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On the wide-open plains of Africa grows a tree uncultivated by man. Scientists call it “Sclerocarrya birrea”, but it is more commonly known as the Marula tree. The tree only grows in one area on the entire planet, the warm, frost-free regions of subequatorial Africa. It is from the fruit of this mystical tree that Amarula Cream is borne.
The Marula tree holds a position of importance both in the animal kingdom and in human legend and ritual.
The trees themselves cannot be cultivated, and so the fruit must be harvested in the wild, where it stands ripening under the African sun. As they ripen the fruit’s skin becomes a light yellow, with white flesh inside around a large stone. Rich in vitamin C, and the nut packed with natural oil, this succulent, tart fruit draws the animals of the plains with the promise of its annual feast. This fruit is the base ingredient from which Amarula is made.
Amarula Cream was first introduced to the South African Liquor market in September 1989. Originally part of Distillers Corporation, Amarula is now a part of the Distell Group, formed by the merger of Distillers Corporation and Stellenbosch Farmers Winery. This allows Amarula Cream to reach a market in about 150 countries, allowing people from around the world to taste some of the exotic fruit of Africa.
LEGENDS AND FOLKLORE
The animals that are most keen to enjoy the fruit are the magnificent African elephants, which arrive in herds, or by themselves, and ram the trees to get the fruits to fall off. As the fruit falls and lies on the ground, it starts to ferment, giving it a sweeter taste – and a slightly alcoholic content! Even the animals of the savannah will do just about anything to eat the Amarula fruit.
The majestic African elephant, which has roamed the African savannah plains for hundreds of years, are also attracted to the ripening fruit. They gather in herds to feed on the rich diet of the ripe fruits and their gathering in great numbers under the magnificent Marula trees has given birth to the name “Elephant Tree” among local inhabitants.
According to age-old myths and legends the tree also holds a significant position. Amongst some tribes it is known as the “The Marriage Tree” as it is accredited with special aphrodisiac properties, and many marriage ceremonies are still held under the Marula tree. The bark of the tree is used for a number of different things, from determining the sex of ones child, to treating a sore stomach, and even curing measles.
But the main reason why the Marula tree is so popular is because of its fruit. Whether eaten plain, ice cold or made into beer, jellies or jams, the marula fruit and its oil-rich nut are always in demand when the tree is producing fruit.
Seven of the largest remaining ‘tuskers’ have become collectively famous as Kruger’s “Magnificent Seven”.
Amarula brings you the limited edition “Magnificent Seven Collectors Series” gift tubes.
Series I: SHAWU – named after the Shawu Valley
The Shawu Valley gave its name to the magnificent ‘Shawu bull’, the African elephant that unhurriedly roamed the area for sixty years.
Visitors to the valley were, at times, privileged to encounter this awe-inspiring bull, as he appeared to be at ease with vehicles and commanded instinctive respect fromall who gazed upon him.
Shawu was sizable having a shoulder height of 340 centimetres and proudly bore the longest tusks ever recorded in Southern Africa. Curving away from his face, in a magnificent 317-centimetre sweep of ivory, his left tusk crossed below the tip of his right tusk that measures 305 centimetres. These impressive tusks, although suprisingly light, are ranked in the Rowland Ward’s records of big game as among the longest.
Series II: KAMBAKU – meaning ‘big elephant’
Kambaku was one of the most impressive bulls of the magnificent seven. Kambaku is the Tsonga word for ‘old elephant bull’ implying great reverence for a great animal, yet his reclusive nature and avoidance of young elephants led to him being known as ‘the solitary one’.
Kambaku traversed a huge tract of country stretching from Satara and Orpen to Crocodile Bridge.
His massive broad head, hairless tail, prominently patterend trunk and a resplendent set of tusks made him instantly recognisable.
His ivory is almost identical in symmetry, length, thickness and shape – the right tusk measures 265 centimetres and left 259 centimetres. Together this colossal pair of tusks weighs in at 127 kilograms.
Series III: SHINGWEDZI – named after the Shingwedzi River
An elephant’s age can be fairly accurately determined from the state of his teeth – and Shingwedzi was a real veteran. His last molar was well worn down, giving him an estimated age of 65 years. He died of natural causes in the north east of the Kruger National Park, under a sycamore fig tree on the bank of the river that gave him his name.
His stamping ground was an area between the border of Mozambique and the Tshange Hills. The Shingwedzi River flows through this region and means ‘place of ironstone’.
Often one tusk is favoured and Shingwedzi’s tusks served as classic ‘master/servant’ tusks. The shorter ‘servant’ tusk measures 207 centimetres and would have been used to gather food by digging up roots and debarking trees. The ‘master’ tusk at 264 centimetres reached almost to the ground – even when this legendary bull stood with his head held in a normal position.
Series IV: JOAO – named after the Joao windmill in the Kruger National Park
Joao was first seen near a windmill called Joao – Portuguese for John. Rangers measured his magnificent tusks when he was immobilised for the fitting of a radio collar. His left tusk was recorded as 266 centimetres and weighed about 60 kilograms. At the lip line it measured 55 centimetres – larger than any of the other of the Magnificent Seven!
This great tusker’s gleaming ivory scythes were the reason for him being wounded in 1982 by ivory poachers. He was hit no less than four times with AK 47 bullets. Despite this, he recovered – thanks to those who darted him and treated the wounds.
In 1984 both of Joao’s tusts were broken off and never found. These are the only tusks not exhibited at Letaba Rest Camp’s Elephant Museum.
Series V: NDLULAMITHI – means ‘taller than the trees’
He was one of the tallest elephants in the Kruger National Park standing with a shoulder height of 345 centimetres. Not surprisingly, elephant researcher Dr Anthony Hall-Martin christened him with a traditional Tsonga word meaning ‘taller than the trees’.
Ndlulamithi, like Mafunyane, was by no means an approachable bull. He was respected – and naturally feared – for his aggressive and intolerant behaviour towards man. Dr Hall-Martin encountered Ndlulamithi’s wrath and was almost trampled to death by this formidable giant.
Ndlulamithi traversed a large area between the main road from Mooiplaas to the boundary and stretching from Byashishi drainage system across the Phongol River.
His handsomely curved tusks, the right on at 273 centimetres swept low and well forward. The left tusk weighs a mighty 64 kilograms and measures 287 centimetres. They are significantly more twisted than tose of other bulls.
Series VI: MAFUNYANE – means ‘the irratable one’
Mafunyane’s Tsonga name translates as ‘the irratable one’ referring to the elephant’s contempt for and intolerance of humans. He was rarely seen by visitors as he kept well away from roads preferring to roam the Kruger National Park’s mopane veld.
Mafunyane’s tusks swept right to the ground and were borne aloft by muscular neck muscles – an awe-inspiring yet intimidating sight.
The tusks are perfectly symmetrical, identical in lenght and weight, measure an impressive 251 centimetres each and have tips worn to a chisel-edge. Together they weigh a hefty 110 kilograms.
A mysterious hole, 10 centimetres in diameter, in Mafunyane’s skull extended into his nasal cavity enabling him to breathe through this passage. Despite much speculation, the true story behind this fascinating injury will always remain unknown.
Series VII: DZOMBO – named after the Dzombo River
Dzombo was the only one of the Magnificent Seven to be killed by poachers. he died in a hail of bullets from an AK 47 fired by poachers, in October 1983.
It was pure luck that Dzombo’s two tusks were not taken. The poachers were disturbed by the approach of a ranger, and fled leaving the trophies behind. The tragic circumstances of his death, and the recovery of his ivory, is yet another fascinating tale surrounding the Kruger Park’s Magnificent Seven.
Dzombo’s tusks are the classic shape of the Kruger National Park elephants – bowed and curved pointing forward and slightly upwards, resulting in a magnificient display.
Dzombo’s tusks differed only slightly in weight. His ivory was well matched in thickness and in length, measuring in at 237 centimetres and nearly 57 kilograms each.
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