Friday, 31 December 2010

Book charts NZ Moa's survival

The start of 2010 heralded a new three-volume series on the Moa, New Zealand's extinct flightless bird, from author Bruce Spittle via Paua Press.

Bruce presents a compelling catalogue of sightings that seemingly support the continued existence of one of New Zealand's most enigmatic creatures, the Moa.

Believed extinct - its fate sealed by the colonising Maori population and its only other predator, Haast's Eagle, itself extinct - the Moa was one of a handful of unique birds and mammals that called the two island continents home.

You can read the first chapter of Bruce's books here.

Bruce's interest in Moa sightings began following a claim of a sighting in the Craigieburn Forest Park in the South Island of New Zealand on January 20, 1993. He writes:

"Initially I was happy to accept the explanation that the report was a publicity stunt by the local publican but after hearing him explain on the radio that his report was serious I was not so sure. When I read further that another member of the party was recovering from a heart attack, a life situation when taking part in a prank might not have a high priority, and that the third member of the party wanted to get a job eventually with the Department of Conservation rather than a reputation for being frivolous, I had some doubt about whether it really was a hoax. As I lived in Dunedin, about one day’s travel from the site of the claim, I felt I should go there to check it out and spent five days, 10–14 February 1993, in the area. 

"I saw no evidence of moas but found a report in a hut book claiming that two moas had been seen in the same valley on 19 May 1992. This was an intriguing coincidence. The information about the 1993 claim was aired in the media, the general opinion emerged that it did not involve moas, and the Department of Conservation called off plans to make a search of the area. Later I established that the 1992 claim was a hoax. 

"Even in the cryptozoological community, the 1993 sighting was generally dismissed as a hoax and the currently accepted view remains that although occasional moa “sightings” are still claimed to this day, they are becoming fewer and all have been discredited.

"However, after I talked to the three people involved in the 1993 sighting and made further examinations of the area where the sighting claim was made, I found there was no definitive evidence that a hoax or misidentification was involved and that, improbable though it seemed, the sighting of a moa as a cause for the claim could not be excluded. "

You can buy the three volumes of Moa Sightings by Bruce Spittle here.

Cryptid quiz tests your mettle

We came across this great quiz recently and wanted to share with our readers. How well do you know your cryptozoology?

Take the quiz and see - and drop us a line to tell us how you fared. Good luck!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Bongo's Pilliga Yowie hoax

In 2006 a late-night caller to an ABC radio show captivated listeners - 'Bongo', as he called himself, claimed to have been abducted by a Yowie (Australian Bigfoot) in the badlands of the Pilligia scrub (an area infamous for Yowies and sightings of the ghostly 'Pilliga Princess').

Bongo's 'everyman' demeanor - he described himself as an old truckie who worked in a rig hauling cargo up and down the arterial roads of regional Australia - and use of dates and locations convinced many his story was legitimate.

En route to Gunnedah one night, he takes a wrong turn and runs out of fuel halfway between the NSW country towns of Narrabri and Coonabarrabran.

Sleeping in his truck, he's awoken by the cab of his truck rocking wildly and the door being ripped off its hinges. He's grabbed by a thing that "defies looked like it was horrific!" and carried off to its lair.

"We ended up at a humpy (bush shelter)...this thing had a real fetish obviously for real thin bow-legged knock-kneed white hairy legs - he had pairs of legs hanging up..." a stuttering Bongo tells the radio presenter. [Anyone remember that scene in Star Wars where Luke Skywalker is knocked out and carried off to a snow cave by a Yeti-type creature he later slays using The Force?]

Now, before Bongo launches into his tale, straight off the bat he tells the radio presenter he's in a sanitarium, Happy Days Retreat, an improbably named nut house for the insane, perhaps better suited to a Stephen King novel because some quick research proves it doesn't exist!

Apparently he has been there since the big incident, but he's got access to phones and 'Nurse Annie' tells him people go out looking for the monstrosity that damaged his truck and took him back to its humpy, which alarms him no end.

His wild and highly derivative experience supposedly inspired the play 'Acacia Hills'.

We think Bongo's tale is a funny hoax, but what do you think? Have a listen to Bongo here.

Brown's Bunyip - A Christmas Tale (1883)

But wait, there's more!

Humans tipped megafauna over the edge

THE arrival of humans was probably decisive in the extinction of megafauna living in the South West 40,000 years ago, though climate change and fire may have contributed, according to new research.

Fossils of animals ranging from tiny 30g native mice to giant 500kg marsupials called diprotodontids have been recorded in a cave in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste region.

The cave sediments contain the richest fossil fauna from the western two-thirds of the Australian continent, and provide the best record available of how 90 per cent of the larger mammal species became extinct shortly after the first humans arrived.

Published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, the findings suggest that one-factor explanations for the extinctions are over-simplistic.

The research team included researchers from the Universities of WA, Wollongong, Melbourne, Flinders and Australian National universities, as well as a scientist working with the Augusta-Margaret River Tourism Association.

They sampled fossils from Tight Entrance Cave and found that within 10 millennia of human arrival, all larger animals except the grey kangaroo and thylacine became extinct. Read more here.

Santa escaped Yowie - with a tale to tell!

We were as shocked as anyone to see the Christmas presents under the tree this year. It appears Santa managed to escape the Yowie after all - and with a tale to tell! 

Friday, 24 December 2010

Breaking news: Santa abducted by yowie!

>>> CFZ Australia has received a report of a fat man in a red suit running into trouble west of Sydney in the Blue Mountains, a notorious Yowie hotspot.

Santa Claus, 155, of the North Pole, was sleigh-jacked in the early hours of this morning as he commenced his Southern Hemisphere run across the island continent of Australia.

It is believed Mr Claus encountered the Yowie when he visited a rest stop to water his six reindeer and pick up a slushy drink from a Caltex service station.

The fat man was last seen being taken into nearby dense bushland. His abduction automatically activated his reindeer-led sleigh's auto-pilot, which has since returned to the North Pole.

"The hairy man came out of nowhere," service station owner Bruce Ocker said. "The fat guy didn't stand a chance!" 

Police have launched a massive monster hunt, but are pessimistic about their chances of finding Mr Claus before December 25. <<<

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Catching Asian mystery pigs with cameras

Paleozoologist, author and prolific blogger Dr Darren Naish has penned an interesting post on his Tetrapod Zoology blog about the Mystery pigs of Asia, and the use of 'camera traps' aka game cameras.

"The increasing availability of automatic cameras (cameras set up to take photos on their own are known in the trade as camera traps) has been a great boon to field biologists, and to people interested generally in the documentation of obscure and elusive creatures."

Read more here.

Monday, 20 December 2010

New species of giant monitor lizard discovered

A giant species of monitor lizard that lives in trees has been discovered in the forests of the Northern Philippines, scientists have revealed.
The 6ft 6in-long brightly-coloured lizard is a secretive, fruit-eating species which was found in the forests of the heavily populated and largely deforested Luzon Island.
The discovery of the monitor lizard was described as an 'unprecedented surprise' by scientists.
The species (Varanus bitatawa) is restricted to the forests of the central and northern Sierra Madre range, where biologists have conducted relatively few surveys of reptiles and amphibians.
Read more: 

The adventures of Tim Tyler and 'Fang' the black panther #5

Dead Panther Pt II

Our recent 'dead panther' investigation gets another plug, this time from a rival local paper, the Hawkesbury Gazette, which also plugs a recent sighting in the area. To see footage of the 'dead panther' skull (and hear a rather dispirited Mike Williams commentary on yet another false alarm) go here. As you can see from the picture above, our initial excitement wasn't entirely unwarranted - it did look like a BIG cat!

A false alarm on panther find
Despite a Hills paper declaring panther remains were found at a South Maroota property, the experts have said it was only a large feral cat.The owner of the property said his three dogs had brought the mauled carcass to him on Sunday, November 28.
He buried the carcass due to the stink and to stop the dogs mauling it even further.
Mike Williams, co-author of Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers was contacted about the find and drove from west of Lithgow to examine whether the carcass was really a “panther”.
He said he told the Hills paper it was a “large Felis cattus”, the species name of a domestic cat but it was reported in the paper as a “big fearless cat”.
“I burnt rubber to get down there and used a shovel to dig it up,”
Mr Williams said.
“I would’ve moved about a tonne of earth.
“I finally found it, and it was rotten and liquefied.
“I saw the remains and I saw the skull, and I’ve gone ‘you’re joking’.
“There are panthers out there, but this was not one of them!
“However it was a very large feral cat, and they are interesting to me as well.”
Grose Vale panther expert Chris Coffey said if it had been a panther “it would’ve made my Christmas”!
“I would’ve paid for the DNA testing myself,” she said.
Mrs Coffey said the incident was typical of a common misunderstanding that people made about the panther.
“They’ve got to understand the enormity of the animal,” she said.
“It would be at least the size of a rottweiler, a German shepherd or a labrador.”
Mrs Coffey said there were several physical differences between a big cat and a feral cat.
She said a panther would be at least a metre in length, 40-50cm tall at the shoulder, have a tail that is two thirds as long as the body, have rounded ears where feral cats have pointed ears, and have its ears on the side of its skull. Feral cats have ears on top of their skulls.
Mrs Coffey said the last Hawkesbury sighting of a panther had been at Cabbage Tree Creek two weeks ago.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Dead 'panther' body found in northern Sydney

We heard on the grapevine yesterday that the body of a dead panther had been discovered in north-western Sydney, so we raced to the scene to exhume and examine the potential big cat.

Unfortunately, as most often happens, truth was a little less stranger than the fiction! Actually a lot less strange, as it turned out to be a domestic cat!

And in a classic communication breakdown with the media, a rather funny line appears in the news story below.

As you read, keep in mind CFZer Mike Williams told the reporter from the outset the cat was a 'big FELIS CATUS', not a 'big fearless cat'.

Has the Hills' big cat been found?

A PARTIALLY decomposed body of the mysterious “panther” has been found on a South Maroota property, reigniting speculation on the existence of a big cat roaming Hills bushland.

On November 28, Geoff Nowland’s three American staffies brought the dead panther to him, prompting him to call his mate Peter Spiteri to come over and have a look.

"When I looked at it, I could not tell what it was and it freaked me out a bit,” Mr Spiteri said.

“It definitely did not look like any dog or feral cat I have ever seen, especially with the fangs and teeth it has on it.”

Mr Spiteri said a week before the dogs found the dead panther, Mr Nowland’s puppy was mauled so badly it nearly had one of its legs amputated.

“The vet was very concerned and did not know what could have attacked the puppy so badly to cause it such severe injuries,” he said.

“I know there have been a lot of sightings of this panther out here, but it is pretty freaky to see it up close.”

The pair have buried the dead panther on Mr Nowland’s property because of the stink and to stop the dogs from getting at it.

Friend of the pair and Maraylya rally car driver Bruce Garland was the first to alert the Hills Shire Times to the images of the panther just before it was buried.

“There have been sightings of this panther out here for years and the other day it was sighted on the golf course at Riverside Oaks,” Mr Garland said.

“I think this panther was found on this property because it was either sick or it was protecting its own little ones. There definitely has to be more than one roaming around.”

Panther expert Mike Williams, who was involved in the famous 2005 dead panther shooting incident in Gippsland by a Victorian hunter, has lent his expertise to the Times to examine, measure and take samples from our dead animal.

Mr Williams and his partner Rebecca Lang launched their book Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers earlier this year.

Late yesterday, Mr Williams was digging up the animal’s body at the property to take measurements and samples.

“This would have been a very stocky muscular animal,” he said upon finding the two week old carcass.

“I would say it is a “big fearless cat” and in “big” I mean it is not your typical domestic animal, it has been crossed or mutated in some way.

“This is exciting and we definitly have something very interesting here. It could have done a lot of damage to the Australian wildlife.

“It would have been three to four times bigger then what we found, two weeks ago when it was buried.”

Monday, 13 December 2010

Monster birds vs. Flores hobbits?

The remains of hobbit-sized humans in a gathering area of extinct giant storks is leading scientists to conclude that man may have once been bird food.
The carnivorous 6-foot-tall Leptoptilos robustus stork, among the largest bird to ever walk the earth, was likely a "ground-bound hunter, as its bones were thick," says Smithsonian researcher Hanneke Meijer. 
The predator could have fed on fishes, lizards and birds, "and possibly even small, juvenile hobbits," she adds. "These birds are opportunistic carnivores—if you give them plenty of prey items, they'll hunt all of them."
Remains of the tiny humans were found among bird fossils in the Linag Bua cave on the Indonesian island of Flores.
It doesn't appear that the humans hunted the birds because no cut marks were found on any stork bones.
Flores was home to a wide variety of dwarf and giant species, including the pygmy elephant and the giant lizard, the Komodo dragon.
Many of the prehistoric animal became extinct some 17,000 years ago.
Meijer is aware that the island evokes images of a kind of land of the lost.
"Stories like the Lord of the Rings do add a nice fantasy touch to my work," she said.

Tassie Tiger collection on show @ Cradle Mountain

The world's largest collection of privately-owned Tasmanian tiger articles is now on permanent display at Cradle Mountain in Tasmania's north.
The Federal Group's exhibition includes thylacine tiger pelts, a replica skeleton and a full record of the State Government's bounty scheme.
The show's centrepiece is a highly-prized rug made from the skin of eight tigers (shown above).
The museum's Kathryn Medlock says the rare and valuable item was donated to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery eight years ago.
"The rug is unique because very few items were made out of thylacine skins for decorative purposes," she said.
"People didn't like the thylacine so they didn't really want to be reminded of the animal in their own houses.
"So although the skin was sometimes utilised that way, very few have survived, so we're very fortunate to have one on display here in this exhibition.

Friday, 10 December 2010

The Adventures of Tim Tyler and 'Fang' the black panther #4

Rescuers swoop in to save Aussie wildlife

WIRES rescuer Ann Mara said the organisation was currently looking after 18 kangaroos rescued from an island at Lake Burrendong near Wellington, in central NSW.The island was hosting 50 eastern grey kangaroos, some emus and a large goanna.
Kangaroos were loaded into kayaks and tinnies during the rescue from Two Tree Island.
"One especially weak kangaroo had a child's floatie strapped to his back," Ms Mara said.
"Others were guided to shore or towed to safety with ropes around their necks."
Ms Mara said animals weighing up to 60kg were lifted over the side of a tinnie and taken to safety.
"Amazingly, the roos accepted the handling and proximity of humans without any issues," she said in a statement on Wednesday.
"A couple of the largest males had some fight left in them, but even they just seemed to be so relieved once they were out of the water that they just stood still."
But not all the roos were in luck.
"Unfortunately, some kangaroos were lost before the rescue, especially young, furless joeys," Ms Mara said.
"The emus were able to swim to safety, and the goanna is safe in a high tree."
Kangaroos have been displaced from their habitat in the state's central and southwest by rising floodwaters.
WIRES also holds concerns for a colony of endangered squirrel gliders near Wagga, and kangaroos have been seen trying to escape floodwaters in the area.
Ms Mara said WIRES, which rescues 50,000 native animals a year, relies on donations to do its life-saving work.
To help wildlife, make a donation at or call 1300 094 737.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Albino kookaburras found in Far North Queensland

We were only just blogging about albino Australian wildlife the other day, so to see this story land in our lap this morning is quite synchronistic!

A pair of never-before-seen blue-winged albino kookaburras, believed to have been swept from their nests in a wild storm, have been rescued by a farmer.

The six-week-old birds, renowned for their laughing cry, were found waterlogged at the base of a tree by a cattle farmer near Ravenshoe, in far northern Queensland, said Harry Kunz from the Eagles Nest Wildlife Sanctuary.

The pink-eyed, pink-beaked and starkly white creatures, thought to be sisters, are the first specimens of their kind ever found in Australia, Kunz said. They are still too young to feed themselves or fly.

"Everybody asks me 'are they rare?' They have never been seen because in nature they would not survive a few days out of the nest because their white colour sticks out and every reptile, owl or predator will get them," Kunz told AFP.

"In the whole of Australia I know there is about three white laughing kookaburras but they are not albino, they have black eyes. For blue wings nobody knows that they exist or can be hatching in this colour."

Wild storms which had recently rocked the area were believed to have swept the unusual chicks from their nests, he added.

Feeding on a diet of small mice, cicadas and moths, the birds were in good health and would be raised at the sanctuary, said Kunz.

"Luckily this farmer found and saved them, they're the real heroes, because probably within the next day they would be dead," he said.

Kunz, founder of the non-profit park, said he was seeking public sponsorship for the birds' care and would offer the rights to name them to the highest bidders.

Usually cream-breasted and bellied with dark brown and blue wings, the kookaburra - a type of kingfisher - is an iconic Australian bird which is best known for its call, which sounds uncannily like human laughter.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Bambra big cat sighting

Chilean tourist Romina Bucarey was under the mistaken impression that 'big cats' must have been native to Australia after one sauntered across her path recently in Victoria.
She casually asked workmates at the Hare Krishna Valley farm about the resident wild panthers and was surprised by the response.

Ms Bucarey, 33, was walking by herself along a track about a kilometre from the farm, off Winchelsea-Deans Marsh Rd, at the weekend when she saw a big cat about 100m in front of her.

"It was very clear, about 6.30pm, she was walking fast," she said. "It was completely black, and shiny ... like normal size for being a panther. My reaction was I didn't continue to walk because I didn't know if she can attack me."

Readers of Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers will remember the Winchelsea area as the location where some suspected big cat faeces was collected and analysed by a government department and deemed 'possibly leopard'!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

More Australian albinos

Some time ago we blogged about albino kangaroos, and their popularity as zoo exhibits in the early days of zoological parks in Australia. Well the macropods were not alone! (Although we did find one more for you to enjoy - see below).

We have uncovered a fresh selection of albino wildlife featured in the pages of old Australian newspapers that we thought we'd share with you all. Have you got an interesting shot of Australian albino wildlife? Send it in...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Tassie Tiger thriller wraps shoot in Tasmania

Filming on the psychological thriller The Hunter, starring Willem Dafoe, Sam Neill and Frances O'Connor, has just finished for the main scenes on a hill outside Deloraine, half an hour west of Launceston. Scenes were shot on location earlier on Mount Wellington.

Dafoe, a dual Academy Award nominee, plays a mercenary sent from Europe to hunt the last Tasmanian tiger in Daniel Nettheim's adaptation of Julia Leigh's popular novel.

Early production images from filming in Maydena, the Florentine Valley and the Central Plateau show the move will reward the film handsomely -- and Hobart was even able to be substituted for Antwerp in some scenes.

Dafoe was a relaxed presence on a tight set that was occasionally populated by extras playing themselves -- forest-living environmentalists.

"I like very much films where you're every day on the set; it has a really good benefit because you relax and you feel very little pressure to interpret," he said.

"You feel much more comfortable just being present and receiving the story, in a sense. The story can take you some place -- you don't have to force it."

The Hunter, due for release late next year, has solid international prospects with such a cast, which includes Dan Wyllie, Callan Mulvey and rising star Morgana Davies. It is the strongest project among several recent Tasmanian films.

NZ pilot hunts for stolen 'Yeti' skull, hand

A KIWI adventurer is leading an international Yeti hunt!

Mike Allsop (pictured with a replica 'Yeti' hand and scalp created by special effects wizards WETA Workshops) , who conquered Mt Everest three years ago, is searching for the skull and skeletal hand of what was said to be a mythical "Abominable Snowman".

The controversial artefacts were stolen from a monastery in the tiny Nepalese village of Pangboche, in the 1990s.

"I am hoping that the person who has them wants to give them back," Allsop told Sunday News. "I hope they will have an alert set up on their computer for whenever the artefacts are mentioned on the internet.

"I am offering... to go and reclaim them. I will go anywhere in the world in person, free of charge, no questions asked and I will also buy them a beer."

Weta Workshops has created life-sized replicas of the skull and hand to help searchers find the real things.

Allsop, 41, is an Air New Zealand pilot and was introduced to Weta boss Sir Richard Taylor by Air NZ chief executive Rob Fyfe.

Allsop will hand-deliver the replicas to the monastery when he and 17 Air NZ co-workers travel to Pangboche in April.

The original Pangboche hand and skull came to international prominence in the 1950s.
Texan adventurer and oil magnate Tom Slick photographed the items during one of his early missions to find the Yeti in 1957.

Two years later, one of Slick's team returned to the Pangboche monastery.

He reportedly drank Scotch with a monk until the local passed out, before stealing bone fragments from the hand. He then supposedly replaced the bones with those from a human hand, before rewrapping the Pangboche hand to disguise his theft.

The stolen fragments were allegedly smuggled back to America by a Hollywood star.
Then in 1999, the skull and what remained of the skeletal hand were stolen from the monastery.
Allsop, who scaled Mt Everest in 2007, was intrigued when he learned of the artefacts and determined to reclaim them for the monastery.

"These were very treasured artefacts," he said. "There was a huge outrage when they were stolen.
"The monks initially wouldn't show them to anyone, then slowly they showed them... unfortunately they showed them to one person too many."

Sunday, 5 December 2010

CFZ Press scoops crypto book stakes

While we hooted about the success of the antipodean underdogs who put together Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers recently (in a typically one-eyed 'we're better at cricket than you' kind of way) we were most remiss in failing to remark upon the successes of the UK-based mothership's CFZ Press!

The CFZ Press is an extraordinary beast, and no less than FIVE of its publications made the annual 'best cryptozoology books of 2010' list - that's a quarter of the books singled out for mention by Cryptomundo's Loren Coleman this week (himself a prolific author and blogger)!

The CFZ Press has published no less than 50 titles concentrating on cryptozoology and other Fortean areas of interest, all produced with the guiding hand of CFZ Director Jon Downes (pictured at right with Australian Big Cats co-author Rebecca Lang at the Fortean Times Unconvention 2010). The eye-catching covers promise much and don't fail to deliver.

An incredible labour of love and purpose, the CFZ Press has given voice to a number of established authors - among them popular writers Nick Redfern, Darren Naish, Ronan Coghlan, Dr Karl Shuker, Neil Arnold and Andy Roberts to name but a few - as well as acting as a platform for first-time writers.

Well done, CFZ team!

We've listed the latest books below - and if you're a lover of cryptozoological and Fortean texts, support the CFZ and the book's authors by buying one, two or quite a few:

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Megalania centrepiece of Gondwana Exhibition

A monstrous replica Megalania skeleton helps to form the centrepiece of a collection of flora and fauna specimens from 3.8 billion years ago to the present, which has gone on display this week at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT).

Arts and Museums Minister Gerry McCarthy said the Wildlife of Gondwana exhibition - presented by the Monash University’s Monash Science Centre – showcases the research by some of the world’s leading palaeontologists.

“Fossils, including dinosaurs, will be some of the key attractions at MAGNT during the next few months,” Mr McCarthy said. “Wildlife of Gondwana is a rare opportunity for Territorians to see fossils from Australia, Antarctica and South America, and understand more about the super-continent Gondwana.”

Gondwana once included most of the southern hemisphere landmasses about 500 million years ago before it began to break-up during the mid-Jurassic period about 167 million years ago.

“The exhibition includes more than 130 fossil specimens and full replica skeletons of the Giant Lizard Megalania and the Territory’s very own flightless bird Bullockornis,” Mr McCarthy said. “This giant bird lived about 15 million years ago, standing 250cm tall and weighing up to 250kg.

“Wildlife of Gondwana also reveals the Territory’s rich fossil record with specimens from Central Australia’s premier megafauna fossil site, the Alcoota Scientific Reserve, on display along with a short documentary highlighting the significant research taking place at Alcoota.

“Visitors to MAGNT will also get to see a six metre long Jurassic dinosaur Cryolophosaurus which lived in what is now Antarctica.”

Complementing the exhibition is a cycads display by the Northern Territory Herbarium titled Living Gondwana: Cycads of the NT. Cycads are the ultimate living fossil, having overseen the rise and fall of the dinosaurs and the rise of mammals over 250 million years.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Australian Big Cats makes top 5, 10, 20!

Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers has made the Cryptomundo Top 20 Cryptozoology books of the year list as the best Cryptic Felid Book of the Year!

The list is an annual who's who of cryptozoology, and to be rated #4 is a noteworthy feat.

The authors (contributors to this blog, pictured above with witness Shane Foreman) would like to thank everyone who has bought and reviewed the book so far.

Keep your eyes peeled for their next project in 2011!

Tasmania announces fox scat restrictions

Anyone wishing to bring fox or dog scats into Tasmania will require a permit from today.

Chief Veterinary Officer Rod Andrewartha said although there is little reason for scats to be imported, other than for use in trial work and detector dog training associated with the Fox Eradication Program, the permit requirement would further enhance biosecurity.

“The research and detector dog training by the Fox Eradication Program (FEP) has been carried out with good biosecurity practices and has not compromised Tasmania’s freedom from hydatid disease,” Dr Andrewartha said.

“Because of the measures the FEP has in place and the necessity for its work it will be able to continue under the permit system.

Dr Andrewartha said the permit requirement would further assist the State’s Quarantine Services who would continue to be on the lookout for fox and fox product.
“Hydatid is present in mainland states and hydatid eggs can be present in scats from foxes or dogs infected with hydatid tapeworms.

Dr Andrewartha said scats from the mainland posed only a small risk in terms of hydatid disease.

“The FED has continually sought advice from my office on biosecurity measures they should have in place while using scats sourced from the mainland as part of their training and evaluation programs.
Dr Andrewartha said the new restrictions included the requirement for a permit to possess a fox scat of mainland origin. 

“Fox scats of Tasmanian origin are specifically exempt from this new requirement so that anyone finding a possible fox scat should have no concern about reporting it to the Fox Eradication Program.

Anyone finding a possible fox scat in Tasmania should report it to the Fox Eradication Program Hotline on 1300 369 688.

“The new requirement does not apply to dog faeces in a cage or vehicle that is bringing a dog into Tasmania. Such a dog has to be treated for hydatid tapeworm and therefore its faeces is not a hydatid risk.

The Tasmanian Government and community undertook a successful campaign to eradicate hydatid disease over 30 years, from the mid 1960s through to the mid 1990s.

Tasmania is the only Australian state free of hydatid disease.

Hydatids is a parasitic infection of various animals that can infect humans caused by a small tapeworm which lives in the intestine of dogs and foxes.

The worm eggs are passed out in the faeces and may infect pasture which is then eaten by sheep, goats or cattle as they graze leading to development of hydatid cysts in these animals.

The cycle is completed by dogs or foxes eating the cysts in infected offal. 

Humans can become infected by picking up worm eggs from dogs. The hydatid cysts that may develop in people can cause serious health problems and in some cases have been fatal.

Creatures feature at Tasmanian auction

It will be a taxidermist's delight in Tasmania this week when a lifetime collection of more than 80 stuffed animals goes under the hammer in Hobart tomorrow.

Auctioneer Quenton McDonald of Gowans said a fox was probably the most topical item at the auction because of the obvious interest in fox sightings in Tasmania in recent years.

He expected a mongoose, cobra, penguin and badger to spark interest, too.

Mr McDonald said small items were likely to fetch about $50, with an average-sized deer head selling for about $300 and a larger deer head for about $500. 

Though many would find the auction items macabre, Mr McDonald said they were generating plenty of interest.

And it was not just bohemian hunters with log cabins who would be buying at the auction.

"There is no stereotypical type of person that buys this sort of stuff. We have a broad range of people that have purchased over the years, although it is mainly private collectors," he said.

Restrictions on the sale of some animal products have changed over the years and the auctioneers have had the collection evaluated by the authorities, Mr McDonald said.

"We have to get Parks and Wildlife in to give us the permits that we need [for this type of auction]," Mr McDonald said.

"There are restrictions on what you can and can't sell so they come in and run their eyes over the collection."

Black panther case one for the book!

The following sighting is featured in Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers, and is one of the more puzzling and thought-provoking of the hundreds authors Rebecca Lang and Michael Williams have examined.
The anonymous Daisy Hill farmer was alarmed to come face-to-face with an animal he'd never seen before as he checked on his cattle one afternoon. The above picture was all that remained of one of his calves after several hours!

"I was driving up a track (if you could call it that) through the bush on our property looking for this missing cow in driving rain, the Blue Heeler dog was leading the way as usual about thirty feet in front of the car when all of a sudden he took off through the bush to my right, the rain had eased right off so I wound down the window to see where he'd gone, before I could even whistle he was jumping in the window of the car yelping and whining. 

"I jumped out and saw the mother cow lying on her side about 30-40m in through the trees as I slammed the door shut I turned and saw it, a bloody huge cat sitting behind the cow. It stood up, glared at me for what was probably about 3-4 seconds and without a sound it took off through the bush. It was dark grey like a wet 'roo (Kangaroo) but with some ginger in it, had a broad head, short legs large shoulders, a long body and a long thick tail. I reckon its body was probably about 4.5 foot long and about 2-2.5 feet tall.

"After collecting myself, still shaking and hair still on end I slowly approached the cow which I could see was barely breathing I noticed her dead calf about 2m from her. The cow had a broken front leg, twisted hip and pinched nerve in her back was in a terribly distressed state.

"The spooky thing is there was a total absence of any blood or other tissue around the site of the kill and the calf was missing a leg which was cleanly removed from the ball joint without breakage, its jaw was broken, tongue missing, neck and back broken and approx half of the calfs' hide was also missing. Not to mention its torso was opened up and virtually licked clean.

"As a keen wildlife photographer and hunter I am fairly adept at tracking animals however I was unable to find any fresh tracks in the area. No dog or fox prints, no 'roos and definitely no cats prints.

"I have found several dead 'roos killed in a similar manner in both deep gullies and open ground on the property, one was even decapitated. These were large Kangaroos capable of high speeds and once again the necks and jaws were broken, torso opened up and licked clean and no signs of blood or the usual mess associated with a dog attack or fox kill.

"Now I've spent a lot of time in the bush and have seen all kinds of weird animals in places they weren't supposed to be but I have never seen anything like this cat. Unlike all the stories I've been hearing from local farmers and other nut-jobs this was not a so-called 'Black Panther' nor do I believe it was a Mountain Lion it was like some kind of bizarre hybrid. Judging by the length of the tail it couldn't be a typical 'feral tabby' either from the brief glimpse I got it seemed to have some marsupial like attributes.

"All I do know about this thing is Parks Victoria and the DPI don't want to know about it."

New (extinct) croc species discovered

Researchers discovered a new species of crocodile that lived about 100 million year ago in Thailand’s northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima, or Korat.

Nakhon Ratchasima Rajabhat University and Mahasarakham University announced at a press conference on Thursday the discovery of the new species of crocodile dubbed 'Khoratosuchus jintasakuli' after the nickname of the province Korat where the fossil was found. The last name comes from the surname of the director of the Northeastern Research Institute of Petrified Wood and Mineral Resources, Pratueng Jintasakul.

The fossil, kept at the Northeastern Research Institute of Petrified Wood and Mineral Resources in Nakhon Ratchasima, is a 191-millimetre-long skull dug up from an excavation site in Baan Saphan Hin near Nakhon Ratchasima’s provincial seat.

According to a study, the fossil is from the Cretaceous period Khok Kruat Formation of Thailand’s Northeast. The fourth ancient species of crocodile found in Thailand, it is estimated to be around 100 million years old.

Komsorn Lauprasert, a scientist at Mahasarakham University, said the size of the skull indicated that it was likely about a two to three year old specimen and its body was about two metres long. The characteristics of its teeth showed that it probably fed on fish.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

In search of yowies

Belinda Garfoot is 54 years old and lives in the Newcastle suburb of Elermore Vale in NSW with husband Peter. In 1996, while on a driving holiday, she and Peter watched a yowie cross the Kings Highway between Braidwood and the coast.

Peter had pulled to the side of the road to rest the car's brakes when he saw the creature in the rear-vision mirror, and both turned to watch it for five to 10 seconds. 

It was, they say, at least 2.1 metres, or seven feet, tall, with disproportionally long arms, no neck, shaggy and with an upright walk. So what was it?

Garfoot's encounter is included in The Yowie - In Search of Australia's Bigfoot by Tony Healy and Paul Cropper - a serious look at a great many reports of yowies stretching back many years.

Read Newcastle Herald columnist's Jeff Corbett's recent blog post about yowies and keeping an open mind here.

The Elephant in the Living Room

Here's a documentary to look out for!

The Elephant in the Living Room is a documentary film about the controversial American subculture of raising the most dangerous animals in the world as common household pets. Director Michael Webber follows the journey of two men at the heart of the issue. One, Tim Harrison, a man whose mission is to protect exotic animals and the public, and the other, Terry Brumfield, a big-hearted man who struggles to keep his two pet African lions that he loves like his own family.

And don't think this only happens in America...

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

CFZ India Expedition report #4

A Christmas (Beetle) Tale

Generations of Australian children have annually welcomed the appearance of 'Christmas Beetles', aka Anoplognathus montanus, which traditionally herald the warmer months Down Under and signal that Christmas Day isn't too far away.

The 'thwack' of the colourful insects against the screen door and their discovery inside everything from the laundry basket to school bags has been something of an annual event. 

However, children growing up in Australian cities are today unlikely to sight the pretty iridiscent-shelled beetle - and scientists believe it is man who is to blame.

The beetles' numbers are falling as the city's expansion demolishes their feeding grounds, and strips away the soil needed for the beetle larvae, where they spend up to two years growing to the pupa stage.

Another victim of urbanisation and the shrinking Australian backyard.

Sad but true :-(

OOPA: Fox debate rages on in Tasmania

More than a decade after the reported introduction of foxes to Tasmania many people believe that foxes are established, yet others believe that a breeding population does not exist and never has. The elephant in the living room is that a number of things don’t seem to add up and the living room floor is about to collapse if we ignore these things for much longer.

Biologist Dr Clive Marks questions the science being relied upon, and argues for an independent scientific review of the entire application of the scat-DNA technique to confirm once and for all the validity of OOPA foxes in Tasmania.

Elsewhere on the same site, biologist Nick Mooney addresses many of the issues Dr Marks raises, and confirms $20 million has so far been spent trying to discover if foxes really are in Tasmania - and cautions sceptics not to 'throw the baby out with the bath water' when contemplating the existence of Vulpes vulpes in the island state. 

Overseas readers may wonder what the big deal is...the fox is obviously not native to Australia and, until relatively recently, the island state of Tasmanian was considered fox free. So is it or isn't it? That is the question...

Monday, 29 November 2010

Wildmen of South-East Asia

Dale Drinnon has an excellent write-up on the wildmen of SE Asia this week over at the CFZ UK blog.

It seems that generally there is a larger and a smaller type of 'Wildman' throughout Southeast Asia, and they both correspond to the types in India, Tibet and China as well. In other words, the 'Wildmen' of Vietnam, Cambodia and so on are contiguous with the Chinese 'Wildmen' and the Indian 'Wildmen' (Such as the ones recently sought by a CFZ expedition) Ivan Sanderson identified the larger type as the Tok and Kung-Lu in Southeast Asia, but they are the same as the Shan (and variants) in South China and North Vietnam, as well as the larger type of "Yeti", and the larger type of Chinese 'Wildman'

Read the whole thing here.

Normanton's monster croc '8m long'

COULD this be Normanton's own "Loch Ness Monster", an elusive 8m giant that has residents in the Gulf thinking twice before taking out the tinnie?

Rumours of a massive croc lurking near the township of Normanton have revived memories of the famed 8.6m monster shot in the Norman River in 1957, and claimed as a world record.

Local pastor Elton Thompson sparked a frenzy last week when he produced photographs of a croc slide about 1km from town, which indicate the presence of a huge animal with a girth of up to 2m.

Now fisherman Clint Spry has revealed photos he took of a huge croc in the Norman River with a tail "as long as my boat".

"It had locked jaws with an albino crocodile and was just throwing it around like a rag doll," Mr Spry told The Sunday Mail.

"The tail on it alone was as long as my whole boat . . . 3.8 metres."

Pastor Thompson started a sensation when he put his photos of huge slide marks and claw prints on his Facebook page and relayed a story of a crocodile recently spotted at the same location that was "at least as big, if not bigger" than the legendary 8.6m Savannah King, that has a life-size replica in Normanton.

As national media outlets picked up the story, locals debated whether the croc really was that big or, well, just a crock.

One publican insists: "It's a wives' tale. There are no crocs that big near Normanton."

Others are adamant an oversize croc has been in the area for some time, growing bigger every year since Queensland banned commercial hunting in the '70s.

Long-time local Terry Cummings didn't hesitate when asked if he thought an 8m croc could be lurking in the area.

"I was here in the '50s and saw them that big," he said.

Herbie Harold, 52, who found the original slide marks and alerted his pastor, said he had seen a massive croc in the same spot once before.

The Sunday Mail enlisted Mr Harold's expertise last week in a bid to find the monster (one of Elton's photos is shown below).


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