WE HAVE SAVED OUR COELACANTH !
- 12/ 9/ 2007 <--Prev : Next-->
WE HAVE SAVED OUR COELACANTH !
BY LARA KNIGHT
My four year old daughter Sarah calls it, 'The Coelacanthus' more commonly known as The
Coelacanth. One year ago this June, I met Mr John Minshull and heard the amazing story
of how he was involved with Bulawayo acquiring its very own Coelacanth. This posed the
question, 'Where is the Coelacanth now ?' No-one seemed to know so I decided to
investigate. This did not require much. My first stop: the Museum. I asked the lady at
Reception if I could see the Coelacanth. Mr Trevor Dube extended his hand in welcome; as
the Ichthyologist at the Museum he is in charge of our National Fish Collection. Down into
the basement we went, passing shelves filled with jars of fish specimens. Behind the blue
drums of Isopropyl, in a very sad state lay the Coelacanth. For the last fifteen years or
more the Coelacanth has been languishing in a tank that barely fits its 125cm length.
With the tank itself leaking and breaking down, disaster appeared imminent. Not a very
good end for such a glorious and rare find. The original tank had been broken in the early
eighties, and to refill the new tank with a tonne of Isopropyl Alcohol was an expense the
Museum could ill afford. Not a problem I say, I will raise funds to get the Coelacanth on
display. I can confirm that in this instance ignorance is total bliss! Reactions varied, 'It's
a fish? It's in the basement, poor thing' 'No, it's not alive, it's dead' 'You want to raise
money for a dead fish?'
A few adverts in the Morning Mirror resulted in my very first donation of $1million dollars,
however, soon after we dropped three zeros from our currency. Mrs Margaret Kriel
telephoned me and her first words were, 'What's the deal with the fish?' Intrigued Mrs Kriel
brought along the powers that be to see the Coelacanth at the Museum. Mr Rick Kriel
after moments of suspense, through Acol Chemical (Private) Limited, very kindly and
graciously donated all of the Isopropyl Alcohol required. This was a huge leap forward
followed by Joe Di Palma, of Wood Industries (Private) Limited, reinforcing with steel and
enhancing the new tank into looking like a work of art. Mr Rob Stirling of C H Naake
(Private) Limited, very kindly gave of his time in making sure the glass was adequately
reinforced and able to hold the contents as well as securing the tank with a glass lid. My
heartfelt thanks goes to these individuals without whom none of this would have been
On the 3 August 2007 Mr John Minshull was transported back in time as he diluted the
alcohol with water in preparation for the Coelacanth to be moved upstairs into its new
home. It took three men to lift the Coelacanth out of the old tank in the basement and
carry it up the stairs to the new tank. Mr Dube and Mr Minshull lovingly lowered the
precious specimen onto the stand and continued filling the tank with alcohol. Out of the
darkness and into the light, our beautiful Coelacanth is sitting very proudly in its new
home. Currently we are working on the signage, and the project will be complete. It has
been a long journey, but as far as history goes the journey of this specimen has only just
Thank you to Barry, my husband, all the ladies at Book Club, to Sue and Jonathan Rowland
for their unwavering support, Trevor Dube, Jenny Duff, Sandy Biddlecombe, Leanne Evans,
Violet Phiri, Steve Daly, and last but not least, Tony Turner and Tracy Burns. Thank you.
THANK YOU LARA FROM THE BULAWAYO COMMUNITY AND FROM SCIENCE ITSELF --- WELL
DONE ON YOUR TENACITY AND PERSEVERANCE AND GOD BLESS YOU FOR CARING !!!