Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

ShukerNature - http://www.karlshuker.blogspot.com

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Friday, 26 November 2010

TWO-TRUNKS, MEET HUMPHREY!


Ripley's two-trunked elephant (Christopher Elliott)


As an ardent collector of data appertaining to zoological freaks, caprices, and monsters of the teratological kind, two of my fondest longstanding daydreams have focused upon the discovery of an elephant with two trunks and a camel with three humps. Naturally, however,, I never seriously expected to fulfil either of them, as I'd always assumed such fanciful beasts to exist only in the most fevered of imaginations. But not any more!

When chatting recently on Facebook to fellow teratophile Markus Bühler, I was astonished to learn that he had encountered a photograph of a supposed two-trunked elephant in one of the many Ripley's Believe It Or Not! books, and that he had read of reports of extra-humped camels too. Needless to say, with an alacrity that would surely have impressed even Sherlock Holmes (had he actually existed, of course!), I was soon hot on the trail of Ripley's proboscis-advantaged pachyderm, and, lo and behold, Markus was absolutely correct!

On 5 November 2005, Christopher Elliott had posted a short blog at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4989709
entitled 'Inside the Ripley's Warehouse of Oddities', and he had included a photo that he had snapped of the stuffed head of an adult African elephant...with two trunks! According to Christopher Elliott: "Apparently both of this elephant's two distinct trunks were fully functioning".

Although, teratologically speaking, the development of a double trunk is not impossible - such an appendage could theoretically arise if, during the elephant's embryogeny, the region of developing tissue giving rise to the trunk had split - it must also be borne in mind that there are some exceedingly gifted taxidermists out there, who, down through the ages, have created all manner of very convincing fake beasts. Whether the Ripley's specimen is genuine (as they believe it to be) or not, however, it is undeniably a truly remarkable exhibit - if only because, following all the countless jokes in the past about the elephant being the only creature capable of making a trunk call, this particular specimen may well have been the only elephant able to reverse the charges!!

As for extra-humped camels: there is at least one serious claimant on record. Normally, the Bactrian camel has two humps and the Arabian camel or dromedary has one. Moreover, hybrids of these two species also only have one - not three, as may perhaps have been expected. However, as camel humps are merely reservoirs of fatty tissue, I see no reason why additional reservoirs might not occasionally develop, thereby yielding extra humps, especially if the typical humps were smaller than normal, thus providing room for extra ones to form alongside them. And indeed, Markus mentioned that he recalled reading something about bona fide extra-humped individuals in the highly authoritative, 13-volume series of multi-contributor zoological encyclopedias from the 1970s entitled Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, whose editor-in-chief was the eminent German zoologist Dr Bernhard Grzimek. As the proud possessor of a complete set of these very hefty but beautiful, fact-filled tomes, I lost no time in perusing the camelid section in Volume 13, Mammals IV. And sure enough, there was the following short but fascinating passage:

"Dromedaries with unusually shaped humps often bring fantastic prices. For example, in the Arabian town of Hodeida, a four-humped camel brought approximately ten thousand dollars."

I have yet to trace any additional data regarding this or any other extra-humped camel, but the wording of the above passage clearly indicates that others have existed. What I did discover while searching online, however, was a report from Qatar that initially seemed to be a genuine vindication of the following popular children's joke - 'What do you call a camel with three humps? Humphrey!'.

On 27 January 2010, a contributor with the screen name edifis posted on the website QuatarLiving.com (at: http://www.qatarliving.com/node/895511) the following report:

"A 3 Humped Camel suspected to be the result of inter breeding between the 2 humped Bactrian camel and the Arabian Camel has been recently spotted near Dukhan.
The strange creature, a huge bull is reported to have been roaming in the vicinity of Dukhan and Umm Bab and is desperately looking for a mate.
But local female camels are avoiding him as he is an extra long stretch camel with 3 distinct humps, having different colors.
Anybody up to the task may contact the Camel breeding center at Al Shahanyia for more details:
Here is the picture of the Bull in heat."



The Qatari three-humped camel photo (QatarLiving.com)


Sadly, as you can see from the photograph, the creature in question evidently owes its origin not to any humorous whim of Mother Nature but rather to the skills of someone versed in computer-generated imagery, most probably using either Adobe Photoshop or Corel Draw - as the first of many comments posted beneath the photo by readers was swift to point out. Never mind - it was good while it lasted.

Incidentally, during my futile search for a real Humphrey, I found a much more convincing but equally fallacious photo of a triple-humped camel on Mrs. God's Blog (at http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/Mrs._God's_blog). Click below for the image:
http://uncyclopedia.wikia.com/wiki/File:3_hump_camel.jpg
I also discovered that there is a rock band hailing from South Australia called Three Humped Camel. Whoever said that the Internet is not educational?

3 comments:

  1. This elephant died in Africa in 2004 and was photographed there (dead) with both its trunks, so its provenance is well known. Also Ripley's claim that both trunks have been DNA tested and come from the same animal.

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  2. Hi there, Thanks very much for the additional information, which is greatly appreciated! Do you happen to know where, specifically, in Africa the elephant died, or any other background details concerning it? Was it found dead, or was it shot, and at which of the Ripley Museum is the specimen currently displayed? Thanks again for posting the above info, and in advance for any extra data that you may be able to post. All the best, Karl

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  3. Karl: The elephant is in their store-house unfortunately, not on display, last I checked.

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