Friday, 29 July 2011

Weird Weekend 2011 *update*

It's going to be phenomenal in every way - so if you're in the UK, there's no excuse to miss the Centre for Fortean Zoology's legendary Weird Weekend! Speaking for ourselves, we're trying very hard to win the lottery at the moment so we can drop everything and attend. Failing that, just doesn't bear thinking about!

This press release has just been issued, highlighting the fantastic line-up of speakers:

"For one weekend a year the tiny North Devon village of Woolsery becomes the weirdest village in the land. The largest gathering of scholars of esoteric natural history in the English-speaking world, is set to take place in rural north Devon.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology’s annual conference, the Weird Weekend, will see speakers from all over the country gathering Woolsery to discuss their work and discoveries.

The Weird Weekend,held over the weekend of the 19-21st August, now in its 12 year is the largest convention of its kind. This year’s speakers include one of the world’s leading geneticists Professor Bryan Sykes. Professor Sykes will be speaking on the yeti and samples of hair he has tested. Continuing the theme, cryptozoologist Richard Freeman will be talking about the Centre for Fortean Zoology’s latest expedition that took them into the Garo Hills of northern India on the track of the yeti.

Last year at the convention scientists announced that hairs found in local woodland were those of a leopard. These findings were later confirmed by DNA analysis. A world exclusive this year comes from Dr Darren Naish from Portsmouth University and Max Blake from Bristol University who will produce conclusive proof that over 100 years ago there were still mystery cats in Devon.

Other speakers include Fortean researcher Matt Salusbury who has been on the track of pigmy elephants in India, entomologist Nick Wadham on giant spiders, cryptozoologist Adam Davies on the orang-pendek, the mystery ape of Sumatra, and Glen Vaudrey on the waterhorse, a sea serpent from Scottish legend.

As well as monstrous creatures, other esoteric subjects are covered. Former police officer John Hanson describes UFO cases reaching back to the 1940s.

Other subjects include Ronan Coghlan on the labours of Hercules, and Henry Hartley on Fortean aspects of the modern Mayans.

As well as a series of talks there will be stalls, workshops and events.

The Weird Weekend raises funds for village charities dealing with children and for the Centre for Fortean Zoology, the only full time organization in the world dedicated to the investigation of mystery animals.

The Weird Weekend takes place from 19th-21st of August.

For further details visit or ring 01237 431413."

Wild Aussie visits the urban jungle

Britain is often described as a nation of animal-lovers, usually cats and dogs. Australians, however, can have wilder tastes. 

Peter Allison, the Australian animal tracker, explorer, daredevil and writer, talks to the BBC about his worldly adventures tracking exotic animals and living in the wilds of Bolivia, Botswana and...Britain?

Check out Peter's books as well - Don't Look Behind You!: A Safari Guide's Encounters with Ravenous Lions, Stampeding Elephants, and Lovesick Rhinos and Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Golden Bowerbird hovers on the edge of extinction

Australia’s Golden Bowerbird is at risk of becoming extinct. This tiny yet magnificent creature is the world’s smallest Golden Bowerbird and it is found only on the mountain tops of the sub-tropical rainforests of Queensland. 

The shift in climate indicates that the habitat of the Golden Bowerbird is at threat, this is forcing the bird to search for home higher up in the mountains and if this keeps up and the habitat keeps shrinking, a day will come when they will have no place to go.

Queensland ecologists could save the Golden Bowerbird and many other species from the climate change because of their pioneering framework. 

Eve MacDonald-Madden of CSIRO Ecosystems Sciences and University of Queensland headed a team of researchers and came up with a mathematical framework which will choose the best time for relocating the endangered species to places with more suitable climates. 

She said that based on this framework, we will be able to determine the ideal time for moving these species to southeast Queensland from the tropical areas of Queensland. The reason for this is that due to the warming of the climate, southeast Queensland will be more like the tropics of Queensland thus these species have a better way of surviving over there. 

Timing is highly important when it comes to relocating these animals. If they are moved early, then there is a possibility that conservation resources might be wasted on such species which could have adapted to the climate change naturally.

On the other hand if it is delayed, then there is a risk of extinction for the species. 

Australia a cryptid hotspot (but we knew that, right?)

Hot on the heels of yesterday's discovery of a new species of minature frog in Australia...

Most of the world's "missing" or undiscovered species live in regions already identified by scientists as conservation priorities, including Australia, according to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study's findings suggest recent conservation efforts have been on target and should reduce uncertainty over global conservation priorities, its team of international authors say. But, they add, the extinction threat for many of the as-yet undiscovered species is worse than previously feared.

"We show that the majority of the world's 'missing species' are hiding away on some of the most threatened landscapes in the world," says Stuart Pimm, Doris Duke Professor of Conservation at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment. "This considerably increases the number of threatened and endangered species around the world."

Six regions already identified by conservation scientists as hotspots - Mexico to Panama; Colombia; Ecuador to Peru; Paraguay and Chile southward; southern Africa; and Australia - were estimated by the models to contain 70 percent of all predicted missing species. Only two regions with high estimates of missing species - the region from Angola to Zimbabwe, and the northern Palearctic, which encompasses parts of Europe and Asia - contained no biodiversity hotspots.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

New mini frog species discovered in Pilbara

Researchers have discovered a new miniature frog species in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The  researchers from the Australian National University in Canberra, the Western Australia Museum and the University of Western Australia in Perth discovered the new toadlet after they conducted genetic analysis on the various frog species found in the dry region.

The new species, called the Pilbara toadlet (Uperoleia saxatilis), measures just two centimeters long and is found in the rocky gorges and creeks of the arid region.

Lead researcher and PhD student from ANU, Renee Catullo said the new toadlet is unique for its species.

"It has big glands and it has brown spots all over it, it also has a different call from all the other species," she said.

"It actually lives in rocky landscapes instead of sandy soils, so it's a burrowing frog that's adapted to live in a different type of landscape."

Researchers used genetic techniques to identify the new species from its better known northwest cousins.

The new discovery has proven that the deserts of Australia are teeming with life. The barren landscape could still hold new species that scientists haven't found yet.

“Little is known about this small, brown creature but it has been found following cyclonic rains and occurs in rocky gorges and creeks of the region. The good news is that it appears to be secure from a conservation perspective," she said.

“Toadlets are native to Australia and this new species brings the total number to 27, the second largest group of frog species in the country."

The discovery was part of a research project funded by the Herman Slade Foundation that uses genetic techniques to try and understand the true number of species of toadlets.

“Genetic techniques are increasingly being used to identify new species across Australia that use calls, pheromones, or behaviour to tell each other apart,” Ms Catullo said.

“In these cases genetic techniques can tell us which groups are interbreeding, even when it’s hard to visually differentiate them."

Koala joey a bit hit at zoo

He may be only 200g, but this koala joey is the big attraction at Western Australia's Cohunu Wildlife Park. The park's latest addition has been out of his mum's pouch for less than two weeks but is already a crowd favourite.

Park owner Lucille Sorbello said the tiny tot only came out of the pouch for short periods to claw around on his mother's back - then went back in for another feed.

The joey, yet to be named, is the third born at the park this year.

It joins 10 other southern male koalas and three breeding females at the park.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Here be monsters, says Dr Charles Paxton

From the giant squid, which maybe be 14m or more in length, to the freakish-looking goblin shark, modern-day sea monsters exist in oceans all over the world. But could there be large, unknown species still lurking beneath the waves, waiting to be discovered?

To Dr Charles Paxton, an ecologist and mathematician from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, the answer to that question is an unequivocal "yes". By studying the rate of past species discoveries, and projecting this into the future, he predicts that there are many more sea monsters still to be identified.

"I believe there are large animals - greater than 2m long - awaiting discovery by science," Charles told Australian Geographic. "Why? Because we're still finding them. There really is no doubt about that at all."

Monday, 25 July 2011

Mythical Horotiu threatens NZ transport project

A mythical swamp monster "hiding" under Auckland is threatening to derail a project to improve the New Zealand city's traffic gridlock.

The North Island city is trying to move ahead with a multi-billion railway tunnel project to improve the minimal train network and free up its car-filled streets.

But Horotiu, a mythical monster, put the NZ$2.6bn ($2.1bn) project in doubt after an indigenous Maori board protested that it will destroy grounds once patrolled by the taniwha (pronounced "tani-fa").

Glenn Wilcox, a member of the Maori Statutory Board, which protects Maori interests, complained that the plan did not take into account the monster, which "was here first".

"As kaitiaki, or guardians, they protect people, but they also get up and bite you if they do not like what you are doing," he said.

The local council has since convinced the board that the correct consultation had taken place, putting the popular project back on the table.

The board accepted its needs had been met but not before it was invoiced thousands of dollars for public relations advice relating to the monster.

The monster now appears to have opened a Twitter account, @TaniwhaHorotiu, where it claims: "If I get my asking price I've got my eye on a stream out near Waterview."

It claims taniwha aren't invincible; in fact, one dies "every time a child reads a science book".

Surprisingly, its not the first time a taniwha has threatened to up-end a council project.

In 2002, construction of a stretch of road between Auckland and Hamilton was halted after protesters complained that it was cutting through the domain of a revered one-eye taniwha.

The taniwha was thought to be responsible for a number of deaths on the stretch of road.

Ranginui Walker, a respected Maori elder, said at the time: "You have to placate local demons, deities, taniwha.

"Don't tempt fate."

Sumatran Tiger dies - for loo roll!

Australian supermarket retailer IGA is being accused of turning Indonesian rainforests critical to the survival of the Sumatran tiger into toilet paper!

Greenpeace has named and shamed supermarket chain IGA after activists discovered a Sumatran Tiger stuck in a wild boar trap on land being logged by a company owned by Asia Pulp and Paper.

APP supplies toilet paper to the supermarket chain which then resells it under the Black and Gold and IGA Signature brands, stocked on Australian shelves.

Greenpeace says the tiger, which later died of its injuries, is one of just 400 remaining in the wild.

WARNING - the following footage may upset some viewers :-(

Friday, 22 July 2011

Darren Naish talks Sea Monsters @ the Mail

The remains of a sea creature - possibly a whale - were found on a
UK beach recently, sparking talk of sea monsters!

Dr Darren Naish, well known to CFZers and those who follow this blog, gives a scholarly account of the sea monster mystery in a recent edition of the Daily Mail:

"For centuries they’ve been a part of maritime legend, inspiring curiosity and terror in equal measure. Lurking in the depths of the oceans, shocking in size and appearance, gigantic serpents and prehistoric monsters are as much a source of fascination as ever, especially in Hollywood.

In the past two or three years alone, attacks by huge undersea beasts have provided the centrepiece battles at the ends of blockbusters such as Pirates Of The Caribbean, Clash Of The Titans and The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader.

But are such tales of strange sea beasts more than mythology? Is there any evidence to suggest that some of these monsters of the watery deep -  from Jules Verne’s giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea to the legendary Kraken, a leviathan sending sailors to their doom - might actually exist?

Certainly, the study of the possible existence of sea monsters and other creatures of legend - known as cryptozoology - remains an area that captures the imagination of scientists and laymen alike.

Last week I took part in a major debate at the Zoological Society in London at which I and my colleagues wondered whether there might be more to these stories than mere myth.

Only this week, photographs emerged of the large carcass of an unidentified sea creature washed up on the beach near Aberdeen. It is the subject of fevered speculation, with some claiming it is a sea monster and others (more sensibly) saying it’s a plain old pilot whale.

Further fuelling the popular enthusiasm for sea monster lore, on Tuesday night the Discovery Channel screened footage, filmed by Alaskan fishermen, of what appeared to be an immense sea creature — at least 30ft long — with humps on its back, breaking the surface of the ocean.

What may simply be an example of a whale and its wake has been imaginatively recast by viewers as the Alaskan Nessie.

Given that previously unknown large marine animals continue to be discovered, the idea is far from outlandish. It’s perfectly plausible that species of shark, rays and whale still wait to be identified. Indeed, according to some estimates, there could be as many as 50 species of large sea‑going animals awaiting discovery.

Despite advances in sonar equipment, remotely operated cameras and deep-sea submersibles, only a fraction of the vast oceans that cover so much of the Earth have been examined.

It was only in 1976, for instance, that the incredible Megamouth shark was discovered. And it was found entirely by chance when one became entangled with the anchor of a U.S. navy ship off the coast of Hawaii.    

An unusual-looking, deep-water creature with a large, rubbery head and enormous mouth that can open 4ft wide, the Megamouth is unlike any other shark previously seen. To this day, sightings remain extremely rare.

Equally rare is Omura’s whale, named after a biologist from Tokyo. This creature, around 33ft in length, was first caught by a Japanese research vessel in the Pacific in the late Seventies — yet hardly any specimens have been caught or filmed since.

So we can be extremely confident new species will keep on being found as we continue to explore our planet.

What we don’t know is whether any of these species might match those creatures mentioned in the fantastical tales passed down to us through history or in more recent eyewitness accounts of sea monsters.

The Roman writer Pliny gives an account of a giant octopus in his natural history books, while sea dragons began to feature on the edges of medieval maps in the 13th century to demarcate the edge of charted waters.

By the time of the Renaissance, tales of strange creatures sighted on the horizon or washed up on shore were increasingly common.

On his return journey from Newfoundland in 1583, Sir Humphrey Gilbert, an adventurer and half-brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, claimed to have encountered a strange, lion-like sea monster with glaring eyes.

By the 18th century, the reports had become more elaborate.

Hans Egede, a missionary from Denmark, reported a sighting of ‘a most terrible creature’ off the coast of Greenland in 1734. He recorded that ‘the monster lifted its head so high that it seemed to be higher than the crow’s nest on the main mast. It was longer than the whole ship’.

Could at least some of these accounts refer to encounters with real animals?

Research on the reliability of eye-witnesses shows that there are many reasons to be cautious about claimed monster sightings. People’s memories are typically untrustworthy in recalling distances and sizes, especially in the huge, empty expanse of the ocean.

So what might appear to be a strange creature could just be a wave or a trick of the light, or perhaps just the fanciful vision of sailors stranded for too long in becalmed waters.

Over the years, many accounts of sea monsters have talked of large, slithering marine serpents, apparently utterly different to anything recognised by science.

Egede’s account of 1734 is one of the classics. But it is possible that what people actually saw were nothing more than the penises of courting male whales, for such organs can be more than 10ft long.

In the same vein, others have spoken of seeing bizarre, dinosaur-like creatures with long necks, deep, staring eyes and whiskers round their mouths. Perhaps these are descriptions of elephant seals, which can reach 16ft in length, have a distinctive proboscis overhanging their jaw (rather like an elephant’s trunk), can move rapidly through water and emit a loud roar which could strike fear into an onlooker.

One common notion about sea monsters is that, if they exist, then perhaps they could be modern-day descendants of plesiosaurs, the marine reptiles that ruled the seas during the age of the dinosaurs.

After all, the sightings often super-ficially seem to match some of the characteristics — such as a long neck or giant flippers — of these long extinct creatures of the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

The belief that the oceans might contain descendants from the dinosaur age is known as the ‘prehistoric survivor paradigm’.

But there are two central problems with this idea. First of all, what we know of plesiosaur fossils shows that the living animals did not really match the modern sea monsters described by eyewitnesses.
While the modern-day sea monsters are described as raising their necks high out of the water and even waving them around, plesiosaur necks were far less flexible.

In fact, it seems plesiosaurs were simply unable to raise their massively long necks above the water’s surface. If you have ever tried to lift a heavy pole out of the water from one end, you will know how gravity makes such a task impossible.  

The second main problem with the prehistoric survivor idea is that there are absolutely no fossilised plesiosaurs from rock younger than 65 million years old. If some plesiosaurs had survived into our present age, we would expect a continuous fossil record.

Ah, say those who want to believe these marine giants are still with us, what about the coelacanth — the 5ft fish that was thought to have become extinct at the same time as the plesiosaurs, but in the Thirties was discovered to be living in the seas off southern Africa?

There were, it is said, no coelacanth fossils younger than 65 million years old, yet it obviously survived down the millennia.

However, the bones of plesiosaurs are extremely large and tough, which means not only that they remain intact but they are also easy to recognise and classify.

It is a completely different story with the coelacanths, whose bones are much more fragile, small and vulnerable, so traces are far harder to find.

Whatever your view — and experts remain divided — it seems that the best biological evidence suggests we are unlikely to discover a terrifying new monster lurking in the depths. But that’s not to say it won’t happen."

New from CFZ Press: Mystery Animals of Gloucestershire...

This latest offering from CFZ Press looks promising - it's the latest in a series of regional British cryptozoology texts exploring the nation's mystery animals, this one authored by Dr Paul Williams (no relation to Matt or Mike!).

Dr Williams is also the author of Howls of Imagination (Heart of Albion Press), which explores the demonisation of wolves and reveals how folklore and myth can create and sustain misleading ideas while simultaneously offering a more factual understanding of this iconic animal of the wilderness.

Author Nick Redfern reviewed that book and wrote: "Howls of Imagination is a superb study of the fact, the fiction, the legend, and the mythology surrounding that most mysterious of creatures: the wolf.

"Howls of Imagination was probably one of my most enjoyable reads of this year so far; and I can say for certain that in this concise-yet-packed [107]-page book, the author has revealed a wealth of hidden knowledge on this majestic beast, dispelled some myths, answered a lot of questions, and offered a rich body of data that is diverse, eye-opening, mysterious and magical in equal measures."

Dr Williams completed a PhD thesis on wolves in folklore in 2004 at Sheffield University. His short fiction and poetry has been published in magazines and anthologies such as Focus and Roadworks.

Wild dog numbers explode in Qld

Queensland's summer of drenching rains has led to an explosion in the state's wild dog population.

The big wet prevented regular canine culling efforts, leaving livestock and the land's biodiversity vulnerable.

Agriculture Minister Tim Mulherin on Wednesday released the Wild Dog Management Strategy, aimed at controlling wild dogs, including dingoes, dingo-hybrids and domestic dogs turned feral.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Bunyip's bandicoots an endangered species

The future of the Southern Brown bandicoot population in Australia is under threat, but the shy marsupials are popping up in and around Bunyip, Longwarry and Kooweerup, according to the Pakenham Gazette.

The Bunyip Landcare group hosted an information night last week for residents interested in protecting the Southern Brown bandicoot population in East Gippsland. 

More than 100 residents, who came to the information session, discussed their concerns about cats and foxes killing off bandicoots, and shared stories of the native animals. 

Meet Badger, the Quoll-tracking dog!

Colac district conservationists hope a dog could be the key to saving Australia’s tiger quoll population.

Employees of the Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology have been busy training two-year-old Badger, the tiger quoll detection dog, to locate scats from the endangered tiger quoll population.

Program leader Kellie Leigh is training Badger, an Australian shepherd, with the aid of three tiger quolls kept on site in a custom-built sanctuary named the “Qualloseum”.

Staff feed the quolls a varied diet and the quolls, each of which is about 12 months old, provide fresh scats for Badger’s training program.

Conservationists hope new detection methods will help find populations of native tiger quolls in the Otways.

Cape Otway Centre for Conservation Ecology program leader Kellie Leigh hopes Badger the dog will help conservationists find native tiger quoll populations around the Otways.

Ms Leigh said tiger quoll numbers in the Otways were so low that environmental authorities, who use remote cameras to survey the animals, had not detected the marsupial predator for “about seven years”.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Jurassic park in a suburban Sydney garden

Trespassers beware! Spiteri’s Ambarvale residence is guarded by Jurassic era dinosaurs. 

The south-western Sydney self-taught paleo artist has been crafting dinosaurs and exhibiting them in his front yard for the past 10 years. His latest artworks - Jurassic king allosaurus and venomous dilophosaurus - have been a magnet during the school holidays.

While a lack of room has temporarily put a halt on more dinosaurs, Mr Spiteri has lodged a proposal with Campbelltown library to have prehistoric creatures placed on show from the ancient Indigenous period that include the prehistoric lizard, megalania.

Zoo expecting influx of quoll and devil joeys

WA's Peel Zoo is looking forward to the pitter-patter of tiny tasmanian devil and eastern and spotted tailed tiger quoll feet.

The zoo’s three female tasmanian devils – Prada, Gnasher and Fang – are carrying young in their pouch and marketing manager David Cobbold said the arrivals were big news for the zoo.

Peel Zoo’s tasmanian devils are kept quarantined to keep them safe from the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has devastated the Tasmanian population.

DFTD restricts the devil’s ability to eat, with some areas reporting a 95 per cent decline in population.

Peel Zoo owner Narelle McPherson said the zoo’s population could expand by up to 20 young if each of the expectant devils and quolls produced four young.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Weird Weekend 2011 - Abominable snowmen et al

My God, how we wish we were en route to this year's Weird Weekend!

The line-up is looking nothing short of spectacular.

World famous geneticist Professor Bryan Sykes, of Oxford University is giving a talk on 'David Hume, Joanna Lumley and the Abominable Snowman' at this year's Weird Weekend.

And he's joined by Richard Freeman (The CFZ India Expedition), Matt Salusbury (Hunting Pygmy Elephants in India), Neil Arnold (Mystery Animals of Kent), Adam Davies (On the Track of the Orang Pendek), Max Blake and Dr Darren Naish (The New British Lynx) and Nick Wadham (Giant Spiders) to name just a few.

Get your crypto on and read more here.

Cryptozoology: Science or Pseudoscience?

From krakens to gigantic sea serpents, terrifying monsters of the deep have haunted the imaginations of generations of mariners.

Now experts in marine life claim sea monsters might actually exist. Because scientists are still finding new species of underwater life, the discovery of “marine monsters” is not impossible, a meeting in the UK heard last Tuesday.

“The huge number of ‘sea monster’ sightings now on record can’t all be explained away as mistakes, sightings of known animals or hoaxes,” said palaeontologist Dr Darren Naish of the University of Portsmouth.

“At least some of the better ones - some of them made by trained naturalists and such - probably are descriptions of encounters with real, unknown animals.”

One such example was reported in 1905 by zoologists Edmund Meade-Waldo and Michael Nicoll, who encountered a strange “sea serpent” off the coast of Brazil.

And in August 1848, the crew of HMS Daedalus saw a 60ft-long sea creature during a voyage to Saint Helena in the South Atlantic.

At the time, biologists in London claimed it was most likely an elephant seal - or even an upside down canoe.

Dr Naish told the meeting of the Zoological Society of London: “Because large marine animals continue to be discovered - various new whale and shark species have been named in recent years - the idea that such species might await discovery is, at the very least, plausible.”

Some people have suggested present-day monsters might be plesiosaurs, long-necked marine reptiles that lived at the time of dinosaurs. But this was dismissed by Dr Charles Paxton, of the University of St Andrews, who organised the meeting, entitled Cryptozoology: Science or Pseudoscience?

Cryptozoology is the “study of hidden animals” - or the search for creatures whose existence has not been proved, such as the Loch Ness monster and the Abominable Snowman.

“If there are prehistoric animals alive today it would imply that there’s something very wrong with our understanding of the fossil record,” he said.

Dr Paxton argues it is wrong to assume that all large animals living in the oceans have been discovered. “If the criteria is solely bigness, then this is not the case,” he said. “In 1995 a benthic ray, which lives on the ocean floor, was found that measured 3.42 metres.”

Eight large marine species have been discovered in the past 20 years.

LiveScience interviewed Dr Paxton about his passion for sea monsters in the lead-up to the talk.

While The Guardian attended the discussion and gave a detailed account of the evening.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Meet the Cryptozoologist: Ken Gerhard

How did you first get involved in researching strange and mysterious creatures?
Unlike other researchers I know, I didn’t experience anything quite as dramatic as a life-changing encounter. When I was young, I developed a deep-rooted fascination with Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, as well as UFOs, ghosts and other mysteries. I didn’t really pursue my interest too much until about a decade ago, when I began working with a group of passionate Bigfoot researchers from Texas. I observed first-hand some things that I felt couldn’t be explained and cryptozoology subsequently became my obsession.

What were some of the early influences in your life?
Well, my mother mainly, because she took me on so many amazing adventures around the world. She always wanted me to be an archaeologist and writer, so we would often travel to famous ruins like Machu Pichu, Stonehenge and Carthage. But, I was mostly interested in legendary animals, as well as the native wildlife wherever we traveled. Looking back, I had many defining moments that led me to where I am now, but there are just too many to cover here.

Have you personally seen one of these creatures?
No. I never have, although I’ve interviewed many credible eyewitnesses. I did see two eyes reflecting in a spot where other researchers and I thought we heard a Bigfoot creature vocalizing just minutes earlier. But from that distance, I’m just not sure what I was looking at. If it was a deer or other animal, it must have been very tall.

What creatures particularly interest you?
Probably the flying creatures like Big Bird, because I’ve spent so much time investigating those. I receive new reports on a regular basis and I’ve had many people confide in me about their sightings of enormous, winged monsters. I think this is a highly neglected branch of cryptozoology. There are apparently some unknown things soaring through our skies and not too many people are taking it seriously.

What cryptids are most likely to exist in your opinion?
Well, certainly there must be some large, undiscovered species in the Earth’s oceans, which are just so vast, deep and unexplored. Based on centuries of reports I think that there is an animal out there that would explain centuries of sea serpent and lake monster reports. It seems to possess some mammalian characteristics, so perhaps we are dealing with some type of snake-like whale or long necked seal. There may also be gigantic, prehistoric marine reptiles that survived exitinction. Oh, and the thylacine of course, which is most likely not extinct in my opinion.

What’s your favourite?
That really changes all the time, depending on what’s going on with my research. But, I must admit that I find guilty pleasure in the really weird man-beast hybrids, like Owlman, Goat Man and the Lizard Man, even though they have nothing to do with zoology or the natural world.

What’s your favourite Australian cryptid?
My trip to the Australian Outback when I was young was an unbelievable adventure. I had the great honor of climbing Ayers Rock. I remember taking a keen interest in the Bunyip at the time. From a cryptozoological point of view, Australia is a dream. The Yowie, Bunyip, thylacine, megalania and surviving diprotodons are all very compelling and valid possibilities.

Have you developed any theories around where the more unusual animals - i.e. yowies/bigfoot - have come from?
Well, they have always been here I think. Just look at all of the fossil hominoids that have been discovered in the past century. During the Miocene epoch, the planet was literally crawling with upright primates that looked exactly like what people are describing in modern times. Therefore, the most likely assumption, regardless of how unbelievable it seems, would be that a population of these beings have survived extinction and that they have been completely disregarded by western scientists.

Have you written any books/articles? 
I recently wrote an article about the Texas Chupacabra for Fate Magazine, which was a great honor. My most recent book - Monsters of Texas, was co-written with my good friend Nick Redfern. I also wrote a book titled, Big Bird! Modern Sightings of Flying Monsters, which was published in 2007. Before that, I had a self-published pamphlet I was distributing called Monsters are Real. I’ve also written a couple of articles for trade publications.

Do you have a website?
I have a Facebook fan page where I post my photos and latest findings. I also write a blog for the San Antonio Current. My latest venture is a cryptozoology excursion team where we are train aspiring cryptozoologists -

How many mystery animal reports would you receive a year?
On average, I probably receive about one report a week. Although, people are constantly sending me weird photos, hairs or bits bones they can’t identify. Most of those can be explained in familiar terms, which doesn’t make people too happy. We all love to keep a little mystery in our lives.

What’s the closest you’ve personally come to finding something?
I’ve recorded some compelling Bigfoot vocalizations and have found several structures that resemble the alleged nests or markers constructed by these beings. When I was in Belize, I found some humanoid footprints in a very remote area where people would never think of walking around barefoot. They fit the descriptions of tracks attributed to the small, manlike Dwendi.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to go ‘in search of’ mystery animals?
I tend to focus on the cryptids in my region, since it gives me a home court advantage. But, recently I was in the south of France investigating a famous werewolf known as the Beast of Gevaudan. I’d really love to return to Australia and conduct some serious research there some day.

What’s next for you - any trips planned? Books or articles to write? Talks to give?
I’m constantly doing interviews and lectures and I have several ongoing investigations that I am involved with. I’ve also started to write my next book, since it takes me so long to finish one!

Could you share some of your favourite cryptozoology book titles with us?
Well, On the Track of Unknown Animals by Bernard Heuvelmans is considered to be the bible of cryptozoology. Other than that, I greatly respect certain other authors, whose research is highly scientific and influential. Those would include Ivan Sanderson, Roy Mackal, Grover Krantz and Karl Shuker, to name a few.

What advice would you give anyone getting into the field of cryptozoology?
The same two words that iconic cryptozoologist Loren Coleman uttered to me when I was just getting into the field – “passion and patience”.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Big Brutus is no crock - he's the real deal

This scaly 5.5 meter-long saltwater crocodile regularly leaps out of the water alongside tourists floating in a tin boat, aiming for a chunk of buffalo meat hanging from a stick.

But when photos of airborne Brutus appeared in Australian newspapers recently, they immediately sparked doubt that such a massive crocodile existed.

"That crocodile is 100 per cent real. We've had forensics police look at the picture," said Maxine Bowman, a staff member of Adelaide River Cruises, who take daily tours on the river to feed Brutus and other crocodiles in the area.

Missing a front leg, rumored to be the result of a shark attack, Brutus leaps into the air for food when he's in the area.

"Seriously, what people get wrong is they think they're trained to do that, they're not," Bowman told Reuters.

"In an normal environment if it's hungry (a crocodile) will naturally jump out of the water. They're absolutely beautiful creatures, seriously."

Throughout the Northern Territory, where the famed movie "Crocodile Dundee" was filmed, there are warning signs to protect tourists from the crocodiles, which are common, and fatalities do occur from time to time.

"I think the Northern Territory is the only place in Australia where you're licensed to feed crocodiles and we're one of the operators licensed," Bowman said.

"We are very environmentally friendly, we don't have cappuccino machines on our boats. It's all about the animals in the region."

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Trap is set for Hawkesbury's big cat

THERE are panther sightings all the time, but people are too scared of ridicule to tell people about it, a Grose Vale resident told the Hawkesbury Gazette this week.

Chris Coffey has been tracking black panther sightings in the district for 13 years, and is frustrated by people’s reluctance to divulge their experiences when they have seen big black cats.

“I was in the post office the other day and there was a man there who knew of three people who’d seen one (a big black cat) and there was a girl who happened to be in the post office at the same time who said her dad had seen one,” Ms Coffey said.

Collecting evidence of panthers in the Hawkesbury over many years, Ms Coffey has had a panther trap built.

She said they had a big cat in there one night but the trap was too small and it managed to back its way out – with the roadkill wallaby used as bait.

“We extended it so now it’s much larger,” she said. “We also have three heat-activated cameras.”

She is asking any resident who has seen a big black cat to contact Hawkesbury City Council, which keeps a register of sightings, or the Gazette, or her.

She also asked that if anyone has seen a panther on their property and would be happy for the trap and cameras to be put on their land, she may finally be able to prove that there are panthers in the Hawkesbury.

She said sightings were not just at dusk and dawn – people were seeing them at all times of the day and she wanted people to realise what danger their children could be in near the bush.

***Coincidentally, Chris Coffey wrote the foreword for Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The official Sumatra Expedition 2011 t-shirt

Don't fancy visiting a jungle infested with disease-carrying mosquitoes, man-eating tigers, poisonous snakes and spiders, or cryptids that don't want to be found?

Then why not stay glued to our blog for the updates - and wear a t-shirt that will get your friends talking.

You can support this and future CFZ expeditions by purchasing a t-shirt.

And if you buy one and wear it, we'll happily post a picture of you supporting the CFZ on this very blog!

Who needs fish fingers? Not this tuskfish...

A diver has snapped some rare images of a blackspot tuskfish - Choerodon schoenleinii - holding a clam in its mouth and hitting it against a rock.

Scott Gardner was exploring Australia's Great Barrier Reef when he heard a banging sound emanating from the sea floor. He swam down to take a look and was amazed to see the tuskfish industriously working away to get at the juicy bivalve inside. Who needs opposable thumbs?

Read more:

CFZ TV: Riddle of the Hills

The latest feature-length film from CFZtv, directed and edited by Jonathan Downes. At the end of 2010, a five man expedition from the Centre for Fortean Zoology went to the Garo Hills, in Meghalaya, Northern India to look for the Mande Burung - an Indian analogue of the Yeti. This is their story...

Snakes alive! Man-eating reptiles online

WARNING: graphic images follow!

My brother-in-law thoughtfully sent an email to me today with the following pictures, accompanied by text warning me to "never fall asleep or get drunk in the jungle!".

If this is what can happen, duly noted!

But seriously, do these pictures genuinely show a human corpse inside a large snake? Or is it merely a clever photoshop chop job? And what's more, can giant snakes really eat people? The jury seems to be out on the last question...

I'm not 100% sure, but these photos look like they could be of a Reticulated Python, a native of several Asian countries (including Sumatra/Indonesia, hence why I was sent the email) a species rather fond of constricting their prey until dead.

And just because we're on a 'snake eats man' roll, check out these pictures from the general same neck of the woods. These ones have been deemed fake by some quarters, but no one has been able to entirely rule out the story told by these pictures...

Monday, 11 July 2011

Update: Sumatra 2011 - In Search of the Orang-Pendek

Details of the planning of the CFZ Sumatra expedition are almost finalised, and the trailcam fundraiser has been a great success, with four Bushnell trail cameras (aka game cameras) secured thanks to the generosity of CFZ supporters.

A big thank you to Glen Vaudrey, who drove the fundraising, and to Adam Davies and Andrew Sanderson who have worked hard on planning the trip.

The team, as it stands, will comprise the following members: Dr Chris Clark, Richard Freeman, Dave Archer, Jon McGowan, Lisa Dowley, Andrew Sanderson, Rebecca Lang and Mike Williams.

The countdown to September has begun!

Meet the Cryptozoologist: Dean Harrison

How did you first get involved in researching strange and mysterious creatures?
It found me I guess. First experience was in '95 in my back yard around midnight while living at Mt. Tamborine, Queensland. I arrived home to something large and bipedal walking in the swamp, ripping up trees and plants and throwing them through the forest. The vocalisations were that of grunting and yelling.

The event that sealed my research was when I was stalked and chased at 11pm at Ormeau, Queensland in '97. I know if it had got hold of me, I would not be here now. I was very lucky. If I had not stopped where I did to make a phone call, there would have been no chance of escape.

After an event such as that, you need answers.

Soon after that, I met Neil Frost and the roller coaster ride began.

What were some of the early influences in your life?
Nothing cryptozoology-wise, besides the old ‘In Search Of’ series. I think if anything, I was more interested in the ghosty/spirit thing.

Have you personally seen one of these creatures?
Yowie. Sure have. Even hit by one in 2009. Over the years we have spent a lot of time in various locations around the Country. Had many encounters in different locations.

What creatures particularly interest you?
Pretty much just the Yowie. It’s what I know, and have the most experience with.

What cryptids are most likely to exist in your opinion?
Yowie (of course), Thylacine (because I have seen one) and Big Cats.

What’s your favourite?

What’s your favourite Australian food?
Steak Diane with chips.
I don't like those foreign foods with funny names.

Have you developed any theories around where the more unusual animals - i.e. yowies/bigfoot - have come from?
Don’t know and don’t care really. The fact of the matter is that they are here. The rest is just the fine print.

Have you written any books/articles?
Articles here and there; I am often asked to write a book, however I don’t have the concentration span for a book right now.

Do you have a website?

How many mystery animal reports would you receive a year?
Perhaps 100-150 on various topics.

What’s the closest you’ve personally come to finding something?
Being hit in the chest is pretty close.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to go ‘in search of’ mystery animals?
Australia to the Amazon. Also went to the Solomon Islands.

What’s next for you - any trips planned? Books or articles to write? Talks to give?
Waiting for winter to head north, then it’s time to pull the boots on, dust off the FLIR and be active again.

Could you share some of your favourite cryptozoology book titles with us?
I don’t feel I need to read books - I create my own experiences. Having said that, obviously Paul and Tony’s books ‘Out of the Shadows’ and ‘The Yowie’ are a must-read for anyone. I certainly did enjoy both. Oh, and let's not forget Mike and Bec’s Big Cats!

What advice would you give anyone getting into the field of cryptozoology?
Get along with other researchers. Share info. It’s a team effort.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Mainland release mooted for Tasmanian Devils

A leading tasmanian devil expert believes some of the animals in captive breeding programs should be released into the wild on the mainland.

The deadly facial tumour disease wiping out the wild devil populations has led scientists to protect more than 100 of the carnivorous marsupials in interstate captive breeding programs.

But the University of Tasmania's Menna Jones says there is a danger these devils will adapt to become a captive species.

She says international programs with other species have found reintroduction from captive-bred animals has a fairly low success rate.

Dr Jones says it is critically important to have healthy devils living in the wild.

"Animals change when they live in captivity and they adapt to become not a domestic species but a captive species," she said.

"They may be contained but if they're in 50 to 100 square kilometres or an enclosure that's at least 100 square kilometres, they're living as wild animals, they're retaining their natural behaviours and those animals are going to be the most suitable for repopulating the tasmanian devil population."

She says devils could be released in areas where there are no dingoes and fox control measures are in place.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Monster wombat bones discovered in Australia

It's as big as a four-wheel-drive and likes to eat plants, but the diprotodon discovered by palaeontologists this week was long dead - by at least about 55,000 years!

The diprotodon, about the size of a rhinoceros, was found on a remote cattle station in an area rich in the remains of prehistoric megafauna. The discovery of a virtually complete fossil makes it one of Australia’s most significant prehistoric discoveries.

"It was the biggest of them all – the biggest marsupial that ever lived on any continent," one of the researchers, Professor Sue Hand, a palaeontologist at the University of New South Wales, told Australian Geographic.

"It was a bit like a wombat but looked more like a massive, rhino-type beast ... We've found the skull and jaws, as well most of the rest of the skeleton. It's a really good specimen."

The plant-eating diprotodon roamed the country around 2.5 million years ago and became extinct about 55,000 years ago. Scientists believe the species died out because of the arrival of the first indigenous people or climate change, or a combination of the two.

The expedition is a joint project between UNSW, the University of Queensland, Queensland Museum and Xstrata.


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