Monday 20th of August, 2007, Matt and Wildtuinman drove out onto the S28 to go look for Duke. After we've spend some time at the Ntandanyati hide we edged back to the S28. Matt gave Wildtuinman the choice of turning left or right back onto the S28.
After some quibble and a serious game of ching chong cha we landed up turning right. Which had a significant outcome to this whole story.
After a few minutes we started getting bored and Wildtuinman in his true joking spirit asked Matt if he wanted to see Duke.
He then pointed out into the field, and there asif Murphy's law was waiting to happen, an elephant popped out of nowhere!
We laughed and joked about this and although making it out as a strange phenomenon the strange feeling of unknown description made us scan the elephant with our bins. It wasn't Duke thou.
We scanned a second trailing elephant. Also... that one had short tusks.
Then a third elphant appeared, half leaning against a tree. With new Bushnell bins pointed in that direction we held our breath...
It was him... the old boy!!! The two white tusks flashing clear and brilliantly in the African sun.
What was even more weird was that we had cell reception. We phoned Bucky and left numerous voicemail messages as he was on his way to Lower Sabie from Balule. Two hours later we got hold of him. Duke has not moved much and Bucky was on his way after dropping of the caravan to come have a look.
The man's face was priceless as he parked his red bus next to us. His being in the Park for more then a week has sharpened his view and he saw Duke without any difficulty.
We took photos, we viewed him thru the bins and around 16:00 we headed back to Lower Sabie. We got the caravan pitched and decided to head out to spend a few more minutes with Duke.
We found him easily. He had hardly moved from his last position an hour before.
We once more took pics and then the most unthinkable thing happened. Bucky pointed out that we were no longer looking at Duke. Wildtuinman scanned the elephant via the bins and noted that the left tusk was indeed not Duke's tusk.
A brief discussion followed and after a series of photos were taken and followed by further scanning thru the bins, it was decided that Duke must have lost his left tusk.
Doubt, disbelief and sadness fell over us all. But the pictures shed no doubt. Duke was without his left tusk. It had broken off in the hour we were away from him that afternoon.
As the fiery-necked nightjar sang it's somewhat sad song that night we sat around our campfire, absolutely devasted by this loss. A rough night would soon follow for all of us. One with little sleep and many questions.
Why did we turn right?
Why did we joke about the fluke sighting?
Why did we leave him?
Why was it left to members of the original duke pack to see these events unfold ?
More people saw him today. Duke's left tusk is history.