Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Adam Davies at the Weird Weekend 2011

CFZ expeditions organiser Adam Davies attended this year's Weird Weekend and spoke about the search for the Orang Pendek.

Readers of this blog will know that the CFZ team will shortly return to the wilds of Sumatra (next week in fact!) to continue the search for evidence of the Orang Pendek, the upright-walking ape seen for the past 100 years.

Watch on...and stay tuned for Orang Pendek updates in coming weeks.

Thylacines at dog shows - what next?

The CFZ's Richard Freeman chanced upon a fascinating article by Australia's Bob Paddle that delves into the procurement of Thylacines, also known as Tasmanian Tigers, for zoological parks - and dogs shows!

It reads in part:

"It was reported in the daily press that "Mr T. D. Jennings . . . after a great deal of trouble has succeeded in getting a Tasmanian Tiger captured alive, which it is his intention to forward to the Sydney Zoological Gardens" (Tasmanian News 1885a). The specimen had been found and bought amongst the stock put up for auction at the Campania sale (Tasmanian News 1885b), its locality of capture only noted as "caught in the Buckland district" (Tasmanian News 1885a). Thylacines were frequently kept in captivity by private individuals throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and thus it was not unknown for specimens to occasionally appear for sale in the canine sections of agricultural shows."

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Richard Freeman at the Weird Weekend 2011

The CFZ's zoological director Richard Freeman (pictured above at right, with Dr Chris Clarke and Adam Davies) waxed lyrical at this year's Weird Weekend about the Centre's 2010 India Expedition in search of the Mande-Burung.

Saving wildlife a full-time job in Australia

Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park is doing its bit when it comes to the fight to save Australia’s endangered and threatened flora and fauna.

It is reported there are 444 species of reptiles, frogs, fish, mammals, birds and other animals listed under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act.

Some of Australia’s much loved animals are facing the possibility of heading in the same direction of the extinct Tasmanian Tiger, including the Northern hairy-nosed wombat, southern cassowary, grey headed flying fox, bilby and koala.

According to Australia Walkabout Wildlife Park general manager, Tassin Barnard there are many reasons why so many native species face the possibility of extinction.

“One of the big factors threatening our native wildlife is loss of habitat through the construction of houses and roads,” Ms Barnard said. “I’m not saying don’t build more roads and homes because we need them but maybe we need to think about where we build them and how we are going about it, as not only are the new roads and homes wiping out animals homes it’s also leading to a lack of food sources.”

Other problems according to Ms Barnard are interbreeding, feral animals and a lack of information.

“Information and education are the key because there is a lot of misinformation out there, but the more people learn about these animals it might prompt them to come up with other ideas to help save them,” Ms Barnard said.

Monday, 29 August 2011

Matt Salusbury at the Weird Weekend 2011

It's not every day you hear about someone hunting pygmy elephants (in the more benign fashion of hoping to document them rather than capture or kill them!).

Journalist and editor Matt Salusbury presented a talk about these pint-sized pachyderms at this year's Weird Weekend, and is also writing a book on the subject to be published by CFZ Press "as soon as I've finished writing it".

You can read more about Matt's work here.

Watch on...

Thylacine prints discovered in WA on display

Scientists have discovered the footprints of an extinct tiger in soft mud in Augusta's Jewel Cave.

Cave workers accidentally made the "extremely rare" find while taking water samples in a remote area of the cave.

For the first time, images of the new Tasmanian tiger or thylacine footprints plus never-before-seen photographs of prints discovered nearly 20 years ago will be on display at the caves in Augusta from this Saturday.

Striped like a tiger and with powerful jaws that opened up to an unusual 120 degrees, Tasmanian tigers were the size of a kelpie dog and one of only two marsupials  the other a water opossum  with pouches in both sexes.

The man who made the discovery, caver and environment project manager for Augusta Margaret River Tourism Association Lindsay Hatcher said finding any type of footprint in a cave is extremely rare.

"Thylacines footprints have never been found in any other cave in WA and probably in any other cave in Australia," Mr Hatcher said.

"They were found in soft mud, and if we were to stand on it now it would disintegrate.

"In the 1960s we found the bones of a Tasmanian tiger right next to where we have just discovered the footprints, right next to where the animal had perished."

The species hunted kangaroos across mainland Australia from about four million years ago until the 20th century, when hunting and the introduction of disease and dingos has been blamed for its demise.

Mr Hatcher said scientists are reluctant to take castings of the new find for fear of ruining the prints.

The last  thylacine in captivity died on September 7, 1936.

Baby quoll no more than a handful

Staff at the Ballarat Wildlife Park are busy giving some tender loving care to a baby quoll abandoned by her mother.

Named “Flare” the 82- day old quoll has quickly become attached to her keepers and is improving rapidly from her ordeal.

A Ballarat Wildlife Park spokesperson said Flare had taken to the bottle and was even beginning to walk around.

“I don’t know why she was abandoned,” the spokesperson said.

“But things are looking positive though, there is still the possibility she may not come through.”

Quolls, she said, belonged to the Tasmanian Devil family and were found mainly in Tasmania.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Nick Wadham at the Weird Weekend 2011

Bugfest's Nick Wadham (pictured above with zoologist/author Lars Thomas and daughter Harriet) explored the myth and legend around giant bugs, and specifically giant spiders, at this year's Weird Weekend 2011.

Arachnophobes and those of a nervous disposition are urged to look away now...

Clever dolphins teach each other to fish with shells

Murdoch University researchers believe a recently documented method of fishing may be spreading throughout a population of Western Australia's dolphins.

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay were photographed engaging in ‘conching’ in 2007 and 2009.

The dolphins would trap small fish in large conch shells with their rostrums (beaks), then bring the shells to the surface and shake them, causing the water to drain out and the fish to fall into their mouths.

Murdoch Cetacean Research Unit Researcher Simon Allen says this previously rarely witnessed phenomenon might be on the increase, suggesting that the technique is spreading.

“In the last four months alone, the research team have seen and photographed the behaviour no less than six times, possibly even seven.

“If – and that is a big if – we are witnessing the horizontal spread of this behaviour, then I would assume that it spreads by an associate of a ‘conching’ dolphin closely observing the behaviour and then imitating it,” Mr Allen said.

“It is a tantalising possibility that this behaviour could spread before our very eyes – over a field season or two – and that we could track that spread.”

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Jon Downes and Richard Freeman at Weird Weekend 2011

Who better to introduce the wonders and mysteries of cryptozoology than CFZ Director Jon Downes and CFZ Zoological Director Richard Freeman?

Richard (pictured above with CFZ girl reporter and Weird Weekend regular Harriet Wadham) has traveled all over the globe hunting for 'monsters', as has Jon, and both have written extensively about their various cryptozoological passions.

Two finer fellows you could not meet. And they put on a damn fine Weird Weekend!

Watch on...

Megalania puts in appearance at Vic exhibition

A skeleton of prehistoric reptile Megalania was on display at the recent Sci-Spy! event held at Monash University Gippsland to celebrate National Science Week in the region.

Megalania was a six-metre long lizard similar to the komodo dragon which roamed central Australia about 40,000 years ago, which scientists believed claimed victims as an ambush predator.

Monash Science Centre scientist Dr Corrie Williams described Megalania as “big, impressive and heavy” and said the lizard had a tendency to provoke a response in children.

In addition to Megalania, the skeleton of the prehistoric bird Bullockornis will also be on display, which was about 2.5 metres tall and weighed about 500 kilograms.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Dr Darren Naish at the Weird Weekend 2011

Dr Darren Naish presented a fascinating talk on Sea Monsters and the 'Prehistoric Survivor Paradigm' (henceforth known as 'PSP').

Are there really prehistoric survivors swimming in our oceans and lakes? Are cryptozoologists hot on the trail of watery leviathans? Or is it all just a colossal waste of time?

Roy Mackal and Dr Karl Shuker have written extensively about sea monsters and the 'PSP' theory. So what does Dr Naish think? Are there still massive marine animals waiting to be discovered?

You'll have to watch it to find out...

Aussie microfossils re-write the history books

Tubular microfossils found in 3.4-billion-year-old sandstone from WA.
Are these the oldest fossils on earth?

A team of Australian and British scientists think so - and date the blobby 'microfossils' at 3.4 million years old!

The findings of David Wacey, Matt Kilburn, Martin Saunders, John Cliff and Martin Brasier have been published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience magazine:

"Sulphur isotope data from early Archaean rocks suggest that microbes with metabolisms based on sulphur existed almost 3.5 billion years ago, leading to suggestions that the earliest microbial ecosystems were sulphur-based. However, morphological evidence for these sulphur-metabolizing bacteria has been elusive. Here we report the presence of microstructures from the 3.4-billion-year-old Strelley Pool Formation in Western Australia that are associated with micrometre-sized pyrite crystals."

The honor of having found the most ancient microfossil has been long been held by J. W. Schopf, a paleobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. In 1993, Dr. Schopf reported his discovery of fossils 3.465 billion years old in the Apex chert of the Warrawoona Group in Western Australia, about 20 miles from where the new fossils have been found.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Missing lynx revealed at Weird Weekend 2011

Last week UK news site This is Devon covered an intriguing story that was also the subject of a talk at this year's Weird Weekend: the discovery of a 100-year-old specimen in a museum basement. We'll be featuring the video of the talk by Max Blake and Dr Darren Naish on this blog, but in the meantime here's the story:

The evidence includes the body of a lynx that was shot in mid-Devon just over a century ago, and leopard hairs and plaster-cast paw prints found recently near Woolfardisworthy that have been positively identified by independent experts.

Jonathan Downes, director of CFZ, told the Western Morning News: “We showed the lynx to various people last night and Dr Darren Naish and student Max Blake will be explaining its story this weekend. It is absolutely fascinating and it proves big cats are not a new thing.

“Max discovered the lynx in the archives of Bristol Museum and realised the importance of it,” said Mr Downes. “The animal was shot over 100 years ago in mid-Devon and that’s important because it proves there have been exotic cats in British countryside for many years.

“This animal has provenance – we have the date, time and the name of the person who presented it to the museum. This is a breakthrough,” he added saying that the stuffed body was of an animal smaller than a Euro-Asian lynx.

“It is within size the range normally equated with a Canadian lynx,” said Mr Downes. “So is it a Canadian lynx that was in captivity and escaped? Or it might be something even more interesting? There were no zoos in Devon that it could have escaped from at the time it was shot.

“The Devonshire naturalist HG Hurrell – a respected columnist for the Western Morning News – suggested that lynx were living in parts of Westcountry 50 years ago – as did Professor Bernard Heuvalmann, a noted academic. We know there were lynx living in Britain 1500 years ago, but could some have survived?”

Mr Downes said the next move was to have DNA extracted from the animal’s teeth or bone in an attempt to answer the riddle. CFZ also revealed that hairs found in woods near Woolfardisworthy had been positively identified as those of a leopard.

“We had them DNA tested by Durham University and they confirmed they were leopard. This is proof that there was, as of last summer, at least one leopard apparently wild in the woodlands of North Devon,” said Mr Downes.

“Local sightings have gone back an awful long time which implies there’s a population here. A few years ago a local farmer contacted us saying something had attacked one of his sheep – we saw the carcase and it had been killed in a fashion characteristic of a leopard.”

Given the subject matter and that the name of his organisation’s conference is “The Weird Weekend”, did Mr Downes fear that some people might question the seriousness of the evidence?

“We are not making outrageous claims,” he told the WMN. “We are not talking about sabre-toothed tigers or Loch Ness Monsters. That’s all nonsense. We are simply saying an animal can live here and adapt to the natural conditions.”

Oll Lewis at the Weird Weekend 2011

Ecologist Oll Lewis is a key member of the CFZ and a fixture at every Weird Weekend. Archivist, cameraman extraordinaire and all-round nice bloke, Oll presented a fascinating talk at this year's WW - The Man Who Humbugged Barnum - about the incorrigible charismatic showman himself, P.T. Barnum.

Barnum loved creating taxidermy gaffes such as the infamous Fejee Mermaid, charging a curious, ignorant and entertainment-seeking public to look at his work. But he wasn't all front, as Oll explains...

Game camera project snaps amazing wildlife photos

A Costa Rican ocelot takes a peek at a camera.
It has to be one of the most interesting wildlife projects to date - a global camera trap mammal study, documenting 105 species in nearly 52,000 images, from seven protected areas across the Americas, Africa and Asia. 

The photographs reveal an amazing variety of animals in their most candid moments — from a minute mouse to the enormous African elephant, plus gorillas, cougars, giant anteaters and even tourists and poachers!

A southern pig-tailed macaque in Indonesia. 
Analysis of the photographic data has helped scientists confirm a key conclusion that until now, was understood through uncoordinated local study: habitat loss and smaller reserves have a direct and detrimental impact on the diversity and survival of mammal populations.

Impacts are seen in the form of less diversity of species and less variety of body sizes and diets (smaller animals and insectivores are the first to disappear), among others. This information replicated over time and space is crucial to understand the effects of global and regional threats on forest mammals and anticipate extinctions before it is too late.

A Costa Rican puma.
White-lipped pecari in Suriname.
A chimpanzee in Uganda.
All data from the study is publicly available at:

Monday, 22 August 2011

Prof Brian Sykes at the Weird Weekend 2011

The Weird Weekend 2011 came and went, and of course those of us who couldn't make it now have the enjoyable task of working our way through a series of videotaped presentations about cryptozoology and other fringe topics. What a treat!

This year's WW was graced with the presence of UK geneticist Dr Brian Sykes talking about David Hume, Joanna Lumley and the Abominable Snowman. He also threw in some material about the civil war, Nazis and...well, you'll just have to watch it.

Weird? Definitely!

Intrigued? Watch on...

Hopping news - how the kangaroo got its bounce
Researchers have laid bare the DNA of a kangaroo species for the first time.

An international team of scientists, writing in the Biomed Central journal, Genome Biology, say they have even indentified a gene responsible for the kangaroo's hop.

The group focussed on a small species of kangaroo that inhabits islands off Australia's south and western coasts.

The tammar wallaby (Macropus eugenii) is only the third marsupial to have its genome sequenced. Making up the trio are the Tasmanian devil and the South American opossum.

Happy Birthday Jonathan Downes!

Today is the birthday of the man responsible for founding the Centre for Fortean Zoology, Jonathan Downes. A larger-than-life character in every way, Jon - who likes to describe himself as an ageing hippy with a penchant for the unusual - has just finished staging the 11th Weird Weekend (and doing a whole bunch of other things - the man never sleeps!).

Of course because of time differences we've started partying earlier in JD's honour - in antipodean parlance, 'we're going for broke with the grog, cobber!'

Happy birthday Jon! x

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cassius the monster croc of them all

It's official - Cairns, Queensland has the biggest captive crocodile in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Cassius, the 5.5m saltwater crocodile, has called Marineland Melanesia his home for 24 years. The monstrous crocodilian, believed to be more than 100 years old (and a man-eater to boot!), will appear in the 2012 edition of the organisation’s book, which will be launched next month.

Friday, 19 August 2011

New Zealand's big cats on the prowl again...

3News television film crew sent to record a weather story in the back blocks of North Canterbury about recent snowfalls got more than they bargained for when they filmed a cat - a BIG cat - running across a snowy paddock.

"That's not a f****** cat - that's huge!" exclaimed one of the witnesses, a television cameraman.

"It was a cat the size of a German Shepherd!"

Pawprints the trio later found in the snow measured 10cm in circumference.

The local zoo Orana Park dismissed the footage as domestic cat - but the witnesses say if that's the case, it's one monster moggy!

The mid-Canterbury area is well known for its big cat sightings and was the setting for Prints of Darkness, a documentary about New Zealand's big cats by New Zealanders Mark Orton and Pip Walls.

The area also featured in Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers by Michael Williams and Rebecca Lang, which includes a chapter about New Zealand's big cats.

You can view the footage here:

Weird Weekend 2011 kicks off!

Calling all birders - solve this avian conundrum!

Name That Bird!

Yes they're Lorikeets, but what sort? Some kind of strange hybrid? Birders, tell us all about it! And let the videographer know too!

Police crack down on trade in Australian wildlife

Frilled neck lizard.

EVEN pygmy spiny-tailed skinks have DNA which can link them to the scene of a crime.

More used to investigating murders, ex-homicide cop Steven James is now part of a crack team of investigators taking on one of the fastest-growing criminal industries - the illegal trade in Australian wildlife. Acting on a tip-off, the squad found the seven pygmy spiny-tailed skinks among about 100 other animals when they raided the Northmead home of a 52-year-old reptile collector. The collector said he had bought them from a registered breeder.

The state Office of Environment and Heritage investigators suspected the skinks were poached from their native rocky crevasses up in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

It is a cruel trade, wrecking their natural habitat because the tightly-packed rocks are smashed apart to get to the prized skinks that carry a price of up to $3000 each. For the first time in NSW, investigators used DNA to solve a wildlife crime.

Pygmy marmoset monkey.
With the help of Taronga Zoo and the Australian Museum, blood taken from the seven skinks was compared with blood taken from skinks belonging to the registered breeder. The DNA should have linked the seven skinks as siblings and matched them to their parents and grandparents. It didn't.

The seven skinks are now microchipped and living at Perth Zoo. The man was fined $300 via a penalty notice. Animal smuggling is now a $US20 billion international trade, second only to drugs. Hardened criminals are attracted to it for its high profits despite the maximum sentences of 10 years' jail and a $110,000 fine if caught. Welcome to the new era of CSI: Wildlife Crime.

The OEH's secretive Special Investigation Unit is a team of 10 working on the more complex and large investigations in a notoriously cruel business, with smuggled animals suffering stress, dehydration or starvation and dying in transit.

According to sources, five investigators are based in rural NSW, the others in the city - of which three are ex-NSW police, while Mr James is ex-Victorian homicide.

Animal crime has moved on from a small-scale under-the-counter trade in pets.

The Australian Crime Commission this year revealed criminal groups linked to the illegal trade in wildlife were highly specialised and had networks, methodologies and illicit markets. Sometimes drugs are the currency of payment.

Native animals including western bearded dragons, parrots, thorny devils, northern green tree frogs and oblong turtles were among 36 reptiles and amphibians seized in 600 operations as part of the Interpol-led Operation RAMP.

Some of those arrested were also found with drugs and stolen property.

That is not including the cross-border smuggling out of the country, with animals hidden inside ornaments, books, stuffed in cigarette packets, worn inside wigs and carried in specially built vests.

"We're seeing a relatively low, but growing, level of organisation and sophistication in those who commit wildlife (crimes) locally," Mr James, 41, said yesterday.

Last night he was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship Trust grant that will take him to Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France, and forensic science labs of the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service, the world's only dedicated wildlife labs. He also liaises with the UK National Wildlife Crimes Unit based in Scotland, which collates intelligence on wildlife crime in Britain. Mr James said he hoped his research would lead to the establishment of a national database for wildlife crime in Australia.

WA already has a large database of DNA.

The file includes many of its native species, including pythons and black cockatoos.

"We're lucky to have a growing group of forensic scientists in Australia passionate about combating wildlife crime," he said.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Moa bones and ancient poo dazzles researchers

A combination of team work, community funding and a Waimate archeologist skilled in the field of skeletons and anatomy, has meant the town has a moa exhibition that has impressed some of New Zealand's moa research elite.

The Waimate Historical Museum exhibition which runs until November, received a visit from a group of top moa experts, including from Te Papa, who were on their way to a key moa site at St Bathans. Intending to stay only five minutes, instead they stayed 90.

The exhibition is special to Waimate because of the Kapua moa excavations of 1895. Kapua, at one end of the Waimate gorge, was the resting place of 800 moa skeletons.

The giant birds, naive about humans, were a good package of easy meat to a hunter. Big adults were hunted out first, cutting out the breeders. Younger ones followed, before they could breed. Moa eggs were also being eaten.

Interestingly, museums all over the world still have moa skeletons posed with their necks stretching straight up. Now knowing more about anatomy and bones, researchers know their necks curved horizontally, in line with their backs.

The exhibition features a bone from the Kapua dig which still has its hand-written metal tag attached. Other items come from museums further afield. The Canterbury Museum's contribution was halted, days before it was to be transported, by the February earthquake. Fortunately, Otago Museum was able to step in.

Interestingly, Wikipedia has the number of moa species at 11, but researchers now know that there were nine, adapted to different environments such as the swamp, the uplands, the forest or the coast and climates as differing as the West Coast from the East.

Rare Pogonomys rat makes a cameo in Cairns

A sighting of one of Australia's rarest native rats in suburban Cairns has set mammal experts in a spin. The prehensile tailed-rat, also known as the Pogonomys, has been photographed climbing a tree at Centenary Lakes at Edge Hill.

The rare rat, which is characterised by its distinctive monkey-like tail, was only discovered in Australia in 1974, was dragged into a lodge by a cat at Lake Barrine on the Atherton Tableland.

Cairns wildlife enthusiast Brian Venables, who had been spotlighting with friend Hidetoshi Kudo at the lakes two weeks ago, said his friend took a photo of it immediately after spying it up a tree.

The rat has a tail which curls upwards to grip twigs when climbing, and also allowing it to hang from its tail. Little is known about the habits and distribution of the animal, with most of them found killed by cats.

The nocturnal rats have found in Kuranda, and also reported from James Cook University's Cairns campus and the Daintree lowlands.

How rat attack saved two NZ birds from extinction

A new book, Rat Island, documents the desperate rescue mission of two feathered NZ treasures - the flightless Kakapo and the tiny lesser-known Least Auklet, both island-dwelling birds being edged out by introduced species such as rats, weasels, stoats and ferrets - many of them introduced in the mid-1800s, ironically, to tackle the out-of-control rabbit population!

Rat Island rises from the icy gray waters of the Bering Sea, a mass of volcanic rock covered with tundra, midway between Alaska and Siberia. Once a remote sanctuary for enormous flocks of seabirds, the island gained a new name when shipwrecked rats colonized, savaging the nesting birds by the thousands. Now, on this and hundreds of other remote islands around the world, a massive-and massively controversial-wildlife rescue mission is under way.

Islands, making up just 3 percent of Earth's landmass, harbor more than half of its endangered species. These fragile ecosystems, home to unique species that evolved in peaceful isolation, have been catastrophically disrupted by mainland predators-rats, cats, goats, and pigs ferried by humans to islands around the globe.

To save these endangered islanders, academic ecologists have teamed up with professional hunters and semiretired poachers in a radical act of conservation now bent on annihilating the invaders. Sharpshooters are sniping at goat herds from helicopters. Biological SWAT teams are blanketing mountainous isles with rat poison. 

Rat Island reveals a little-known and much-debated side of today's conservation movement, founded on a cruel-to-be-kind philosophy.

Touring exotic locales with a ragtag group of environmental fighters, William Stolzenburg delivers both perilous adventure and intimate portraits of human, beast, hero, and villain. And amid manifold threats to life on Earth, he reveals a new reason to hope.

An endangered Kakapo on Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds.

A Least Auklet, the smallest species of Auk.
And watch this impressive display of hundreds of Least Auklets wheeling through the evening sky as they come home to roost, to get a sense of what could have been lost to us all forever:

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Prehistoric big bird discovered in Nullarbor cave

Fossilised remains of a prehistoric bird, possibly a wedge-tailed eagle, have been found in a cave on the Nullarbor Plain. The bird is more than 780,000 years old!

The discovery was made during a Flinders University-led expedition involving the WA Museum.

Flinders’ palaeontologist, Dr Gavin Prideaux said the almost complete skeleton was unearthed amid dozens of bird bones in a cave known as Leaena’s Breath Cave – about 70 kilometres on the WA side of the border with South Australia.

“We’ve only ever found one partial eagle fossil before so, given how complete this specimen is, it would be an exciting discovery,” Dr Prideaux said.

“We’ll need to get the specimen back to Flinders University to determine whether it is, indeed, an eagle and, if so, whether it is the same species as the modern wedge-tailed eagle or something new,” he said.

“It may be new given that it is at least 780,000 years old and probably much older. Surrounding these larger bones are literally hundreds of songbird bones, a situation mirrored through the rest of the deposit.

“This cave has been acting as a bird death trap for at least a million years, which is just one thing that makes this one of the most interesting and unique palaeontological sites in Australia.”

The discovery was made on only the second day of the field trip which is a collaboration between Flinders University and the Western Australian Museum.

Video and blogs of the expedition can be found at:

New blue dog footage from Maryland

Footage of what looks like a blue dog has surfaced on the internet, and those who cannot recognise the animal are calling it a 'chupacabra'.

This looks like the blue dog that CFZ Director Jon Downes and many others cryptozoologists around the world have been interested in for a few years now.

Jon Downes conducted a talk at the 2010 Fortean Times Unconvention about his study of the blue dog in October, however most of the research he has conducted has occurred with sighting from Texas.

Is this the same elusive creature in Maryland?

Oh deer - OOPAs run loose in Qld

Authorities deny they have run out of 'i-deers' after four feral deer that caused peak hour chaos on the Gold Coast this morning eluded capture.

The deer ran amok through Southport this morning, leaping busy roads and high backyard fences as they led their would-be captors and a media posse on a merry chase.

Gold Coast City Council rangers armed with rifles and tranquiliser guns tried to round up the rogue creatures but were outsmarted and outpaced.

"One of our officers is a crack shot but couldn't get within cooee of them,'' said Geoff Irwin, who heads the council's animal control section.

Mr Irwin said the fact the deer were in a built-up area, close to Southport State High, meant shooting them was too dangerous.

He said even using a tranquiliser gun or net gun was difficult because they could only be fired at close range, and the deer moved too quickly.

"They're very fast,'' he said.

Mr Irwin said it was hoped the deer would calm down later today so they could be captured.

The public has been asked to report sightings and warning signs have gone up on roads.

The four deer are believed to be part of a feral herd in the Nerang State Forest, about 10km from Southport, and are thought to have fled a buck deer.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Australian Big Cats in Nexus Magazine

Nexus Magazine is featuring an extract of Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers in this month's issue.

We feature an extract from a book by Rebecca Lang and Michael Williams which investigates reports of big-cat sightings in Australia and suggests several theories as to how these out-of-place felids arrived in a foreign land.

Check it out!

Or better yet, buy the book - and enjoy 150 years of big cat legend, lore and sightings. We have it on good authority it's a book you'll read again and again. Just beware those friends who ask to borrow it - it's also one of those books no one ever returns!

Monday, 15 August 2011

Terra Australis boasted griffins, reindeer and sea monsters

Griffins, lions, giant snakes, reindeer - not to mention fierce-looking sea serpents swimming in the coastal waters - all figured in the imaginations of early cartographers who put pen to paper to map Australia.

Not to mention the residents - some imagined them to be one-legged freaks, known as sciapods, who used their over-sized foot for shade from the relentless sun (well, they got the sun part right!), others mer-people who preferred the warm waters to the dry land. And considering this country's preoccupation with the amber liquid, perhaps they got the legless bit right too!

The Land Down Under was truly a potential wonderland of exotic species and foreign civilisations, as the following maps and books testify:

Map of Australia by de Jode 1593

This map ‘Novae Guineae Forma, & Situs’ was part of a major work entitled ‘Speculum Orbis Terrarum’. Initiated by Gerard de Jode (1509 – 1591), a Dutch born cartographer, engraver and publisher who died in Belgium leaving the atlas uncompleted, the map was completed by his son Cornelis de Jode (1568 – 1600) two years after his father’s death in 1593.

Rare Sydney book collection

A collection of rare books on the mythical great southern land of Terra Australis have been put up for sale in Sydney, the ABC reports.

Hordern House bookstore is selling the 127 European maps and books, including early maps of Australia and the first record of the Southern Cross constellation.

The existence of the mega-continent was eventually disproved by explorers such as Britain's James Cook. But not before it provided rich fodder for the imagination among European artists and scholars.

Hordern House director Derek McDonnel says the collection is valued at up to $4 million, with some individual items expected to sell for more than $165,000.

"You could buy a 1480s edition of Sir John Mandeville from the very first couple of decades of printing. John Mandeville, one of the amazing early travellers to the east. That would cost you $165,000," Mr McDonnel said. "Or you could buy one of the theorical books about 'Is there or isn't there a southern continent?' for $3,000."

Mr McDonnel says some of the images are spectacular.

"We have the imaginings of strange 16th century artists wondering what people might look like down on the southern continent," he said. "They image creatures like a sciapod, who is a fellow whose foot has evolved into an enormous sunshade to shield him from the sun."


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