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At 23:18 -0400 4/10/97, GSP1954@aol.com wrote:
>This is a bit of a primer intended to correct some of the misinformation that
>has circulated on this subject.

While I take your points about science, evidence and that value of peer
reviewed published work...

Frankly, unless I've missed some important item of information,  *none*
of what I've seen on this list constitutes what I would call scientific
rigour, no matter how well respected the people making the claims
on either side may be.

Multiple timings of elephant, preferably healthy specimens in the wild,
or individual timings of multiple elephants documented and presented,
even informally, would count as scientific rigour.

So far on this list I have seen references to articles which state that
can move at speeds up to 35+ Mph, and a claim, which as far as I can tell is
unpublished, that Elephants cannot move faster than 12 Mph based on timing
a domesticated Elephant in a 'race' situation.   I've also seen someone
quote an 'expert' named Rupal Majmudar, who was, in fact, simply someone
who asked Elephant consultant Dan Koehl the question of elephant speed.
The answer, 40kph, is archived at:
Dan himself can be contacted at Adress: Dan Koehl, Ringvägen 162, S-116 31
Sweden E-mail: info@elephant.se

Of course this is yet another piece of proxy evidence, this however would
hold up in a court of law as Dan, as an expert witness with 20 years
would be able to state that the speed stated coincides with his own

>Science is like a rough contact sport. Its fun, but you get knocked about,
>and to win you have to know you're business. We all get our bruises and
>sometimes we lose. So play the game with the big boys at your own risk.

Indeed it is.  Some people have been kicked around this arena, laughed at
and ridiculed by their peers only to be proved right.  Others have made
egregiously vacuous claims, sometimes based on false evidence, and
held in high esteem by their peers.

When I was first reading about dinosaurs for instance I came across
strongly held opinions that they couldn't possibly have laid eggs
because the shells would have been impossible to crack open.  A
few specimens found in the Mongolian deserts put paid to that one.

Although I'm aware that casual observation can be somewhat flawed,
as can memory.  However, when assessing the premise that Elephants
have a maximum speed of 12 Mph I have to consider this in the light
of my own experience.

I've followed various herds of Elephants in Africa that were ambling along
at what appeared to be around 5-8 Mph - speedometers in Landrovers at
slow speed are admittedly not very accurate.  Observing faster moving
Elephants in Botswana (from a moving plane) they certainly looked to
be going more than twice as fast as walking pace - again, not what I
would call rigourous.

I've also seen archive footage of Elephants being chased by game keepers
in 4WD drive vehicles at speeds which experience tells me were greater
than 12 Mph.

To discount large amounts of anecdotal evidence, because of 'scientificly'
based assumptions is, in my opinion, poor science.

If ones research leads to the conclusion that Elephants cannot exceed
12Mph, and yet a large body of anecdotal evidence suggests that they
can travel more than twice that speed some attempt should be made
to reconcile the difference between the two positions.  Simply stating
the alternate observation is impossible because of a whole series of
constraints really isn't good enough.

To give some local examples of anecdotal evidence vs 'scientificly
derived belief' from here in New Zealand.

The Bellbird is known to be extinct in the Northern part of North Island,
and yet I could regularly hear one from my flat in Glenfield.  The explanation
here is that the Tui mimics the call of the bellbird, and (either) successive
generations of Tui have passed the call on after the Bellbird has left the
area (or) Tui have passed the call between populations of Tui (which still
live all over the North Island) from Tui who live adjacent to remaining
Bellbird populations.  The third possibility is, of course, that there are
Bellbirds in Auckland but everyone thinks they are Tui's.

Two Maori legends (anecdotal evidence of the highest order and discounted
by western researchers), one of a Giant Eagle which killed and occasionally
carried off Maori warriors.  The other of a green striped reptile, living
in trees called the Kawekaweau - this creature was most frequently described
as being over 2 feet long.

Both of these legends were completely discounted, even though Europeans had
described the Kawekaweau - including a report of a captured pair of these
beasts one of which was (unfortunately) eaten by a cat (the other escaped).

Haasts Eagle really did exist and was probably the largest eagle in the world,
with a wingspan of 2.5m and a weight of up to 13 kg (someone will probably
complain that this wingspan is too small for such a large raptor, please note
this was a forest eagle which probably only fly for short bursts as it
dived from
the canopy onto its prey).  Its main prey were Moa, a flightless bird larger
than a man.  The chances are reasonable that it could kill or incapacitate
human beings using what ever technique it used on Moa.  Carrying off grown
Maori warriors is a bit unlikely, but if a huge eagle has just knocked ones
companion unconscious one could be forgiven for running away - if a subsequent
search for the lost companion failed then believing that the eagle has taken
the body is not so unreasonable.

In 1979  a specimen of a 62cm long gecko was found hidden away in a
paris museum collection.  It was unlabelled and there was no information
as to where it had been collected.  However it was deduced that the specimen
was a species of Hoplodactylus, a genus only known from New Zealand.

For many years the scientific community in New Zealand were of the
opinion that, as we were just off the coast of Gondwana during the
Mesozoic, and the climate was somewhat chilly to boot,  dinosaur
fossils would never be found here.

Fortunately no one told Joan Wiffen, who proceeded to find dinosaur
specimens in the Hawkes Bay area.

And then there are the bats that have been recently found just outside
Auckland ...

Unfortunately there aren't any Elephants nearby for me to time, and I
would personally discount any observations made on the Elephants at
the local zoo.

Derek Tearne.   ---   @URL Internet Consultants  ---  http://url.co.nz
Some of the more environmentally aware dinosaurs were worried about the
consequences of an accident with the new Iridium enriched fusion reactor.
"If it goes off only the cockroaches and mammals will survive..." they said.