A chance meeting around a safari campfire on the banks of the Mupamadazi River leads to The Last Ivory Hunter: The Saga of Wally Johnson, a grand tale of African adventure by renowned hunting author Peter Hathaway Capstick.
Wally Johnson spent half a century in Mozambique hunting white gold—ivory. Most men died at this hazardous trade. He’s the last one able to tell his story.
In hours of conversations by mopane fired in the African bush, Wally described his career—how he survived the massive bite of a Gaboon viper, buffalo gorings, floods, disease, and most dangerous of all, gold fever. He bluffed down 200 armed poachers almost single-handedly, and survived rocket attacks from communist revolutionaries during Mozambique’s plunge into chaos in 1975.
In Botswana, at age 63, Wally continued his career. Though the great tuskers have largely gone and most of Wally’s colleagues are dead, Wally has survived. His words are rugged testimony to an Africa that is now a distant dream.
At a time when elephants were the scourge of the Mozambique countryside, trampling crops and killing villagers, and when lions mauled and killed dozens of people annually, good hunters were in great demand. Wally Johnson was one of the best; a professional ivory hunter, gold prospector and safari leader for more than half a century, he shot nearly 100 lions, 1300 elephants and perhaps 2000 buffalo. After the 1975 revolution in Mozambique, he was forced to flee. Not a conventional biography, this book is really a collaboration, a dialogue, between old friends with shared interests. Capstick, who has acquired a large audience with his books about hunting in Africa ( Death in the Long Grass and others), makes a few explanatory remarks at the beginning of each chapter, leading Johnson into reminiscence. He talks freely about his hazardous experiences in the bush (he survived the bite of the deadly gaboon viper and goring by a Cape buffalo); about safari clients (among them, Robert Ruark); and about the natives and their magic arts. Capstick and Johnson are splendid raconteurs, vividly recalling a vanished era. Photos not seen by PW.