Pygmy Elephant Stamps



The African elephant Loxodonta africana is the largest known living land amimal in the world. The familiar African bush or savannah elephant Loxodonta africana africana averages over three meters in height at the shoulder and weights up to 7,500 kilograms. Some individuals top four meters in height. The less familiar African forest elephant Loxodonta africana cyclotis is smaller and darker in color, averaging two and two thirds meters at the shoulder in height. The tusks of forest elephants are longer and straighter than those of their bush cousins. The ears of forest elephants are also much rounder than those of bush elephants. DNA tests reveal that the forest and bush populations differ genetically as much as lions and tigers and so should be considered separate elephant species. The revised scientific names would retain Loxodonta africana for the bush elephant but assign Loxodonta cyclotis to the forest elephant.

In 1906 Professor Theodore Noack formally described a third variety of African elephant, the pygmy elephant, and gave it the scientific name Loxodonta pumilio. Noack based his description upon an individual elephant then living in the Bronx Zoo. By the time this animal died of disease in 1915, it had grown to a little over two meters in height -- close enough to normal height for a forest elephant. There the matter might have rested had no other pygmy elephants surfaced. In 1911 another pygmy elephant was captured, followed by two more in 1932 and another in 1948. All of these elephants were shorter than two meters in height. Still these were generally assumed to be individuals suffering from dwarfism rather than members of a true separate pygmy variety.

In May 1982, Harold Nestroy, the former West German ambassador to the People's Republic of the Congo, snapped very clear color photos of a pygmy elephant herd. Nestroy was hunting in the northern Likouala region of the Congo. The tallest elephant in the herd appears in the photos to be about one and two thirds meters in height. The photos support the existence of the pygmy elephant as an animal in its own right, possibly as a subspecies of the forest elephant. Cryptozoologists suggest the pygmy elephant is the type referred to as the "red" elephant by natives, while the acknowledged forest elephant is referred to as the "blue" elephant by natives. The pygmy elephant appears to favor dense swamps as a habitat. Hopefully detailed examination of a living animal, or at least, a reexamination of the remains of pygmy elephants stored in museums, will reveal whether the pygmy is a subspecies of the African forest elephant or yet another separate species.

There were other populations of pygmy elephants within historical times. A species that averaged one to meters in height lived on Sicily until about the first century A.D. A pygmy Asian elephant may have lived as recently as a hundred years ago in Thailand. Many other pygmy species existed in the more distant past. The last known living mammoths, those of Wrangel Island, were a pygmy variety which survived until about 2,000 BC. A painting from an Egyptian tomb may represent such a pygmy mammoth brought to Egypt as a curiosity for the Pharaoh's court.

I have not yet found any postage stamps featuring the pygmy elephant, but there are some nice stamps of the forest elephant.

Selected Pygmy and Forest Elephant Stamps
Gabon Forest Elephant Stamp
Gabon

Scott # 634
Issued 1984

First in a set of four stamps depicting the forest elephant. You can also view the first day cover. These four stamps were issued under the aegis of the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Gabon Forest Elephant Stamp
Gabon

Scott # 635
Issued 1984

Second in a set of four stamps depicting the forest elephant. You can also view the first day cover.

Gabon Forest Elephant Stamp
Gabon

Scott # 636
Issued 1984

Third in a set of four stamps depicting the forest elephant. You can also view the first day cover.

Gabon Forest Elephant Stamp
Gabon

Scott # 637
Issued 1984

Fourth in a set of four stamps depicting the forest elephant. You can also view the first day cover.




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Last modified by pib on July 6, 2003.