Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Dean Harrison talks about his terrifying yowie encounter

Australian Yowie Research's Dean Harrison gave this interview to CFZ Australia's Mike Williams about his unusual Yowie encounter.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Donate to the Sahar Dimus appeal

Christmas is a time for families, and - sadly - this Christmas there are two members of the CFZ family who will be missing, leaving a widowed spouse and young children. Within the last few weeks Sahar Dimus, our guide on four CFZ Sumatra expeditions, died of liver failure leaving a widow Lucy and four children.

The average West Sumatran earns 800,000 Indonesian Rupiah a month - that's $85 in Australian money. Many are self-employed and work is scarce. Small sums of money go very far in Indonesia.

You can donate to an appeal for Sahar's family here.

Natural history treasures return to Australia

A rare collection of 210-year-old natural history drawings will shortly go on display at the State Library of NSW.

The collection of 741 exquisite natural history drawings and watercolours – many previously unknown and created during the earliest years of British settlement - remained in private hands in the UK for 200 years.

It is one of only two surviving comprehensive natural history collections of such substance from this period - the other major collection resides in London’s Natural History Museum.

The artworks, depicting local plants, birds and fish, are elaborately bound in six albums, and were compiled in the 1790s by the leading naturalist and botanist Aylmer Bourke Lambert. In 1842, the albums were purchased by the 13th Earl of Derby, a legendary natural history collector.

This landmark $7.1 million acquisition – the most expensive in the Library’s history – was made possible through the financial support of TAL (formerly Tower Australia) and its parent company Dai-ichi Life, the NSW Government and the State Library Foundation.

The collection is part of Australia's national heritage. The hundreds of drawings in the TAL & Dai-ichi Life Collection, as it is now known, tell us much about plant and animal species and habitats during the early years after the arrival of the First Fleet. They are a valuable record of Australian flora and fauna including now extinct or endangered birds such as the White Gallinule and the Blue-bellied parrot.

Highlights from the TAL & Dai-ichi Life Collection will go on public display for the first time at the State Library from 10 December 2011 to mid-February 2012. A major free exhibition and regional tour is being planned for 2013.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Culling not the answer in fight to save devil

The Tasmanian Devil is a unique animal, claiming the title of the world's largest surviving marsupial carnivore after the extinction of the Tasmanian tiger. Its survival is being threatened by an equally unique disease - Devil facial tumour disease, or DFTD, is one of only two or three infectious cancers in the world.

DFTD looks likely to cause the extinction of the Tasmanian devil without human intervention. The devil could become extinct on the Tasmanian mainland in as little as 25 years - a terrifying prospect when it is considered that the disease was first confirmed in 1997, only 14 years ago.

Science magazine Cosmos argues selective culling of sick devils is not the answer to saving the feisty marsupial. Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Komodo Dragon doesn't slay by venom alone

A new study has shown that the effectiveness of the Komodo Dragon bite is a combination of highly specialized serrated teeth and venom. The authors also dismiss the widely accepted theory that prey die from septicemia caused by toxic bacteria living in the dragon’s mouth.

Using sophisticated medical imaging techniques, an international team led by Dr Bryan Fry from the University of Melbourne have revealed that the Komodo Dragon (Varanus komodoensis) has the most complex venom glands yet described for any reptile, and that its close extinct relative Megalania was the largest venomous animal to have lived.

The work will be published in the next issue of the journal ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ and will be available in the Online Edition this week.

“These large carnivorous reptiles are known to bite prey and release them, leaving the prey to bleed to death from the horrific wounds inflicted. We have now shown that it is the combined arsenal of the Komodo Dragon's tooth and venom that account for their hunting prowess,” said Dr Fry from the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne.

“The combination of this specialized bite and venom seem to minimise the Dragon's contact with its prey and this allows it to take large animals.”

Komodo Dragons are native to the islands of Indonesia, with adult males weighing over 100kg, and exceeding 3 metres in length. They have around 60 highly serrated teeth which are frequently replaced during their lifetime.

The researchers conducted a comprehensive study of the Komodo Dragon bite, employing computer techniques to analyze stress in a dragon's jaws and compare them to those of a crocodile. The dragons were found to have much weaker bites than crocodiles, but magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of a preserved dragon head revealed complex venom glands and specialised serrated teeth which create deep lacerations for entry of the venom.

“We believe that the dragon is able to weaken and immobilize their prey with a venomous bite that increases the damage done by their long serrated teeth,” said Dr Fry.

The researchers located and surgically excised the glands from a terminally ill dragon at the Singapore Zoo, and used mass spectrometry to obtain a profile of the venom molecules. The team also analysed which toxin genes were expressed in the dragon’s venom gland.

The effects of venom were also tested by the team and found to be similar to that of the gila monster and many snakes which cause a severe loss in blood pressure by widening blood vessels, thereby inducing shock in a victim. These findings may explain the observations by Dr Fry and others that Komodo
Dragon prey become still and unusually quiet soon after being bitten. Bitten prey also bleed profusely, consistent with the team’s discovery that the venom was also rich in toxins that prolong bleeding.

The researchers also examined fossils of the Dragon's giant extinct relative Megalania (Varanus priscus). From similarities in skull anatomy they determined that this seven metre lizard would have used a similar venom and bite system, making it the largest venomous animal to have ever lived.

The work will be published in the next issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Thylacines prey for the wrong reasons

We've reported before on the exciting findings of a new examination of the skull of an extinct Tasmanian tiger, reported recently in the Journal of Zoology, that suggests that the dog-like marsupial, also known as a thylacine, was mistakenly branded as a livestock killer and wrongfully hunted to extinction by Australian and Tasmanian farmers in the early 20th century.

But we're quite happy to flag a new story on the study over at the Science Line website that further explores the skull examinations by biologist Marie Attard of the University of New South Wales, which indicate that the carnivore was also vulnerable to extinction because it had a very narrow range of prey, probably consisting of animals smaller than itself, like wallabies, bandicoots, and possums. 

Limitations in killing larger prey would have increased the thylacine’s vulnerability to extinction, unless smaller prey was consistently abundant. If Attard is correct, thylacines did not regularly hunt cattle or sheep and thus were wrongfully eradicated by farmers. You can read the whole thing over here. Thanks to Paul Cropper for pointing it out.

Plight of the Orang-utan in focus

In searching for the Orang Pendek, which some believe is a sub-species of Orang-utan, it's worth focusing on the plight of its iconic orange-furred cousin - and a new book out.

In the 1960s, it was believed that no more than about 4000 orang-utans remained in the wild. Consequently, IUCN - The World Conservation Union - declared the ape an endangered species, demanding its world-wide protection.

Nevertheless, the orang-utan today faces extinction because it is dependent on a rain-forest habitat that is rapidly being demolished due to human greed, and a growing human population.

Rijksen was among the first to make a detailed study of the ape in the wild, emerging as an authority on orang-utan conservation. In the late 1980s he became so alarmed by local rumours of the rapid decline of wild orang-utans that he initiated the study leading to this book. Meijaard conducted the ambitious, island-spanning surveys in Borneo and Sumatra to reveal the ape's whereabouts.

This is the story of their findings. It is the first comprehensive study of the ape's distribution and status based on a wealth of first-hand field data, and a frank, disturbing account of a mixture of good intentions, ignorance and greed, spelling doom for our Asian relative.

Nevertheless, the authors emphasise that the orang-utan can survive. A realistic plan to save the ape, and with it thousands of unique wild animals and plants, does exist. It is the authors' hope that Our Vanishing Relative, so urgent and eloquent in its description of the deadly net of problems descending over our helpless relative, will awaken attention and empathy in order to safeguard the future of the orang-utan.

Friday, 18 November 2011

The Cryptozoologist's Christmas wish list

Your average armchair cryptozoologist's Christmas wish list is long and complicated, usually starting off with alive-and-kicking specimens of their favourite species - but they're a bit hard to fit in the Christmas stocking!

Instead, we've chosen our top 10 picks of books and products that have come out in the past year for what would make the Christmas of anyone interested in cryptozoology. Of course it's a wee bit biased, but we'd never recommend anything we didn't like!

Happy shopping :-)

Savage Shadow: The Search for the Australian Cougar by David O'Reilly - the early '80s big cat cult classic is back with a slick new cover, more photographs and two forewords that contextualise its contents and profile the journalist who became intrigued by the shadowy assassins of the Outback. It's a handsome shelf-fellow for...

Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panther by Michael Williams and Rebecca Lang - launched last year to great acclaim, the book documents the past 150 years' of big cat sightings, unusual livestock killings and government investigations into the continent's own Alien Big Cats phenomenon. Also features a dedicated chapter on New Zealand big cat sightings.

Orang Pendek: Sumatra's Forgotten Ape by Richard Freeman - a long-awaited tome which includes the findings of this year's Centre for Fortean Zoology expedition to Sumatra in search of the aforementioned cryptid. Freeman has made many trips to Sumatra in search of the Orang Pendek, and we can't think of anyone better who could have authored this epic work.

Searching for Sasquatch by Brian Regal - the book we wish we had written! And the talk at the Fortean Times Unconvention 2011 we would have happily flown all the way to the UK just to see. Regal examines the relationship between professional scientists and amateur naturalists who hunt for man-beasts (you know, Yeti, Bigfoot, Sasquatch and our own Yowie) - and their place in the history of science. The author pulls no punches, and that's just how we like it.

Big Cats: Facing Britain's Wild Predators by Rick Minter - we know Rick, and he's a passionate researcher and cataloguer of big cat sightings in the UK. This book has been a long time in the works and we can't wait to get our paws on a copy - that's right, we're buying this one for ourselves for Christmas!

Tetrapod Zoology Book 1 by Darren Naish - actually, we already read someone else's copy in Sumatra and LOVED it, so we will be tracking down our own copy for our library. For anyone unfamiliar with Darren Naish's popular blog, some of the posts of which make up this book, visit Tet Zoo here.

The Ltl Acorn trail camera - we took this little beauty away with us to Sumatra and really can't rave about it enough. From the excellent resolution stills and video to its compact, lightweight nature and camouflage casing complete with mounting brace, it's great value for money and the ideal choice for expeditions.

CFZ Expedition Report: India 2010 - in November 2010, a five-person team went to India in search of the Mande burung or Indian yeti. Dr Karl Shuker has written the foreword to this latest in a series of expedition reports published by the CFZ Press.

Weird Waters: The Lake and Sea Monsters of Scandinavia and the Baltic States - aquatic monsters have a long and venerable history in the waters of northern Europe. Author Lars Thomas tells us the very same monsters are still very much alive, in tradition as well as in reality.

When Bigfoot Attacks: A Global Survey of Alleged Sasquatch/Yeti Predation - Michael Newton's latest cryptozoology book takes a look at those toey man-beasts who don't mind putting humans on the menu. Tall tales or true? Over to you!

Happy Christmas shopping!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

CFZ Sumatra expedition guide Sahar Dimus dies

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Sahar Dimus, who only a few months ago helped to organise and run our CFZ expedition to Sumatra in search of the Orang pendek.

Expedition leader Adam Davies has written a tribute on his Extreme Expeditions website.

"I first met Sahar in 2001, when he was part of Debbie Martyr's Tiger protection team. On that occasion, I was enormously impressed by his tracking skills-he was I think, the best in the world for years (and I have plenty of experience with international trackers). He had a great affinity with nature, and was keen to protect the forests he so loved. Since then, Sahar has always led the Sumatran contingent of my expeditions, and I found him to be a highly organised and jovial guy..."

Read the entire tribute here.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

New species for 2011

Kimberley land snail Australocosmica augustae from Augustus Island.
Catch up with the most recent Australian discoveries over at the Australian Museum's website - 64 so far for 2011. They include species of snail, such as the Kimberley Land Snail as shown above, several species of frogs, shrimps and spiders.

While we're talking about new species, visit the International Institute for Species Exploration website for their Top Ten New Species 2011 (which is actually for the preceding year 2010).

New species of Monitor lizard discovered in The Philippines.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

New species of albino spider found in WA

A new species of trapdoor spider has been found near Northam in Western Australia, identified as a member of the Idiopidae family.

Nicknamed the albino trapdoor spider, it was spotted by Grass Valley resident John Cornish on his back veranda in July.

The white-headed, black and brown-legged spider about the size of a 50-cent piece was captured in a jar and handed to the Northam office of the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Big cats in Papua New Guinea?

Zoologist Malcolm Smith has a fascinating account of Esther Ingram's sighting of an 'alien big cat' in Papua New Guinea over at his Malcolm's Musings blog:

"Suddenly, about 20 yards in front of them, what looked like a huge cat came out of the jungle on the right, and "trotted" leisurely across the road. "What on earth is that?" cried Esther to her father. "Slow down, Moses, so we can see!" As they approached within about six feet of it, it sprang straight up the embankment and disappeared. The sighting must have lasted only a few seconds.

It was very solidly built, and the head-body length was about five feet. Both Esther and her father were amazed at how huge it was. So, too, was I, when she stated that it was as high as the table around which we were gathered: about 2½ feet. The head-body length was about five feet. Yes, Esther agreed, it was probably twice as long as high."

Read the whole account here.

World's rarest animals shot in Australia


It seems inconceivable that canned hunts - where wild animals are released specifically to be shot by rich men who love killing things, so they can have their pictures taken with them - are going on in Australia, but they are, the NT News reports.

And the victims of this bloodsport - because 'sport' is what it is, with the animals purely shot for trophies - are some of the world's rarest animals, refugees from a failed wildlife park.

The ENDANGERED Bentang (south-east Asian wild cattle) and the EXTINCT-in-the-wild African Scimitar oryx are among the animals hunted on the Mary River safari park near Kakadu.

The animals reportedly come from a wildlife park in North Queensland, which received them from Tipperary station, 190km southwest of Darwin.

Apparently a few must be shot in order to support the remainder of the herd, which seems laughable when the whole property is a giant safari park - a dedicated killing zone for men with guns who can afford the cost. Not exactly animal conservation, is it?

The herd's original owner is said to be devastated. One-time multi-millionaire businessman Warren Anderson imported the animals and bred the herd up before selling it to a Queensland zoo. "They are shooting my beloved animals," Mr Anderson said. "For me, to see these beautiful animals shot by these madmen is a tragedy. They are extinct in the wild. It's like shooting a Sumatran tiger or a white rhino. It's disgusting. These are protected animals that I spent millions of dollars and years breeding."

Mr Anderson also blasted Mr Nioa's description of "hunting" the oryx. "These things are in a paddock. You could throw hay out and they would come up to eat it . . . Those scimitar are like your favourite dairy cow."

Mr Anderson said he bred the herd up to 100, which he sold to the Mareeba Wildlife Park in Queensland, but when the park failed to gain permission for authorities to bring the animals into Queensland, the Mareeba zoo operator on-sold them to Mary River Australia Safari park.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Dog or cat prints? NT lion stories continue...

West Australian Mary Ford sent the NT News a photograph showing what appear to be big-cat paw prints. She said the picture was taken at the entrance to Kakadu National Park in 2008. The paper speculates as to what might have left the prints: lion? dog? cheetah?

Our money's on dog...definitely not lion or cheetah!

Friday, 11 November 2011

Kakapo puke sparks bidding war

Sirocco the Kakapo first shot to international fame after getting frisky with British celebrity Stephen Fry and zoologist Mark Carwadine in the acclaimed TV series Last Chance to See in 2009.

Sirocco found Carwadine's hair inexplicably attractive, prompting Fry to exclaim: "You are being shagged by a rare parrot!"

Recently, and somewhat bizarrely, bidders on Trade Me clamoured to buy a unique piece of Sirocco-related history - his rejected 'pine chews' being sold on the popular online auction site. The 'parrot puke' eventually fetched $400!

The posting stated: "Not to be found anywhere else on the Mainland - this is a truly unique item. Impress your friends. Perturb your mother in law. Made of tenderly masticated pine needle and infused with the saliva of an extremely rare native parrot - and not just any old rare native parrot but Sirocco the famous head shagging parrot!"

Well, there you go. It was all for a good cause though - the money will be used to fund kakapo recovery.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Big cat or little cat? Debate rages on in NT

In NSW a government dept came up with this ID chart to help witnesses gauge the right
size and shape of their mystery animal.
Rumours are rife in the wake of several sightings of a lion in the Northern Territory!

One of the theories doing the rounds is that the lion is real and was being kept illegally by a Territorian obsessed with big cats. The man, so the story goes, has been trying to buy a lion for a few years.

He even had talks with the NT Parks and Wildlife on what was required to keep a potentially man-eating animal in captivity in the Territory. The man also allegedly made inquiries about buying a lion in New South Wales and Western Australia.

The NT News reports his home in NSW was raided by State National Parks officers after a tip-off that he was keeping endangered animals. The inspectors found a lonesome Tasmanian devil.

An impeccably informed source told the NT News: "Apparently, the word was that he had a Tasmanian tiger. Well, that would have been interesting - they went extinct in the 1930s."

A major theme park believes the man may have obtained a big cat from WA, and kept it in a paddock at Humpty Doo. The impeccably informed source said: "A lion's roar can be heard kilometres away."

Curiouser and curiouser!

Fight to save the Otways Tiger

Otways scientists have been working to find out more about the Tiger Quoll with only a small number left in Australia in the hope of discovering more in the wild, according to the Geelong Advertiser.

The Cape Otway Conservation Ecology Centre last week opened a sanctuary to house three young quolls as part of a program designed to protect the endangered species, the largest remaining carnivorous marsupials on the Australian mainland.

Program leader Dr Kellie Leigh said that unless action was taken, the species may face the same fate as its cousin, the Tasmanian Tiger, which became extinct 75 years ago.

"There used to be quolls all throughout Victoria but now there aren't many left, and traditional survey methods aren't detecting them because they're at such low densities," she said.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Hawkesbury alpaca taken by big cat?

A Bilpin family believe their pet alpaca was mauled to death last week by a big black cat, according to the Hawkesbury Gazette.

On the morning of Friday, November 4, at about 3am, the Bells Line of Road property owners John and Amanda (surnames withheld by request) were woken by their dog which was barking hysterically.

John said when he went outside to see what was going on he could see ‘Jabaru’ the alpaca, but when the family left to drop the kids off to school they made the gruesome discovery.

“At first we thought it may have been wild dogs that got through the fence and ripped him apart but when we walked around and saw the foot-prints and teeth marks we knew no dogs could do that. It was too neat an attack,” John said.

With concerns about what had actually killed the loved family pet, John and Amanda contacted Grose Vale’s Chris Coffey who has been maintaining a database of sightings of big cats, and she confirmed their doubts that it was not a dog attack. “It was definitely not a dog attack, it was a cat,” she said.

“I knew straight away when I saw the paw print and photos that it was absolutely a big cat and I have every reason to believe this.

“I have seen too much of it and I know the difference between a dog attack and a cat attack.

“When a dog attacks it’s scattered, but when a big cat attacks it’s very clean.”

The pictures and pawprints have since been analysed by experts who have also verified it to be a big cat attack. “There’s nothing else out there that could do something like this,” Mrs Coffey said. “There were four canine (long-pointed teeth as opposed to the teeth of a dog) teeth marks on the alpaca about 7cm wide – two on the top of the head and two below the jaw.”

Meet the Mulgildie Bunyip

A likeness of the Australian version of the Yeti hulks over a highway between Monto and Eidsvold, about 10km from where the horror was born, The Gladstone Observer reports.

The Bunyip may have disturbed the dreams of the Aborigines of that area in days gone and still scares some folk today but, according to resident Joan Farrell, that's no reason not to celebrate this monster from the deep.

Joan is the spokeswoman for the Mulgildie Bunyip Committee.

She admitted that the resurrecting of the genuine Aussie monster was inspired by mercenary considerations.

"We saw the tourist potential in this," she said.

"I mean, no one has heard of Mulgildie, have they? But now nearby shopkeepers tell me people are pulling up to take pictures of the Bunyip."

The Bunyip statue was made by self-taught metal sculptor and resident Brett Benecke who is a descendant of the area's pioneering family.

Joan said he was reluctant to take on the task at first, but soon become enthusiastic.

"He collected umpteen descriptions, then drew up his design and used it to make the sculpture."

Joan said many locals, including members of her own family, avoid the waterhole said to be the Bunyip's home, particularly at night.

"Locals have claimed mysterious gurgling noises emerge from the waterhole and stockmen have told tales of cattle being pulled under while fording the stream.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

To catch a tiger...

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery’s (TMAG) latest contemporary art installation explores the mythology of the Tasmanian Tiger.

James Newitt’s To Catch a Tiger is the third and final exhibition in TMAG’s Star/Dust series of contemporary art installations, following Lucy Bleach’s Volcano Lover and Brigita Ozolins’ The Reading Room.

“To Catch a Tiger explores both the historical evidence and our collective memory of the Tasmanian Tiger,” Ms Giddings said.

“Seventy-five years after the death of the last-known thylacine in Hobart Zoo, this exhibition highlights the bond Tasmanians have with the thylacine, and the idea it may still exist in the wild.

“This exhibition is perfectly timed to capitalise on the success of the film, The Hunter, which has taken the myth and wonder of the Tasmanian Tiger to national and international audiences.

“The thylacine holds a special place in the hearts of Tasmanians, and James Newitt explores the strong connection we feel to the animal through his imagery, interviews and storytelling.

“It is part museum display and public archive, and part fantasy exploration.

“The cave-like installation combines interviews with thylacine experts and amateur enthusiasts, and historical images of thylacine material, with the artist’s own imagery to explore themes of mythology and scientific ‘truth’.

Images of thylacine material from the collections of the American Museum of Natural History, the Museum fur Naturkunde (Berlin) and TMAG appear alongside Newitt’s original filmic works.

The installation also includes reinterpreted sections of a diorama that was recently removed from TMAG’s Zoology gallery due to Stage One of the redevelopment.

“Giving part of one of TMAG’s most popular displays a second life within this exhibition creates a further link between the history of zoological display, and our fascination with an animal most of us have only ever seen within the museum,” Ms Giddings said.

The Star/Dust series, which is presented with the support of Detached Cultural Organisation, aims to attract and engage a wide cross section of the community with contemporary art experiences.

The exhibition is supported by an education program and a range of public programs that have been developed in consultation with TMAG curators and art educators. This includes weekly lunchtime tours of the exhibition, and an artist talk at 1:30 pm Wednesday, 30 November 2011.

To Catch a Tiger opens to the public on Saturday, 5 November 2011 and will be on display until 12 March 2012. Admission to the exhibition and TMAG public programs is free.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Lion spotted in the Northern Territory

The CFZ's Mike Williams talked about all things big cat on ABC radio today in the wake of this intriguing story:

Authorities in Darwin are on the lookout for a feral lioness, after three reports of a big cat being spotted crossing the Stuart Highway.

The sightings late Sunday night sparked a quick police search and a check at Crocodylus, a local wildlife park just  a few minutes from the scene.

According to the NT News, three cars pulled over while the animal crossed the highway in front of them at Pinelands, a small suburb about 20km from Darwin.

''I often get reports of dingoes in the area, which are a similar colour but a completely different size,'' said a spokeswoman for NT Police.

Police found no trace of the creature.

Chief scientist at Crocodylus, Charlie Manolis, told AAP he took the sightings seriously, but both lions at the park were found to  be secure.

He said that ''not in a gazillion years'' could a lion have  escaped its enclosure and then voluntarily returned and been present when checked.

Manolis said because three different people had reported seeing a lion, it was likely something was roaming around.

''Whether there is a large dog or a beastie out there that looks like a lion, we would like to find out any information about what  it really is,'' he said.

Crocodylus is the only wildlife park in the Northern Territory that houses lions.


Flashback: A lioness escape documented in 1986 in the Northern Territory.  

Friday, 4 November 2011

Latest episode of the CFZ's On The Track

The latest episode of the CFZ's monthly webTV show, bringing you the latest cryptozoological, and monster hunting news from around the world.

This episode brings you:

CFZ in autumn
An excuse
Richard's new book
Pygmy goats
Orang pendek witness
Jon is about to be sued by Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons
Trail cams
Rossi's raprtors
It's Rabbit Moving Time
Changes at the CFZ
Corinna looks at out of place birds
New and Rediscovered: New deer
New and Rediscovered: New frogs
New and Rediscovered: Rediscovered bee

A sneak peek at the new Orang Pendek book...

Isn't it grand? We'll be ordering a copy of Orang Pendek: In Search of Sumatra's Forgotten Ape ASAP after it has rolled off the printers.

Artist Mark North is the man behind the stunning cover; CFZ Zoological Director Richard Freeman is the author whose writing, multiple trips to Sumatra and unique insight will combine to make this an unforgettable tome; and CFZ Director Jonathan Downes is the brains behind bringing this book to publication.

Tell Santa you want this one for Christmas cobbers!

And for those who want a taste of what might be contained therein, watch our CFZ Sumatra Expedition video here:

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Is cloning the answer for extinct species?

Is cloning a viable technique for saving species from extinction, and what are the ethical and ecological implications of bringing animals back from the dead? John Pickerell explores the biological minefield over at the ABC website.

Cloning a thylacine would be very difficult, says geneticist Andrew Pask, who was part of a Melbourne University team that was able to incorporate several functioning Tasmanian tiger genes into a live mouse embryo in 2008. Even though tiger specimens are preserved in jars in Australian museums, the pickling process has not preserved the delicate DNA well.

"For species such as the thylacine, the fragmented nature of the genome poses big issues when trying to reconstruct it," he says. "It is essentially trying to piece back together a 30-million-piece puzzle, without the picture on the box to guide you... The fact is that we will never be able to tell exactly how those repeats go back together, and the best we will be able to do is compare these pieces to a closely related animal genome - so getting a puzzle box picture of something similar."

Unfortunately, the Tasmanian tiger has few close living relatives and it's hard to imagine which could act as a surrogate. We also have no idea how thylacine DNA was arranged into chromosomes. "The best option would be to take those from a [relatively] closely related species such as the numbat, and replace sequences that look different between the thylacine and the numbat," says Pask. "But it is a huge undertaking and well beyond the capabilities of current labs."

Read the whole article here.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Interest in The Hunter flushes out more stories

ABC Radio talks to Tasmanian wildlife biologist Nick Mooney about the latest Tasmanian Tiger sightings on the Apple Isle and author Col Bailey, who had his own sighting in 1995 in south-west Tasmania.

One of the most famous witnesses, Hans Naarding, also talks about his sighting.

"I've dealt with 100s of reports...I think it's likely gone some decades ago but it is possible it's still there," Nick said.

Listen to it here.

Thylacoleo gets an airing at Tet Zoo

On one of our favourite blogs, Dr Darren Naish talks marsupials at Tet Zoo - and one of our favourites in particular:

"Thylacoleonids, marsupial lions or ‘thylacolions’ are among the most incredible of marsupials. Superficially possum-like features meant that they were regarded as members of Phalangeroidea for a few decades and I’ll admit that Thylacoleo does look – as many before have said – like a “giant murderous possum” in some artistic reconstructions."

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Baby quolls make a Spring entrance

What do you call a couple of handfuls of baby quolls? A quoggle? A quadrella? Well, technically it's a litter of joeys - no alliterations unfortunately!

Australian Geographic has a lovely story about Wildlife Sydney in Darling Harbour which has just welcomed its latest Spring babies, the offspring of the park's spotted tail quolls.

Moa searcher's library up for auction

A collection of more than 600 rare books dubbed the "last great private library" in New Zealand goes under the hammer in Auckland this week. The books, collected by Auckland naturalist and scholar Arthur Pycroft, who died in 1971, include a complete set of Cook's Voyages, published in the 1770s, a first edition of the first novel published in New Zealand, Taranaki: A Tale of the War by Henry Stoney (1861), and a two-volume set of Captain Scott's journals from his last expedition, published in 1914.

Pycroft was a member of the "Moa Searching Committee", which involved searching for skeletons at various sites in New Zealand, and a newly discovered species of petrel was named in his honour: Pterodroma pycrofti. Read more at CFZ New Zealand.


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