The Cryptid Zoo: Pygmy Elephant

The pgymy elephant is just what it sounds like: a very small elephant. Known to natives of the Congo as the red elephant, adults stand no more than six and a half feet tall at the shoulder, and many are smaller. There have been adult males less than five feet high. Newborns are the size of dogs. They have a reddish skin that is hairier than normal elephants.

Since they have been held in captivity, there is no doubt that these animals exist. The only question is whether they qualify as a new species, a new subspecies, or only as mutants within a known species (the African Forest Elephant). Most zoologists argue for the latter, but cryptozoologists hold out for formal recognition as a new species or subspecies.

There are a number of pieces of evidence to uphold the idea of a new subspecies or species. In the few observations of these animals in the wild, they are seen in family groups of just pygmy elephants, not mixed with larger elephants like they should be if they were something like midgets are among humans. In addition, they seem to have adaptations to a more aquatic lifestyle and they are found in a unique habitat, dense swamps, that are shunned by other types of elephant. These characteristics, if they prove true in later studies, should allow pygmy elephants to qualify as a new subspecies at the very least. Unfortunately, there does not seem to be interest and funding for further studies.

In addition to the pgymy African elephant, there are also reports of pygmy Asian elephants from the dense jungles of India and from certain islands in or near Indonesia. These claims of other possible types of pygmy elephant have been even less investigated by mainstream scientists than the claims of African pygmy elephants.

The possibility of a new species of elephant is not as outlandish as it sounds at first. After many years of familiarity with the African elephant, scientists decided that the African Forest Elephant was not a subspecies, as had been supposed for years, but was a separate species, with nearly as wide a gap between it and other African elephants (the African Bush Elephant) as the gap between African elephants and Asian elephants.

Also, this has happened before in zoology. Bonobos (pygmy chimps) used to be considered as just a subspecies of chimps, but now they are considered a unique species of their own. These lessons teach us that a new species can be declared many years after mainstream science has accepted that the animals in question truly exist, if what was considered to be just one species is found to be two or more.

You can find out more about the Pygmy Elephant from the following sources:

Clark, Jerome and Coleman, Loren. Cryptozoology A-Z. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1999. Pages 112, 204-206
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Eaton, Matthew J. Pygmy Elephant

Newton, Michael. Encyclopedia of Cryptozoology: A Global Guide to Hidden Animals and Their Pursuers. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2005. Pages 68, 346, 385-386, 484-485

Pygmy Elephants in India?

Pygmy Elephant Photos

Wikipedia, The. Pygmy Elephant

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