers and is known as Crook's Corner. The reason for this description is retold by Nick Hurry in the June issue of Man Magnum.
After the Second War of Independence this area with its prolific wildlife was incorporated into the Shingwedzi Game Reserve (now part of the Kruger National Park). At the time of Shingwedzi, the nearest game ranger was 130 km (80 miles) to the south and easily a week away by ox wagon. This area was the home of the big tusk elephants of the time like the famous Dhlulamithi.
It also was the ideal sanctuary for poachers because should a police patrol from any of the three countries arrive it was easy for poachers to just walk across the imaginary border line into another country and thumb their noses at the police.
Barnard is the last name of a number of Afrikaner individuals who have become world famous over the centuries for various reasons [one day I shall write a story about this clan!]. Not all of these enterprising men and women were of the high ethics like Christiaan Barnard who did the world's first heart transplant, or of social standing like Lady Anne Barnard.
One notable individual was Cecil Rutgert Barnard (1866-1962). Author T.V. Bulpin in his book The Ivory Trail [essential reading for any hunter] addresses Cecil Bvekenya (Shangaan for "he who walks with a swagger") Barnard and his association with Crook's Corner in close detail.
Bvekenya decided to try his hand at elephant hunting after hearing the stories of the old ivory hunters and in 1910 set off to this north eastern outpost on his ox wagon carrying a money belt full of cash and his Lee Enfield .303.
He went straight to the corner and into PEA at the Massangena border post and applied for an elephant licence but was told by the Shangaan policeman that it was out of season and that he should come back in six months’ time. He went further into PEA and while camping at the Save River he was attacked by a band of Shangaans led by the policeman from Massangena. Barnard managed to flee but lost all he had, inluding his rifle.
He walked back all the way to Makhuleke and managed to borrow enough money to buy a Mannlicher Scönauer 9.5x57 and 500 cartridges [This was similar to the .375 Flanged Nitro Express that forum member Bob Thiry is presently building], which was better than the .303 but still iffy on elephant.
So Bvekenya Barnard launched a career of ivory poaching. He also set up an intelligence network, tracked down the ringleaders of the gang that had attacked him and taught them a lesson in ethics by giving each one of them a sound thrashing, thereby ensuring that he would be left alone in future. In time his considerable aura of self confidence and being a provider of meat to the Shangaans ensured their loyalty and pre-warning of police raids on his camps.
In his first hunt he needed six shots to down his elephant and later became more experienced in shot placement on these beasts. He wrote a letter to Mannlicher asking them to build him a custom rifle that could shoot a 15 mm bullet (.600”), which they declined, asking who would shoot such a rifle, a giant or a madman? His final rifle was a Holland & Holland .465 double which he liked.
Of the 300 or so elephant he shot most were in Rhodesia and he was actively sought by anti-poaching police. Beating them each time back to the border beacon they became frustrated and one day in 1918 they simply walked over the line and took him into custody. At his trial in Fort Victoria no one could be found to testify against him anymore and he was released after paying a token fine of 15 pound Sterling. On his way back to South Africa he levelled the score by shooting seven elephant and taking the tusks with him.
Other famous poachers resident at Crook’s corner were Charlie Diegal, “Morty” Ash, Fred Roux, and some others including the brothers Herculaas, Theuns, and Jan Nel. The latter mended their ways of poaching, wanted to start cattle ranching and bought a bull and some cows. On their trek into Rhodesia they found no game to shoot for camp meat and by the time they reached the area safe for cattle production they had killed and eaten all their own assets.
The front cover shows one of the many sniper rifles the Pretoria firm Truvello designs and builds for the international military market. Their sniper rifles have an enviable record of accuracy and reliability, and a visit to South Africa should include a tour of this facility. Their counter-measure sniper (CMS) rifles are produced in 7.62x51mm / .338 Lapua / 12.7x99mm (.50 Browning) and the truly massive 14.5x114mm - which dwarfs the .50 Browning.
Readers must look for this edition of Man-Magnum on the shelves or sign up for the online edition. This magazine is a must read for the hunter/shooter who demands something above what the shelves display in the U.S. The content is mostly in the English language.
The April 2017 issue showing a .375 H&H built by famous Kevan Healy on a pre 64 Winchester action