Thursday, 31 January 2013

Disease not a factor in Tassie Tiger extinction: Adelaide University

Tasmanian Tigers at Beaumaris Zoo, Hobart c 1918.
Reproduced with permission from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
via University of Adelaide Marketing Communications team.

Humans alone were responsible for the demise of Australia's iconic extinct native predator, the Tasmanian Tiger or thylacine, a new study led by the University of Adelaide has concluded.

Using a new population modelling approach, the study contradicts the widespread belief that disease must have been a factor in the thylacine's extinction.

The thylacine was a unique marsupial carnivore found throughout most of Tasmania before European settlement in 1803. Between 1886 and 1909, the Tasmanian government encouraged people to hunt thylacines and paid bounties on over 2000 thylacine carcasses. Only a handful of animals were located after the bounty was lifted and the last known thylacine was captured from the wild in 1933.

"Many people, however, believe that bounty hunting alone could not have driven the thylacine extinct and therefore claim that an unknown disease epidemic must have been responsible," says the project leader, Research Associate Dr Thomas Prowse, School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Environment Institute.

"We tested this claim by developing a 'metamodel' - a network of linked species models - that evaluated whether the combined impacts of Europeans could have exterminated the thylacine, without any disease."

The mathematical models used by conservation biologists to simulate the fate of threatened species under different management strategies (called population viability analysis or PVA) traditionally neglect important interactions between species. The researchers designed a new approach to PVA that included species interactions.

"The new model simulated the directs effects of bounty hunting and habitat loss and, importantly, also considered the indirect effects of a reduction in the thylacine's prey (kangaroos and wallabies) due to human harvesting and competition from millions of introduced sheep," Dr Prowse says.

"We found we could simulate the thylacine extinction, including the observed rapid population crash after 1905, without the need to invoke a mystery disease.

"We showed that the negative impacts of European settlement were powerful enough that, even without any disease epidemic, the species couldn't escape extinction."

The study 'No need for disease: testing extinction hypotheses for the thylacine using multi-species metamodels', which also involved Professors Corey Bradshaw and Barry Brook from the University of Adelaide's Environment Institute, Professor Chris Johnson from the University of Tasmania, and Dr Bob Lacy, Chicago Zoological Society, has been published online in the Journal of Animal Ecology.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Eastern bettong returns to mainland Australia

Thanks again to Brad Wolfe for spotting and sharing this great news.

A rare marsupial long disappeared from Australia's mainland is now thriving near Canberra, with reports the population is fat and happy.

Last year a group of 17 eastern bettongs were brought to protected forest areas in Canberra from Tasmania, their first appearance on the mainland for 80 years.

Adrian Manning, from the Australian National University, says health checks show the small members of the kangaroo family are faring well, with about 35 bettongs leaving the pouch and about 20 more young on the way.

"They've hit the ground running, digging for truffles - which is what they do - and they've actually put weight on" he said.

"The fact that six months in, most of the animals seem to be doing well, putting on weight, breeding, those are all signs that they're happy.

"I don't think we could really have expected any better than we've got, so the whole team's really pleased."

This year, researchers will examine how the bettongs adapt to the environment, and what affect they have on the ecosystem.

And there are plans to eventually move some of the bettongs to sanctuaries and restoration projects in other parts of south-east Australia.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Extinct wild Chinese elephants survived 7000 years longer

Thank you to Brad Wolfe for this gem!

Wild elephants living in North China 3,000 years ago have been identified as belonging to the extinct genus Palaeoloxodon.

They had previously been identified as Elephas maximus, the Asian elephant that still inhabits southern China. The findings suggest that Palaeoloxodon survived a further 7,000 years than was thought.

Their findings correlate with other recent paleontological discoveries that further large mammal species, thought to have died out at the end of the Pleistocene, actually lasted in to the Holocene.

These include the woolly rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiquitatis), woolly mammoth (Mammuthus primigenius) and the aurochs (Bos primigenius).

Such discoveries suggest that the extinction period of many Pleistocene land mammals may have lasted longer than was previously thought.

Read more here:

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Australian Big Cats facelift

The Australian Big Cats website has received a long overdue facelift, and now incorporates elements from the original book promotion website, which went the way of the Dodo (albeit temporarily) when its website host folded.

The site now incorporates the blog of big cat researcher Mike Williams and information about Australian Big Cats: An Unnatural History of Panthers and the reprinted Savage Shadow: The Search for the Australian Cougar by David O'Reilly.

Pop on over and check it out!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Thylacine caught on video?

We're a little late in covering this, but here it is anyway - a thylacine (or three) on video? - filmed in October 2012 in the Tasmanian wilderness.

While we commend Victorian researcher Murray McAllister on doing the hard yards, we're not so sure he has captured evidence of Australia's iconic extinct marsupial.

Nevertheless, his camera placement yielded amazing footage of quolls, a wallaby and Tasmanian devils. Not bad!

What do you think? Is there a Thylacine in there?

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Meet the Cryptozoologist: Michael Newton

How did you first get involved in researching strange and mysterious creatures?
As a Cub Scout, back around 1958, I saw articles on Bigfoot and Nessie in Boy's Life magazine. That same year, Reader's Digest published an article on Nessie, and of course Bigfoot was in headlines during '58, near where I lived in California at the time. In high school I read On the Track of Unknown Animals and Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life. I've been collecting any reports and publications I could find ever since.

What were some of the early influences in your life?
Crypto-wise, after the early articles I've mentioned, Dr. Heuvelmans and Ivan Sanderson opened a broader world of possibilities with their various books and Sanderson's articles in what were once called 'men's adventure' magazines. As a child, of course, I was caught up in the dinosaur craze of the 1950s and early '60s, collecting many toys and models. I also had a small menagerie of reptiles, amphibians and arachnids at home. I've leaned toward writing from a very early age, typing little 'books' on an Underwood portable that was a gift from my aunt, illustrating them with drawings and photos clipped from the aforementioned men's magazines and popular monster-movie magazines of that era. Writers whose work convinced me I should try it for real, in nonfiction, were Robert Leckie (military history) and David Chalmers (Hooded Americanism). Chalmers in particular, coupled with current events from my youth (the Freedom Rides, etc.), inspired me to write about the Ku Klux Klan, with five books on the subject published so far and one more forthcoming next year.

Have you personally seen one of these creatures?
Back in 2005 I found a small cougar attacking one of my house cats. Cougars are officially extirpated from Indiana, since the late 19th century.

What creatures particularly interest you? 
Giant snakes and lizards; kongamato and reported living dinosaurs, although I think they're the least likely to be found at this point.

What cryptids are most likely to exist in your opinion? 
While I hope they're all out there, some of the more 'mundane' seem most likely. Surviving Eastern cougars are pretty well confirmed in the United States, despite official reticence to admit it. Large unknowns at sea also seem very plausible, along with creatures in vast wilderness areas where anything could be hiding.

What’s your favourite? 
If I have to pick one, I'd say Nessie, based in equal parts on the mystery and my love of the area around Loch Ness. But living pterosaurs and dinos tug at my heart strings, along with giant anacondas in the Amazon. Wish I could have gone to look for one or both while there was time, alas.

What’s your favourite Australian cryptid? 
I'm particularly fond of Yowies and reports of surviving Megalania, but think some of the mystery cats or a relict thylacine are more likely to be confirmed, in my opinion. Some great books on cryptids Down Under have emerged in the past decade or so, and I'm always pleased to see them.

Have you developed any theories around where the more unusual animals - i.e. yowies/bigfoot - have come from? 
I've always thought Bigfoot/Yeti/et al. spread out from Asia in various directions. I suppose Yowie could have crossed the same land bridges from Southeast Asia that presumably led to Australia's first human habitation, and perhaps big cats likewise, since some of their sightings predate solutions hinging on abandonment of military mascots during World War II.

Have you written any books/articles? 
I've published 12 books and 37 articles in the crypto field, all listed on my website (see below). The latest release is Globsters, from CFZ Press, with Strange Ohio Monsters coming next year in a (hopefully) continuing series of state-by-state cryptid surveys from Schiffer.

Do you have a website? 
Yes. It's

What’s the closest you’ve personally come to finding something?
My cougar sighting (#3 above) would be the closest to an actual discovery, although it got away. Report-wise, I try to stay current with Internet newsgroups and blogs, plus clipping anything that turns up in the general media and grabbing the latest books available. I've only received a handful of reports personally, as a result of queries I sent around while working on various books, and once in response to a book already published.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to go ‘in search of’ mystery animals? 
Loch Ness, Scotland. I've been there eight or nine times since the mid-1980s. I'd love to go again, but it doesn't seem to be in the cards. Thankfully, my last trip over—in 2010—was unexpectedly extended by the Icelandic volcano's eruption that grounded air traffic for several additional days. There are much worse places to be stuck than Scotland!

What’s next for you - any trips planned? Books or articles to write? Talks to give?
There's no travel scheduled, sadly, but as noted above, I do have another book—Strange Ohio Monsters—due for release sometime in 2013. I've also submitted a fourth manuscript to CFZ Press, titled Hoaxed!—which examines evidence for and against some supposed cryptozoological frauds including the Patterson film, the 1934 surgeon's photo of Nessie, and so on. No word back so far as to whether Jon Downes has cleared it for publication, but I'm hopeful. I always have other ideas in the works, as in continuing around the USA for more state-by-state surveys of cryptids in the Strange Monsters series, but never know what time will permit me to finish.

Could you share some of your favourite cryptozoology book titles with us? 
Anything by Dr Karl Shuker or Bernard Heuvelmans (though sadly, most of his work is still unavailable in English; a scandal in my opinion). As noted above, some early work by Jerome Clark and Loren Coleman also peaked my interest.

What advice would you give anyone getting into the field of cryptozoology? 
Study as much of the existing literature as possible and keep track of late-breaking news from the Web and mainstream media. Back in 1970, John Keel wrote that wherever you live on Earth, someone within 200 miles has reported seeing some kind of strange creature within your lifetime. That may include something as simple as 'misplaced' species officially unknown from your vicinity, or something truly startling. Scores of previously unknown species are discovered every year, not always from remote locations. If you have the wherewithal, get out and poke around in forests, caves, lakes, wherever. Who knows what you might find?

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Oooohhhh Betty! Super snake has keepers quaking

Atomic Betty, as she's known, is a 14-year-old, 6.5m articulated python - the only snake in the world considered a true "man eater''.

The powerful python was due for her annual weigh-in this week at the Australian Reptile Park, the Daily Telegraph reported.

It took six keepers to catch and bag the enormous snake - considered the most dangerous animal at the park, more so than the resident 5m crocodiles - inside its enclosure before it was weighed, tipping the scales at a whopping 139kg.

Native to South-east Asia, reticulated pythons are the world's largest snake and can grow to 8m with a life expectancy of about 30 years.

Atomic Betty is believed to be the largest snake in Australia having grown to 6.5m after being imported from the US in 2001.

Her diet consists of three to four 25kg goats a year.

Koala escapes roadkill status with motorbike

Ouch! This little koala ran across the road in heavy traffic this week. 

Luckily this motorbike rider was travelling relatively slowly and slammed on his brakes in time. A little knock, but the little man lived to climb another day.

Not all encounters end this well on Australia roads. 

Zell has encountered all kinds of road kill on his travels, discovering many intriguing things about Australia's environment from the animals he finds by the road side.

"It gives me an understanding of the diversity of our wildlife and how special it is and how much I don't know about it," he told the ABC.

Zell says the prevalence of certain species found on the roads to tell how populations are surviving in certain areas.

"It does give you a good idea of population density. The last recorded eastern quoll (on the Australian mainland) was as a road kill in Sydney and has never been recorded since."

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Long-beaked echidna may call Australia home

An exciting discovery in the dusty bowels of one of the world's most foremost museums may mean the critically endangered Long-beaked Echidna, long thought only to exist in New Guinea, did in fact one call Australia home - and may well still!

Our thanks to CFZ Australia reader Brad Wolfe for bringing this news to our attention.

A team of researchers recently discovered the specimen of the long-beaked echidna, an egg-laying mammal previously thought to exist only in New Guinea, laying in a drawer, long forgotten.

The 1901 specimen, described in the Dec. 28 issue of the journal Zookeys, had been shot and stuffed by an Australian naturalist named John Tunney, who came across the echidna on Mount Anderson, a mountain in a vast, arid and sparsely populated region of northwest Australia, while on an expedition for a British collector. Tunney, who was trained in taxidermy, stuffed and delivered the specimen, which was later bequeathed to the Natural History Museum.

Once they realized the echidna had been spotted in recent history, the team went back to Aboriginal communities in the West Kimberley region and found some women remembered watching their parents hunt long-beaked echidnas.

"They remembered that there used to be an echidna in the area that was much larger, and they pointed to pictures of the modern long-beaked echidna from New Guinea," Helgen told LiveScience.

Monday, 7 January 2013

Finding Bigfoot (or not) Down Under

In 2011, the Finding Bigfoot team travelled to Australia to look for evidence of the Yowie. The resulting program was aired this week in the US.

Bigfoot hunters Matt Moneymaker and James 'Bobo' Fay joined Cliff Barackman and field biologist Ranae Holland to track down the Yowie in New South Wales and Queensland.

As the program teaser states:

The team travels half way across the world to investigate recent reports of Australia’s yowie, a creature similar to sasquatch in both appearance and behaviour. They traverse deep into the jungle in hopes of proving bigfoot’s cousin down under is real.

We hope the crew from Finding Bigfoot had fun while they were Down Under - because it looks like they ultimately came up empty-handed. The only real 'score' of the trip seems to be some dubious 'vocalisations' recorded by the team.

Some of the personal experiences shared at one of the show's popular 'town hall' style meetings were interesting, however if you're looking for a serious analytical program then this probably isn't it.

But who are we to spoil the fun? They all seem like friendly guys, and there are plenty of amusing exchanges between the hosts (although their Australian gags will fall a little flat with antipodean audiences).

There is a reason this program rates as highly as it does!

Catch part of the episode here:

Yowie movie revives the 1970s creature feature

A new trailer has debuted for the upcoming Australian horror feature Throwback. It is the second trailer to be released for the film, following on from a teaser trailer released in April 2012.

Throwback is about two modern-day treasure hunters, a female park ranger and an embittered ex-cop who encounter a savage Bigfoot-like monster known as a Yowie in the jungles of Australia's Far North. Throwback is the first feature film ever made about Australia's legendary cryptid. The film recently wrapped production in Cairns, Queensland, and is now in post-production. The independent production was privately financed and is expected to premiere on the film festival circuit and secure a distributor later this year. It stars Shawn Brack, Anthony Ring, Melanie Serafin and genre film veteran Vernon Wells ("The Road Warrior", "Commando", "Innerspace").

Writer/Director Travis Bain says Throwback pays homage to the bigfoot movies of the ’70s such as The Legend of Boggy Creek and Creature from Black Lake, as well as ’70s cinema in general.

“I wanted to make the kind of Bigfoot movie William Friedkin or Walter Hill might have made if they’d come to Australia 35 years ago. Throwback is what it might have looked like, a sort of gritty creature-feature/neo-western/action-adventure mashup.”

Bain says the film owes more to the horror films of Val Lewton (Cat People, I Walked With a Zombie) than those of Rob Zombie or Eli Roth.

“Throwback isn’t a gorefest. It's bloody in parts, but its main focus is on suspense and chills. I’ve always believed that only seeing fleeting glimpses of a monster—or even just hearing it—is scarier than seeing it outright.”

Throwback was shot on High Definition video and matted to the 2.35:1 aspect ratio for a more cinematic look.

"I didn't want the movie to look like your typical indie film. I wanted it to look big and epic, as if Jack Cardiff had shot it in CinemaScope. It's going to be a nail-biting roller-coaster ride and I think the new trailer reflects that."

Bain hopes Throwback will be a springboard to bigger and more elaborate projects.

"My team and I have several new projects in development in the action, horror and sci-fi genres, so we'd love to hear from like-minded producers who are keen to help us bring them to the screen."

Throwback is Bain's second feature film. His first, the comedy-drama Scratched (, screened at Australian film festivals in 2005.

Throwback Synopsis: Jack and Kent are two down-on-their-luck pest exterminators, hit hard by the Global Financial Crisis. One hot summer weekend, they venture deep into the jungles of Far North Queensland in search of a big score: the lost gold of legendary outlaw “Thunderclap” Newman, who vanished without a trace in the 1800s. But they find more than they bargained for when they encounter a Yowie, Australia’s answer to Bigfoot, a savage superprimate with a strong territorial streak. Lost in a green hell, Jack and Kent find themselves playing a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Yowie, along with a feisty female park ranger named Rhiannon and an unhinged ex-cop named McNab.

For interviews or sales agent/distributor enquiries, please contact

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Is this the sound of a Yowie walking?

In 2010 a mystery animal researcher ventured into a bush location in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. For several minutes he recorded the sound of something walking nearby and throwing what were possibly rocks towards him.

Another researcher, 'Bluegem', who has a background in sound engineering, managed to dampen the man's voice and footsteps so that the other sounds could be more clearly heard.

Thank you to both gentlemen for sharing this audio with us. What do you think, readers?

Have a listen here:

Saturday, 5 January 2013

2013 a critical year for Tasmanian Devil

Kudos to the Hobart Mercury, which has written a stirring editorial about the fate of the Tasmanian Devil, earmarking 2013 as a critical year for the survival of the species.

"Imagine the first time a British settler heard the throaty growls and blistering howls of a pack of hungry Tasmanian devils devouring a carcase in the darkness of a forest at night.

"It must have been terrifying. There are few sounds so other-worldly as a devil's banshee wail.

"During the day, the British convicts, soldiers and settlers would have seen very little of the nocturnal marsupial carnivores but when dusk fell the husky yap, yap yap of a thylacine on the hunt for prey would have filled the night air along with devilish screams and the inimitable and bizarre coughing and barking of possums..."

Read this most excellent piece in full here.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Meet the Cryptozoologist: Dr Karl Shuker

How did you first get involved in researching strange and mysterious creatures?
I'd always been interested in the more unusual animals as opposed to the familiar ones, so when I was bought a copy of Bernard Heuvelmans's book On the Track of Unknown Animals as an early teenager by my mother, it sparked what has become an enduring, life-long interest in cryptozoology.

What were some of the early influences in your life?
Heuvelmans, definitely, also my mother, whose own interest in animals and nature immeasurably encouraged and directed my own.

Have you personally seen one of these creatures?
Sadly, no, though the upside of this is that I can remain entirely objective in relation to cryptid cases, not being influenced by personal experience.

What creatures particularly interest you?
Even with cryptozoology, I prefer the lesser-known, less-publicised animals as opposed to the more famous ones, so I have a wide range of interests in this field, including many that until I documented them had not been chronicled within the cryptozoological literature - such as the Scottish earth hound, the Sri Lankan devil bird and horned jackal, a vast diversity of mystery birds, the New Guinea devil pig, and all manner of little-known mystery cats from around the world.

What cryptids are most likely to exist in your opinion?
The two that seem most plausible and also most likely to be discovered at some point are the Sumatran Orang pendek and the Thylacine (though the latter may actually be discovered on New Guinea before/if at all on Tasmania or mainland Australia, if only because New Guinea is far less well-explored).

What’s your favourite?
The Fujian blue tiger has always held a particular appeal for me – the thought that there may have been and may even still be tigers with blue fur seems surreal and yet is backed by very reputable eyewitness reports.

What’s your favourite Australian cryptid?
The Yarri or Queensland tiger. I'd love it to exist and to be a living Thylacoleo (marsupial lion) – that would be an immensely significant cryptozoological revelation if one day confirmed.

Have you developed any theories around where the more unusual animals - i.e. yowies/bigfoot - have come from?
The yowie is definitely an enigma, in terms both of its origin and of its identity. In my book In Search of Prehistoric Survivors, I discussed the lesser-known theory that it may actually be a marsupial, possibly a surviving unusually primate-like diprotodont, which would certainly make sense zoogeographically. If a genuine placental primate, however, it might have arrived in Australia by rafting from south-east Asia. Indeed, although not widely known, there is even a very yowie-like entity reported from New Guinea, so perhaps yowies crossed the Torres Strait from there into Australia.

Have you written any books/articles?
Eighteen books to date, hundreds of articles, and I've been consultant and/or contributor to ten other books, so I've kept myself busy since I began writing in the mid-1980s! My most recent book is Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (CFZ Press: Bideford, 2012), published in December 2012, which contains a lot of information concerning Australasian examples.

Do you have a website?
My official website is at and I also have my award-winning blog, ShukerNature, at, which contains nearly 300 articles on a very diverse range of subjects appertaining to cryptozoology and (un)natural history.

How many mystery animal reports would you receive a year?
Lots! I've never actually counted them, but it has to be in the hundreds.

What’s the closest you’ve personally come to finding something?
I spotted two unusually large quails on the New Zealand island bird sanctuary of Tiritiri Matangi when holidaying in Auckland in 2006, which I later read may actually be surviving specimens of the supposedly long-extinct and fairly large native New Zealand species of quail (quails living in New Zealand today are all supposed to be the smaller naturalised Australian quail). When DNA studies of these oversized Tiritiri quails (also spied by others there over the years) were carried out, however, they revealed that the quails were not New Zealand quails after all, sadly.

What’s the farthest you’ve traveled to go ‘in search of’ mystery animals?
I've travelled all over the world, to every continent except Antarctica, and to locations as isolated as Easter Island in the mid-Pacific (which is about as remote as anywhere on the whole of planet Earth, in fact), and I've always combined holidays with mystery beast investigations on-site whenever possible.

What’s next for you - any trips planned? Books or articles to write? 
Talks to give?
All three, hopefully – certainly, more books and articles, from which I earn a living, so it's not just for the fun of researching and writing them, though I do definitely derive immense pleasure from that.

Could you share some of your favourite cryptozoology book titles with us?
Heuvelmans's On the Track of Unknown Animals will always be #1 on the cryptozoological bookshelf for me, but nowadays there are so many others that we're spoilt for choice. Obviously, however, I definitely favour Michael Newton's massive Encyclopaedia of Cryptozoology, and George Eberhart's hefty 2-volume counterpart, Mysterious Creatures.

What advice would you give anyone getting into the field of cryptozoology?
Read as much information as possible re: the cryptid that you plan to seek before setting forth into the field – too many crypto-expeditions in the past have set out ill-equipped with knowledge on the animal that they are seeking. Know your cryptid thoroughly, and then you have a decent chance of discovery. A fair time ago, one ill-fated expedition clearly did not do this, because it actually went looking for the cryptid concerned in entirely the wrong country! Incredible but true.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Owners discover slashed horses - big cat attack?

CFZ Australia reps were called out last week to examine two horses in the Hawkesbury, NSW area that are sporting strange claw marks on their backs and rear legs.

The footage above shows the marks clearly.

The horses freely roam a large fenced area, but there is no barbed wire for them to come into contact with, only an electric fence.

So what caused the injuries?

Incidentally, one of the owners has seen a large black cat on the property, which in his words "was no moggy". 

As readers of this blog will know, the Hawkesbury area has been something of a hot spot for sightings of large black cats and unusual livestock attacks for at least the past 10 years.


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