Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 26th, 2006
Two new exhibitions of coelacanths are worthy of noting.
The celebrated story of the coelacanth has made it one of the darlings of cryptozoology. It embodies a true tale of a “living fossil,” not verified as a “real animal” by science for 65 million years, then discovered off Africa in 1938 and rediscovered, with great fanfare, again in 1952 (as shown above).
The coelacanth was a fish known to the natives, and eaten, with some slight disgust because it was too oily. It was a part of the menu of fishing peoples for centuries off Africa, long before it became a favorite of museum curators and cryptozoologists.
Almost 70 years after its discovery, the coelacanth is still a rare type of fish to catch, with only about 200 caught off southern Africa and a handful of the new brown-speckled species found since 1998, off Indonesia. However, new populations are still being discovered, here and there, as with the species found located near East Africa, off the Malindi coast, Kenya, in 2001. Last weekend the 2001 Kenyan specimen was exhibited at the seaside resort town of Malindi.
News reports tell of the exhibition of this Kenyan coelacanth having drawn “a huge crowd, including National Heritage minister Mr Suleiman Shakombo and Belgium ambassador to Kenya Ms. Christina Funes Noppen. Other dignitaries who attended the launch of the exhibition of the fish included Regional Museums sites and monuments director, Mr Mzalendo Kabunjia and director-general, Dr. Idleh Farah.”
The exhibition is seen as a boost to the tourism industry in Malindi. National Heritage minister Shakombo is quoted as saying: “With proper marketing overseas, the coelacanths fish could attract lots of holiday makers in Malindi town. Even Kenyans in various parts of the country would be attracted here to see the peculiar fish, which was previously thought as extinct.”
By the way, this factiod in the Kenyan media report – “Kenya’s catch in 2001 was the third in the world since the South African one” – is incorrect.
Meanwhile, another “new” coelacanth will be making an appearance soon. At the forthcoming (June 24th opening date) exhibition, “Cryptozoology: Out of Time Space Scale” at Bates College Museum of Art (then later in Kansas), artist Rachel Berwick will be displaying her copal (a premature form of amber) cast of the coelacanth. It is quite striking in appearance. Take a peek.
Where are the coelacanth exhibitions that you have visited or know about?