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Facts: Elephant bird

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• Bigger than kiwis, cassowaries, emus, and ostriches, the Vorombe titan or the elephant bird was confirmed in 2018 to be the largest bird known to science. It towered nearly ten feet tall.

Though these avian behemoths have long been extinct, they’ve left behind some truly remarkable rarities.

• One elephant bird egg was equivalent to about 160 chicken eggs. And measured about a foot in length and was big enough to hold two-and-a-half gallons — the equivalent of about 160 chicken eggs!

• Elephant birds once roamed the uninhabited island of Madagascar. It is believed that the arrival of humans led to their demise. Though there’s little evidence humans hunted the giant birds, their eggs were highly prized. A few families could dine on a single egg for a few nights, and the shells themselves were prized as bowls.

• Accounts of elephant birds existed in the folklore of travellers for much longer than researchers think the birds were actually alive. While under French occupation, Madagascar natives spoke of a large bird haunting the remote reaches of the island and laying its eggs in places forbidden for hunters to reach.

• When explorers breached the island’s forests in the 19th century, researchers became totally enamoured with these gargantuan eggs. They have popped up in museum collections all over the world, and a few were even found unbroken. Scientists at the National Geographic Society even managed to radiograph one, only to discover it had been fertilised, with a young elephant bird skeleton sealed within.

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 4th, 2019