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Thursday, February 02, 2012

MATT SALUSBURY: Pygmy Elephant Update


Interesting pygmy elephant development.

The book's coming along nicely, I'm working on the "Africa - misidentification?" chapter which is the longest. I came across this reference in Mysterious Creatures – a guide to cryptozoology vol 2 N-Z by George M. Eberhart

This says that in July 1955, – Francois Edmund Blanc was leading an expedition to South Cameroon to collect pygmy elephants for University of Copenhagen.Eberhart writes, “After three hours of tracking on marshy ground, he came across a group of elephants that did not exceed a shoulder height of six feet."

Naturally I enquired with Lars Thomas of Copenhagen University, who replied today with:

Hi Matt,

Well, wouldn't you know. Thanks to my friend Mogens Andersen, who works at the museum as a curatorial assistant, something rather interesting has turned up. In the 50's and 60's the museum had a benefactor, the owner of a Danish medical company, one Bøje Benzon, he was filthy rich, and a very eager big-game hunter. He travelled all over the world and basically shot everything he could put his gunsights on, and when he wasn't, he paid for other people to do the same, and one of these was Edmond-Blanc, who was in Cameroon in 1955, and who did in fact shoot to very small elephants, two females. Mogens have found the notes on them in the museum archives, they are in danish - I can translate them for you if you want. But what is perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the museum does in fact have the skeleton of one of the animals, and the skull of the other. And I can get you photos of those as well.

The latest is that Lars is translating the Danish language notebooks from the expedition, and getting access to the skull and skeleton in the university museum. This is unfortunately a little difficult as it's fallen victim to a beetle infestation so the mammology bit's all wrapped in plastic or stuck in freezers, but he's on the case.

Most "pygmy elephants" in museum collections turned out to be bog standard misidentifed (often juvenile) forest elephants. The 2003 DNA analysis that concluded there is no such thing, did, however, discover an "isolate" or "clade" of forest elephant populations in Cameroon. The Cameroon-Guinea border was where the type specimen of pygmy elephant "Elephas pumillo" (sorry, it turned out to be a bog-standard forest elephant) was supposedly collected.

Both Lars and myself are happy for this to go up on the bloggo. Will update you. Aiming for publication ready for a Weird Weekend August launch.


1 comment:

norman said...

I am sure you will like these little fellows !