Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Elefante enano in "Spanish Guinea"

The Spanish colony of Rio Muni in West Africa only came Spain's way as compensation for a territorial swap with the Portuguese in Latin America in 1810, and the Spanish were never that enthusiastic about the little territory, squashed up on the coast between French Gabon to the south and German (later French and British) Cameroon to the North. Serious efforts by the Spanish to develop the colony only started in the 1930s.

It only formally became "Spanish Guinea" in 1958, in a merger with the much less neglected coffee and cocoa-growing island colony of Ferdinando Poo just off the coast. Unimpressive though Spain's little African empire was, it was just big enough to contain - allegedly - a pygmy elephant.

The elefante enano (pygmy elephant) of what's now Equatorial Guinea was shot by a Spanish army captain in the 1950s, at a time when the colony was being formally prepared for independence. It was in the commune of Nsok, right on the border with Gabon.

It was written up in La Vida Animal in La Guinea Espanol, published in 1962 (front cover shown here), in a report of nearly two whole pages (longer than most reports of pygmy elephant shootings or sightings). I'm in the process of getting it translated and trying to track down and write to its publishers, the now probably defunct Instituto del Estudios Africanos in Madrid, with a view to reproducing Mr. H. Garcia's photo of Captain Chacorro posing next to the weird-looking smooth-skinned six-footer elephant he's just brought down.

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