Rothschild’s Lost Tusk and the Non-Existent Elephant Pig

Posted by: Karl Shuker on July 10th, 2014

I first came upon the following crypto-case many years ago when browsing through Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s book Les Derniers Dragons d’Afrique (Plon: Paris, 1978), and it has fascinated me ever since. Recently, I obtained some additional, previously-undisclosed information concerning it, and which turned out to be something of a conundrum in itself. Consequently, it is high time that I finally presented the remarkable story behind one of the most intriguing and potentially significant examples on record of an apparently lost specimen of possible cryptozoological relevance. So here it is – the story, that is, not the specimen itself, sadly! It all began in an Ethiopian ivory market, one of many in this country’s capital, Addis Ababa, back in the opening years of the 20th Century. In 1904, Baron Maurice de Rothschild and French zoologist Henri Neuville were visiting this particular ivory market during an East African expedition when they noticed a very odd-looking tusk on a stall owned by some ivory merchants from India.

Mystery ivory tusk, 1907, 1

Three views of the mystery tusk

Intrigued by its strangeness, Rothschild and Neuville duly purchased it. Moreover, while still in East Africa, Neuville was informed by some Somali hunters and camel herders that tusks like this one came from an aquatic, hippopotamus-sized creature of great strength, whose tusks curved downwards to the ground, and which inhabited certain very large East African lakes. According to them, one of these lakes is what is now known as Lake Arbeya (formerly called Lake Marguerite) where they claimed to have seen a living specimen, and another such lake is situated on the border of Kenya and Uganda. Following a two-year study, they published a very comprehensive paper documenting this tusk in 1907, in which they claimed that it differed from those of all known tusk-bearing animals, living or fossilised. They deposited the tusk in Paris’s National Museum of Natural History, but tragically this unique specimen has apparently since been lost. But could it truly have originated from a still-undiscovered animal species, and what is its connection to an equally enigmatic form of elephant-tusked giant pig?

Further details can be found here on my ShukerNature blog.

Karl Shuker About Karl Shuker
My name is Dr Karl P.N. Shuker. I am a zoologist (BSc & PhD), media consultant, and the author of 25 books and hundreds of articles, specialising in cryptozoology and animal mythology. I have a BSc (Honours) degree in pure zoology from the University of Leeds (U.K.), and a PhD in zoology and comparative physiology from the University of Birmingham (U.K.). I have acted jointly as consultant and major contributor to three multi-author volumes on cryptozoology and other mysterious phenomena. I am the Life Sciences Consultant to The Guinness Book of Records/Guinness World Records (Guinness: London, 1997-present day), and was consultant to Monsters (Lorenz Books: London, 2001), as well as a contributor to Mysteries of the Deep (Llewellyn: St Paul, 1998), Guinness Amazing Future (Guinness: London, 1999), The Earth (Channel 4 Books: London, 2000), and Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained (Chambers: London, 2007). I appear regularly on television & radio, was a consultant for the Discovery TV series Into the Unknown, and a question setter for the BBC's quiz show Mastermind. I am a Scientific Fellow of the Zoological Society of London, a Fellow of the Royal Entomological Society, a Member of the Society of Authors, and the Cryptozoology Consultant for the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ). I have written articles for numerous publications, including Fortean Times, The X Factor, Paranormal Magazine, FATE, Strange Magazine, Prediction, Beyond, Uri Geller's Encounters, Phenomena, Alien Encounters, Wild About Animals, All About Cats, All About Dogs, Cat World, etc. In 2005, I was honoured by the naming of a new species of loriciferan invertebrate after me - Pliciloricus shukeri.

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