Sunday, 8 November 2015

Pygmy Elephants at TetZooCon 2015 - imminent!

John Conway's excellent TetZooCon icon of myself as an elephant-bodied "Tetzooconian" does give me a rather out-of-date hairstyle! Copyright: John Conway, reproduced here with his permission.

I’m a speaker at TetZooCon 2015 on Saturday 14 November, speaking on Pygmy Elephants.

TetZooCon is the brainchild of Dr Darren Naish of TetZoo (Tetrapod Zoology), Scientific American’s most popular blog, and paleo-artist John Conway (check).

It’s all day Saturday at the London Wetlands Centre, London Wetland Centre
 Queen Elizabeth Walk
, Barnes, London SW13 9WT. Tickets, if there are any still left, are here.

I am very humbled as a mere journalist with a humanities degree to have been invited to speak to an audience with an intimidating large proportion of proper scientists - zoologists and palaeontologists in particular!

My talk will whizz through some of the alleged modern pygmy elephants, including some that weren’t in the Pygmy Elephants book that I’ve stumbled across since the book came out. (Examples here and here.)

Here’s the abstract I sent to Dr Darren Naish, who organises TetZooCon:

Living pygmy elephants?
Matt Salusbury, freelance journalist @Pyg_Eleph

The prehistoric pygmy elephants, pygmy stegodons and pygmy mammoths have been formally described to science and are well-documented, but claims have also been made in modern times for the existence of living pygmy elephants.
There have been sighting, photos, cine film and shootings of – allegedly – adult elephants said to be only five foot (1.52 metres) tall from Central and West Africa, and more recently from south India.

There are alleged specimens – bones and skins of pygmy elephants in museums or collections, but on closer examination these turn out to be not all that they seem.

Some are honest misidentifications, a few are hoaxes and some of the much-quoted written sources used as supporting evidence have become somewhat garbled in the retelling.

Zoologists, cryptozoologists and eyewitnesses have described a variety of alleged pygmy proboscideans – including Pliny the Elder’s “bastard elephants,” the respectably Latin-named Loxodonta pumillio, the wakawaka of the Belgian Congo, “kallana”, the “stone elephant” of Kerala, esesmasas (the “incarnation of the Devil” from Spain’s tiny African empire), “scimitar-tusked” aggressive pale pygmy elephants of the Kibali-Ituri forest, the sama oule reddish coloured pointy-headed Malian elephants, as well as some dubious animals advertised as miniature pachyderms by the great circus impresario PT Barnum. The actual evidence for the existence of these animals, however, is unimpressive.

Naturally, Pygmy Elephants will be on sale at a discount at TetZooCon. I'll be ending my talk (a manageable half-hour) with a quick pitch to the proper scientists for collaboration on a couple of projects, only one of which I can name here, a "Mighty Giant.. dig'd up" in 1652 that is most likely the bones of an mammoth or elephant.

Let's just say the other is something to do with mystery animals in Suffolk, and features the world premiere of a very couple of minutes of some kind of animal captured on CCTV somewhere not far from the South Norfolk/North Suffolk border!

The references from my talk will be linked from this page later. Humorous anecdotes from the day will be on the Pygmy Elephants twitter feed.

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