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Whither the Water Elephant?

Posted by: Karl Shuker on July 9th, 2014

Whereas the African pygmy elephant has attracted appreciable interest and even more appreciable controversy, both within and beyond the cryptozoological community, a second contentious proboscidean reported from the Dark Continent has received far less attention, but in my view is much more intriguing. This latter cryptid is the so-called water elephant.

Water elephant, Markus Bühler

((c) Markus Bühler

The water elephant has been described as 6-8 ft tall at the shoulder, with relatively short legs whose feet had four toes apiece, a curved back, a smooth shiny skin like that of a hippo’s and hairless too but darker, an elongate neck about twice the length of the African elephant’s, plus ears that were similar in shape to those of that species but smaller in size. Most distinctive of all is its head, which is conspicuously long and ovoid in shape, and, together with its short, 2-ft-long trunk and lack of tusks, resembled that of a giant tapir. According to local eyewitnesses, the water elephant spends the daytime in deep water (where it is greatly feared by them, as it will sometimes rise upwards unexpectedly and capsize their canoes with its able if abbreviated trunk). Only at night does it emerge onto land, where it grazes upon rank grass. It is also very destructive to their nets and reed fish-traps, but is not a common species, and its distribution range is very restricted. So if it truly exists, what could this extraordinary animal be?

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 20 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.


2 Responses to “Whither the Water Elephant?”

  1. DWA responds:

    Well. Since the Patterson-Gimlin film, I haven’t been convinced of the substantial plausibility of a cryptid based on a single exposure to potential evidence.

    But this is substantially plausible.

  2. DWA responds:

    Back, to subscribe to comments (usta be I’d get all kinds of inane comments when I did that but thankfully those seem to have dried up).

    I should add that I see this as being significantly more plausible than, say, mokele-mbembe and emela-ntouka. (I comment upon the latter in the relevant thread here.) This animal could easily be confused with a Loxodonta calf. Not sure what known animal could be confused with the latter two.



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