Saturday, 27 September 2008
Yes, it’s a yowie
26/09/2008 1:59:00 PM
WHILE the majority of scientists do not acknowledge their existence, a leading cryptozoologist believes a Glendonbrook property was recently visited by a yowie.
After receiving some photographs taken by Glendonbrook resident Lloyd Stapleton of some strange footprints found on his property, cryptozoologist (person who studies animals whose existence is disputed) and environmental scientist, Professor Gary Opit, said the shape and size of the footprints had the hallmarks of a yowie.
“From my viewing of the photos, the footprints were made by a large bipedal (two legged) animal, and in my opinion, more than likely a yowie,” Professor Opit said.
“It appears as if the yowie has leapt over Mr Stapleton’s gates and landed quite heavily on the balls of its right foot, not flat footed, and this left a deep impression.
“There is another print of its left foot and then it appears to have walked onto the grass.”
The photos were sent to Professor Opit after a number of zoos and museums were unable to identify the footprints.
The yowie, the Australian version of the yeti / big foot, has been dismissed by most scientists as a myth because of a lack of physical evidence.
Professor Opit believes that yowies are a descendant from the genus Australopithecus, which were closely related to humans, stand around two metres tall, and are highly intelligent, ambush predators, eating mainly kangaroos, possums and bandicoots.
He believes that yowies were once in abundant numbers in Australia, but were hunted into near extinction by Aborigines and dingoes.
However, with no hunting threats for quite some time, their numbers have begun to grow, which has resulted in increased sightings by people.
“Most people don’t believe they exist for one second but I’m fortunate that I’ve actually seen one and heard their calls,” Professor Opit said.
“And so many people have contacted me with reports, I can’t say they are all hoaxes.”
While initially disbelieving of the fact he had a yowie visiting him, Mr Stapleton said a number of strange occurrences, other than the footprints, led him to suspect that there was something out of the ordinary getting around on his property.
“A few years ago, I heard a growling near the tree line when I was doing some work on my shed at night,” he said.
“I’d never heard anything like it before, it was too big a volume in noise to be a dog.
“It frightened the daylights out of my two German Shepherds who were with me at the time.
“Also, at the top of the mountain, the dams are full and there is plenty of feed for the cows but nowadays they choose to stay down near the house.
“It’s strange that they would just leave it.”
Mr Stapleton said he took the recent photographs the morning after a particularly wet storm in April.
“The creek that night was four and a half to five metres deep and 120 to 130 metres wide, so I’m pretty sure it would have been a very big effort to go to if it was someone playing a practical joke,” he said.
Professor Opit said he would like to hear from people who have stories of unidentified animals, such as Mr Stapleton’s, and can be contacted via email at email@example.com
Thursday, 25 September 2008
Premier's panther interest welcomed
24/09/2008 10:58:00 AM
THE Centre for Fortean Zoology Australia has welcomed the news NSW Premier Nathan Rees is considering a serious investigation into big cat sightings in the Sydney basin and beyond.
Mike Williams, who has been investigating reports of ‘panthers’ around Australia since 2001, said the staggering volume of reports – many accompanied by compelling photographic and physical evidence – warranted closer attention from biologists and government authorities.
“There’s something going on in the Australian bush. We don’t know if the source of these reports is some kind of introduced exotic cat species or a feral cat mutation, but what we do know is that hundreds of people have seen these animals. It’s not just a case of mistaken identity,” Mr Williams said.
“It’s important that the close-minded sceptics don’t derail future efforts to investigate the growing volume of ‘panther’ reports.
“The Hawkesbury City Council has rallied behind concerned locals and several scientists have thrown their weight behind the notion that there could be large felids living in the bush... The interest of the Premier is a welcome addition to the ranks.”
The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) has worked closely with residents in the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains region, and has contributed to a privately held database of 360-plus sightings created by Grose Vale resident Chris Coffey.
Mr Williams, who is co-writing a book on ‘panther’ sightings across Australia, is interested to hear from readers who have had a sighting or taken any interesting photographs, video or casts of the animal.
He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or directly on 0416 303 371. Visit his website at www.australianbigcats.com
Saturday, 20 September 2008
NSW Premier Nathan Rees believes something big and furry is roaming Sydney's west.
And he wants to find out what it is.
Despite a lack of firm evidence, Mr Rees no longer thinks stories of big cats such as a black panther stalking western Sydney are just an urban myth.
He said he has been in contact with a local woman who has compiled a database of some 600 alleged big cat sightings.
"I don't think it's necessarily an urban myth," Mr Rees told reporters in Penrith on Friday.
"There are too many people reporting sightings."
It is a turnaround for Mr Rees, who as water minister in August said the "black panther is an urban myth".
The black cat sightings have already been subject of a three-year NSW Agriculture-led investigation, which was wrapped up in January 2002.
But Mr Rees said a recent spate of new sightings could warrant a new investigation.
"Of particular concern is if there are little kids out there, and there actually is one of these things," Mr Rees said.
"It is easy for all of us to dismiss these things ... but if we're actually wrong then there is an altogether different set of scenarios."
Sighting of big cats - dubbed either the Penrith Panther or Lithgow Panther - have been part of local folklore in Sydney's west and the Blue Mountains for decades.
Rumours persist the big cats escaped from private zoos or a circus in the area years ago, and even the local NRL club is called the Penrith Panthers.
While many people believe it is some type of exotic cat, possibly a panther, cougar or leopard, myth busters say they are nothing but large feral cats with thick winter coats.
The creatures are said to roam from Penrith to the Hawkesbury region in Sydney's north-west, along the Nepean River and across the Blue Mountain to Lithgow.
Believers say the big cats have been able to survive by roaming the three large national parks - Kanangra-Boyd, Blue Mountains and Wollemi - which connect across the mountains.
"This is Nathan Rees' 'beef stroganoff moment and demonstrates how out of touch Labor has become," said Deputy Liberal leader Jillian Skinner, referring to the uproar caused after federal Labor MP John Murphy complained earlier this week about the size of meal servings at the parliament house canteen in Canberra.
"Nathan Rees needs to get his priorities right.
"Looking into the so-called black panther, but not into the budget crisis, says a lot about this bloke and it's not good for the people of NSW."
Thursday, 18 September 2008
September 18, 2008 - 10:25AM
A NSW teenager with a knack for disguises who impersonated a zookeeper at Western Plains Zoo was cleared yesterday of fraud under the Mental Health Act in Mudgee Local Court.
Adrian Simpson, 19, of Gulgong, had a uniform and vehicle made up to emulate those used at the zoo in order to impersonate an employee between September last year and February.
During that time he took at least one couple on a tour of the zoo, pretending to be a big cat handler and even taking them inside an enclosure.
Mr Simpson, who lives with Asperger syndrome and narcissistic personality disorder, had also applied to both the Koala Hospital at Port Macquarie and Zoos Victoria for employment, stating he worked at the Dubbo zoo. He had also used false qualifications from a North Queensland TAFE college.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, said the young man had impersonated other professionals before and was known around town for being "just like that kid from Catch Me If You Can, only better".
Mr Simpson was charged on February 21 after police executed a search warrant at his home and found vehicle accessories he had purchased, receipts and zoo business cards stating that he was the big cat handler, big cat manager and carnivore manager.
His solicitor, Alan Hogan, told the court that Mr Simpson had already embraced counselling and psychiatric treatment.
"He has a problem and is aware of that problem."
The magistrate, Thomas Hodgson, dismissed the charges on the condition that Mr Simpson not commit similar offences for a period of six months.
Mr Simpson's charade extended to the internet: a Wikipedia entry, which has been removed, listed him as one of the world's leading animal experts.
He has been kicked out of Zoo Beat, an online forum for zoo enthusiasts and employees, for pretending to be an employee of Western Plains Zoo.
Mr Hogan had requested that a non-publication order be placed on the case, but the magistrate denied this. Replying to the submission, Mr Hodgson said the case was "certainly newsworthy".
"I have to weigh up public interest against a mental disorder and on this occasion attention should not be diverted from the criminal justice system," he said.
Mr Simpson did not make any statement in court and refused to comment to the media outside.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
The specimen will be on show Sunday at the Macleay Museum between noon and 4pm. There will also be a free expert talk and Q+A about endangered species.
Monday, 1 September 2008
We're busy compiling an Australian-New Zealand database of mystery animal sightings, so no matter if your experience is old or new, we're keen to hear about it. We're especially keen to see photographs, video footage and plaster casts.
CFZ Oz Team
1/11/2006 2:13:10 PM
A HAWKESBURY resident may have stumbled upon one of the most exciting zoological finds of the decade – a small marsupial previously thought to be extinct on Australia's mainland.
East Kurrajong resident and Gazette employee Nicole Palmer was driving along Roberts Creek Road when she spotted a couple of unusual-looking animals last Wednesday night about 7.30pm.
"There was two of them. One was smaller. I pulled up and the larger one kept hopping towards the car," she said.
"They were both dark brown with white spots around its jowl and neck area, 3-4 inches of the tip of its tail was white and it didn't look like a tiger quoll, it was much smaller and less heavy."
From her description, NPWS ranger Vickii Lett and University of Western Sydney biologist Professor Rob Close believe Ms Palmer may have spotted two eastern quolls.
Eastern quolls are about the size of domestic cats with pointed noses and soft fawn, brown or black-coloured fur broken up by white spots, and a bushy, white-tipped tail.
They are much smaller than their cousins, the endangered Spotted-tail or 'Tiger' quoll, which has a coarse, reddy-brown coat with white spots and is half as big again as the eastern quoll.
The eastern quoll was last seen on the mainland in the 1960s in the Sydney suburb of Vaucluse.
Since that time dogs, cats, foxes and people have encroached on the small marsupial's habitat to the extent that they are now believed to be extinct on the mainland.
However, eastern quolls remain prolific in Tasmania, preferring to live in dry grassland and forest bordering farm paddocks.
Ms Lett said National Parks would be acting on the sighting of the protected species.
"In the meantime, we'd like residents to keep an eye out and if they see something unusual, take a picture of it with their camera or mobile phone," she said.
"We'd also like people in the area to be careful about letting their dogs and cats roam around."
Dr Close, who recently urged residents to keep an eye out for signs of rare wildlife, said he was thrilled about the sighting.
"If it is in fact a true sighting, it's very exciting," Dr Close said.
"There's been a few sightings over the past few years, unverified, so it raises hopes that they are still around."
29/05/2008 9:47:00 AM
Residents in the North Macksville area have been urged to keep their eyes out for a carnivorous visitor, in the shape of the endangered spotted-tailed quoll.
A resident was recently alarmed by shrieks from his chook pen and found an unwanted visitor – Australia’s largest remaining carnivorous marsupial.
The spotted-tailed quoll was captured and released into the wild by residents, who were intrigued to see the rare species in land that has been identified as the favoured site of the Macksville bypass through North Macksville and Old Coast Road.
World Wildlife Fund spokesperson Samantha Vine said the spotted-tailed quoll had become vulnerable due to land clearing (the spotted-tailed quoll ranged in a home habitat of up to 500 hectares), introduced competitors and 1080 baits.
She urged residents who saw the rare nocturnal creatures to call WWF to report them, and treat them gently.
“Unfortunately, quolls have a great love of chickens and can track the smell of them for 6km,” she said.
“In the past they have been killed by people who have found them in with their chooks, but we ask that they be released back into the wild, because they are protected.”
Once a spotted-tailed quoll had found a chook pen, Ms Vine said it was likely they would continue to visit it.
She urged people who had problems with chook attacks to contact WWF to get guidelines on how to ‘quoll-proof’ their property.
IT may be the Tasmanian devil's spotted relation, but this cute creature is one of a handful of native endangered species to call Sutherland Shire home.
Known as a spotted-tail quoll, the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife hopes drawings of this carnivorous Australian marsupial in the Dymocks Golden Paw Awards 2008 will help with its conservation.
"Most threatened species are so rare that we often don't know what they look like,'' said Leonie Gale, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife.
Golden Paw is an annual drawing competition for NSW and ACT primary school children to help raise money and awareness to protect native endangered wildlife.
"[The children's] drawings show everyone what our threatened animals look like, and people will recognise them when they see them,'' Ms Gale said. "They can help find our threatened species so we can protect them and their homes.''
Other endangered species found in the shire include grey-headed flying-foxes, red-crowned toadlets, Rosenberg's goannas, little terns, powerful owls and osprey.
Ms Gale said although the loss of these species in one local community such as the shire may not seem significant, if there were few other places where these animals were found, the loss from one community could have a major impact on the survival of an entire species.
Dan Grover, CEO of Dymocks, said that for every drawing entered, Dymocks would donate $1 to the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. The money raised will go towards conservation projects for little penguins.
Ranger pushes for quoll funding
12/06/2008 8:37:00 AM
The discovery of spotted-tailed quolls at a Spicer’s Creek property has led the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to issue a request for people to report future sightings.
A map released by the department last week shows there have been up to 10 spotted-tailed quoll sightings in the local area in the past 15 years.
“We would certainly be interested in hearing from anyone who thinks they might have seen one,” NPWS ranger Melanie Bannerman said.
The public interest has also prompted a local ranger to push for funding to monitor the vulnerable native animals.
“With sightings near Ballimore, Red Hill and Spicer’s Creek there have been five sightings in the local area in recent years,” Rural Lands Protection Board ranger Lisa Thomas said.
She is very excited about the find and hopes it will lead to widespread support to allow for survival of the species. Mrs Thomas said the area where they were found, with its natural bushland and granite outcrops, is a perfect breeding ground.
“I don’t want it to impact on farmers’ livelihoods but I’d like to seek funding to operate further monitoring,” she said.
Suggestions made by Mrs Thomas were to encourage a study of their habitat including setting up a camera to record the quoll’s nocturnal activities.
It is already known that foxes are a major threat to the quolls both in terms of food sources and predation.
So with the spotted-tailed quoll’s breeding cycle now in full swing and the upcoming fox baiting season, Mrs Thomas said it is important to consider best practices. In fact, she believes it is the efforts being made to reduce pests that has contributed to increased quoll activity.
“We already know that quolls are not prone to digging so underground baiting will still be effective.”
Mrs Thomas now hopes that landholders will remain vigilant in pest eradication but to be aware of the native fauna.
“To be more observant and acknowledge what’s there,” was her advice.
“And to keep a balance.”
The annual fox baiting information sessions will begin at the end of June with the Spicer’s Creek meeting planned for mid-July.
30/05/2008 10:52:00 AM
An endangered species rarely ever seen in the local district has been discovered by a Spicer’s Creek grazier.
Geoff Taylor has had the unusual experience of sighting not one but two spotted-tailed quolls in recent weeks.
A native carnivore, the quoll or ‘tiger cat’ is almost unheard of in this area and sightings have not been reported since the early 1950s.
“I was fairly surprised,” Mr Taylor said after finding the animal in the family chookyard on his ‘Gunnegalderie’ property 25kms north-east of Wellington.
Recognising the extraordinary find, he immediately contacted WIRES but the animal had been injured in its hunting expedition and was later euthanased.
Mr Taylor’s second sighting occurred a few weeks later when he was driving home from town.
“It was on the road about four or five kilometres from our house,” he said.
“I knew immediately what it was and got a pretty clear look at it.
“It was a pretty unique experience because they are so elusive.”
As far as habitat goes, the spotted-tailed quoll favours forest woodland and dense coastal heathland. According to a fact sheet published by the Department of Environment and Heritage, its distribution has markedly decreased since European settlement, and it is now uncommon across most of its range.
“The small Queensland subspecies is nationally endangered and the larger south-eastern subspecies, although common in Tasmania, is listed as nationally vulnerable,” the fact sheet says.
The discovery has prompted excitement among local wildlife enthusiasts.
At first, Mike Augee was sceptical about the find but certainly excited by the prospect.
“It’s quite uncommon as they are thought to be totally non-existent in this area,” he said.
“But it’s fantastic, it really is quite exciting that they are still here - they are a lovely animal.”
According to Mr Augee, competition with foxes and the threat of domestic animals such as dogs and cats have contributed to the quoll’s scarcity.
“The population that is left cannot compete with foxes which are certainly dominant,” he said.
Local Rural Lands Protection Board ranger Lisa Thomas was also thrilled by the finding.
“I find the discovery a wonderful experience and feel privileged that we have evidence of them in our precious neck of the woods instead of being envious of others,” she said.
Mrs Thomas said the quoll-spotting also provided a further incentive to get a robust monitoring system up and running.
Meanwhile, for Mr Taylor it’s business as usual, but he is planning to continue with fox eradication on his property to give the quolls a chance at survival.
“I like to see the native fauna coming back,” he said.
Spotted-tailed quoll facts
-Scientific name: Dasyurus maculatus
-Common names: Spot-tailed quoll, tiger cat
-Average head-body length: 38 to 76cm (male); 35 to 45cm (female)
-Tail length: 37 to 55cm (male); 34 to 42cm (female)
-Average weight: Up to 7kg (male); up to 4kg (female)
-Threats: Predation by foxes; competition with foxes and feral cats; poison baiting for dogs, foxes and rabbits; and chance events such as bushfires and disease.
-Food sources: It forages in trees and on rock faces as well as on the ground. It is largely nocturnal and eats small to medium sized mammals and birds, such as possums and rosellas, and also large insects, spiders and scorpions.