Posted by: Loren Coleman on July 28th, 2008
Travel with me today, from the concept of prehistoric trunked animals to the future establishment of Pleistocene Parks in Siberia and America.
Regarding artist William Munns’ reconstruction theories about trunked dinosaurs, he observes, “In the matter of comparative anatomy with existent species, no existent skulls are identical, but two types do have nares at the top of the skull. One group are the cetaceans (porpoise and whales). The other are the Proboscidians (elephants).”
As Munns points out, interestingly, “in mammals, the presumption of a trunk is freely given to any skull with high nares.”
The macraucheniid litoptern is assumed to have a trunk, as produced and shown here from the German company Schleich, as pictured by Darren Naish from his private collection, and, of course, found also in my International Cryptozoology Museum too.
Today, I wanted to point out two unusual but known mammals that have trunks.
First up, of course, are the tapirs.
There are four tapir species: three found in Central and South America, Baird’s Tapir (Tapirus bairdii), Brazilian Tapir, also called Lowland Tapir, (Tapirus terrestris), and Mountain Tapir (Tapirus pinchaque), and one found in Asia, Malayan Tapir (Tapirus indicus). The Mountain Tapir are the rarest, and have longer, woolly fur.
Tapirus indicus, the Malayan, white-backed, or Indian tapir is famous within cryptozoology as the first animal to be described as a “new species” after Baron Georges Cuvier’s infamous 1812 “rash dictum” that “there is little hope of discovering new large quadrupeds.”
Although it was ethnoknown to the Chinese and Japanese “since time immemorial,” Cuvier distrusted such traveler’s tales. Therefore, the white-backed tapir was not known in the West until it was collected and formally described to the Asiatic Society in 1819.
The other trunked animals we visit today are the lesser known saiga (Saiga tatarica) antelope.
During the Pleistocene, the saiga existed from the British Isles through Central Asia and the Bering Strait into Alaska and the Yukon. At the beginning of the 18th century, it was still distributed from the shores of the Black Sea, the Carpathian foothills and the northern edge of the Caucasus into Dzungaria and Mongolia. Today, they are found only in a few areas in Kalmykia (Russia), Kazakhstan, and western Mongolia.
Two subspecies exist. The Mongolian Saiga (Saiga tatarica mongolica), with only 750 individuals surviving. All other populations, belong to the nominal subspecies Saiga tatarica tatarica, listed as endangered at 50,000 animals remaining.
Currently only the Moscow and Cologne zoos keep saigas. San Diego Zoo has had them in the past. Pleistocene Park in northern Siberia plans to introduce the species.
Pleistocene Park (official logo directly above) in the Sakha Republic in northern Siberia is an attempt by Russian researcher Sergey Zimov to reproduce the ecosystem that flourished during the last ice age, with hopes to back his theory that hunting, and not climate change, destroyed the wildlife.
Animals to be introduced to the park include:
Lynx, Amur Leopard, Siberian Tiger, Asian Lion, Grey Wolf, Asiatic Black Bear, Eurasian Brown Bear, and Wolverine.
Reindeer, Saiga Antelope, Amur Deer, Elk, American Bison, Moose, Yak, Bactrian Camel, Llama, Przewalski’s Horse, Icelandic Pony and Heck Horse/Konik for the extinct Tarpan.
One of the first formal proposals regarding Zimov’s idea went in 1998, to the Wood Bison recovery team.
If the wooly mammoth (a decidedly trunked animal) and the wooly rhinoceros are successfully cloned, this is the location where they would probably be reintroduced to the world.
Two overall similar projects to Pleistocene Park are in the implementation and planning stages in the United Kingdom and the USA.
There are “Bronze Age Parks” in Britain. In these sites, people can see reproductions of proto-historic tools, fields and houses. Farms are inhabited by “Bronze Age pigs” (offspring of wild boars and domestic pigs), and there are feral cattle and Przewalski’s horses grazing in the nearby fields.
In 2005, ecologist Josh Donlan, from Cornell University, proposed a Pleistocene Park (image at top of this posting) on the North American great plains in 50 years. Proposed species include the feral horse (Equus caballus), feral ass (Equus asinus), Equus przewalskii (Equus przewalskii), Asian ass (Equus hemionus), Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) for American camel, African cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) for Miracinonyx, Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) and African elephant (Loxodonta africana) for Columbian Mammoth, and African lion (Panthera leo) for American lion (Panthera atrox).
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