Mauled by a rhinoceros: the final years of Alfred Duvaucel (1793-1824) in India


en Zoosystema 41 (14) - Pages 259-267

Published on 02 July 2019

Alfred Duvaucel, stepson of Georges Cuvier, collected animals for the Muséum d’Histoire naturelle de Paris, France, during visits to India and South-East Asia from 1817 to 1824. In early 1823, he set out from Chandernagor traveling upstream on the Ganges, intending to reach Nepal or Tibet. During a short stop near Sakrigali in the Rajmahal Hills of Bihar, he was attacked by a rhinoceros and badly hurt on 24 January 1823. After receiving medical treatment in Bhagalpur, he reconsidered his plans and returned to Calcutta. He succumbed to his wounds aggravated by attacks of dysentery on his homeward journey, in Madras in August 1824. His letters written in the Rajmahal Hills were published by Jean-Jacques Coulmann in 1862. The zoological material collected was reviewed by his uncle Frédéric Cuvier, who inserted many details in the Histoire naturelle des mammifères, to which he added biographical notices. The presence of rhinoceros in the Rajmahal Hills (until about 1850) is often recorded, but the specific identity of these animals is uncertain in the absence of any surviving specimens. A mounted rhinoceros in the Zoological Museum of Strasbourg was said to be the one which killed Duvaucel, but as it is a two-horned Sumatran rhinoceros, unknown anywhere near Bihar, this needs further investigation.

Keywords :

Exploration, animal encounter, Duvaucel, Cuvier, Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle.

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