Coelacanths and Crematoriums          - 18/9/2006      <--Prev : Next-->


Why all the fuss about this ugly old dead  fish in the Bulawayo 
museum I asked with a sideways glance at the Ichthyologist at the 
Bulawayo Museum of Natural history..... surely there are other more 
pressing needs in Bulawayo at this moment.

But it was only when  ..... and Coelacanth champion Lara Knight 
showed me said Coelacanth lying forlornly in his leaking glass case 
in the museum archives that I began to realise the importance of this
Poorly Poisson.

The Coelacanth comes from a very old lineage which dates back about 
400 million years. It precedes the dinosaur by 100 million years. As 
the coelacanth fossil record abruptly ends at about 70 million
scientists thought that the coelacanths had played out their role in 
evolution and had disappeared in the great wave of  extinction's
characterised the end of the cretaceous.

However it was with great excitement that a real live one was 
recorded caught by Captain Hendrik Goosen in 1928 in the River

And then several years later another coelacanth was caught in the 
Comores by one James Bierly Smith. The Coelacanth is the sole 
representative of  a very ancient vertebrae group and provides the 
scientific world with an invaluable window into the past.... the 
veritable "Missing Link "

Now the fact that the little old Bulawayo Museum has one of these 
incredible specimens which has come to symbolise the plight of many 
endangered marine animals is significant.

Fondly known as Old Four Legs or the Dinofish, the Coelacanth has
own rescue web-sites -  its own shop, its
magic in a world where it must be preserved at all costs.

It even has its own poem written By Francine M Storey

Point your hands like a compass to down
and dive off the edge of Madagascar
into the tea-warm Indian ocean

as the fathoms widen before you
in a blue-green peacock's tail
elongate yourself like an eel
round and flat at the same time
then move your arms in great arcs
and descend along the path of broken sunlight

swim carefully through the hypnotising seaweed
over the ragged battlements of tulip-coloured corals
until at last, you pass
the ironwork of the continent
and you are below the world

here where the sun is repulsed
by the fist of pressure
blind fish like beggars
wait for alms
and the sea is a Buddha
silent and dark

no progression
no regression
fullness flatness of tides
the eye in the throat beats the time
when the pupil is ready
the teacher arrives
for the coelacanth
fish of rounded gills and lobed fins
400 million years old
last inhabitant of the Devonian sea

if he approaches
ask him
how did you survive?

Old Four Legs in the Bulawayo Museum is still in pretty good 
condition despite his plight. He needs to be saved though, he is a 
part of our living history, he is possibly the Missing Link to mans 
evolution, a fish with four legs ?

This fish has been described as a 'living fossil' and is very rare; 
most Museums around the world only having plaster casts or
models.  We have the real deal: a preserved Coelacanth literally in 
the flesh!

Unfortunately the original tank it was displayed in was damaged and 
for the last 15 years or so our precious specimen has been tucked 
away in the basement.
The temporary tank in which the Coelacanth is presently housed is 
rusting and it is possible that should nothing be done that the 
Coelacanth itself may deteriorate.
Our museum is fortunate to have many distinguished, qualified and 
capable staff.

It also has a suitable display tank to re-home the Coelacanth.  
However to successfully preserve and display this fish approximately 
400 litres of Isopropyl Alcohol is required.  The cost of this is 
around $400 million dollars.

A Bulawayo firm Acol Chemical has agreed to provide the isopropyl 
alcohol and repair to the  case is being sought, but important 
funding is still needed to save our Coelacanth.

Can you help ?
e mail


"The Bulawayo community is renowned for pulling together and getting 
the job done. There is one job that we as a community have not 
focused sufficient attention on and that relates to the
of the City's crematorium. It has not been functioning for some time 
now and that has caused enormous distress and inconvenience to 
hundreds of families who have been bereaved in the last few years. I 
am aware that perennial stalwarts like Neil Todd and Noel Scott are 
at the present time doing sterling work overseas in trying to raise 
the necessary money to refurbish the crematorium. However it seems
me that we have all the necessary engineering skills in Bulawayo for 
us to do the job and if we get some outside help that will be a 
bonus. So in essence this is an appeal to the Bulawayo community, 
especially our industrial, engineering and commercial sectors, to 
assist the work already been done by Neil, Noel and others by 
providing expertise and assistance to get the job done quickly." The 
Hindu Community and the association "Abuz" is also very sympathetic 
with our plight and we thank them for that. The Booysen family has 
also been involved in trying to activate the refurbishment of the 
Crematorium and so has the Bulawayo and the City Council.

I know several firms who would be more than willing to assist 
financially, and if you wish to help, please make your pledge to 

Thank you so much.