Wednesday, 29 October 2014

EATS 150 BANANAS A DAY does this pygmy elephant...

"EATS 150 BANANAS A DAY does this pygmy elephant whose home is London Zoo. His midgeship is less than three feet high" and said the be the first specimen at London Zoo. "It is not a baby elephant" and comes from "French Gaboon" and eats "nothing but bananas". That's according to the Plain Dealer of Cleveland, Ohio, November 1 1922 (above). It gives as a source "Wide World", which appears to be Wide World magazine.

In the book Pygmy Elephants I relate how the The Wellington, New Zealand Evening Post of 27 January 1923 quotes "L.G.M" in the London Daily Mail as saying there was a three-foot (1.5m) baby "pygmy elephant" deposited in London Zoo by a Miss Cunningham, who obtained him from "French Gaboon" (Gabon).
The article claims, "for the first time on record, a baby pygmy elephant has just reached the UK, and that it eats bananas, of which it needed 150 a day. (Exactly the same headline as in the Plain Dealer. The little elephant broke his leg when captured and this had set "rather badly".

In the Evening Post article, there was - for a change - some indication of how big the 150-bananas-a-day "pygmy elephant" was eventually expected to be. Both his mother and father were, reportedly, shot when the little one was captured. His father was "only six feet high (1.8m) and his mother was six inches shorter still" (making her 5ft 6 inches, 1.67m). This assumes the male and female elephant observed around the unnamed "pygmy" when he was captured were his parents. As extensively described in Pygmy Elephants, forest elephant society is a bit more complicated. The other elephants shot on the occasion of his capture could just have easily been his older siblings, and the female could have been his teenage stepmother.

As for the age of 150-Bananas-A-Day Boy himself, it was given as three years old, probably based more on the time elapsed since his capture than anything else. Assuming it's correct, three feet is well within the expected range of a conventionally-sized forest elephant of that age.

It's possible that the mention of the elephant calf's broken leg could be a garbled reference to the male "pygmy elephant" known as "Congo", whose leg was broken on capture but healed, but later got infected? Or could it have been the female "pygmy elephant" Tiny, whose gender had been garbled, on her way to the Bronx via London?

Thanks to Richard Muirhead for finding this article.

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