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Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Today I am continuing my look at the kawekaweau of North Island, New Zealand. It turns out one of my correspondents might be interested in cryptozoology. Or at least I may have told him about Cryptozoology Online and he looked at my first, pre-kawekaweau posting on large New Zealand lizards. To be honest I can`t recall if I told him or not. He is Raymond Coory, technician at the Museum of New Zealand, and he has given me the contact details of some other individuals interested in the kawekaweau.

I will now continue on from yesterday`s blog: 'Current status. Although no living Hoplodactylus delcourti are known, we cannot deny the possibility that populations of this species still exist. If the species is indeed the kawekaweau of Maori legend, annecdotal sources suggest that the northern North Island may be a region likely to support surviving populations.' (1)

A. P. Russell and A. M. Bauer comment: 'Hoplodactylus delcourti, with a snout-vent length of 370mm increases the recorded for the family by 54% and far exceeds the maximum dimensions of its congeners. The largest previously known specimen of Hoplodactylus was a specimen of H. duvaucelii,with a snout-vent length of 160mm... This new taxon represents an increase of 131.3% over this dimension' (2)

'Kawekaweau (pronounced cah-way-cah-way-ow, but also known as kaweau or koeau) were reported from widespread localities in the northern half of the North Island, particularly North Island. The animal was variously described as being amphibious, a ground dweller, a tree-dweller, or even being able to fly! The most often repeated description was of a lizard about two feet long that was arboreal...Then, in 1979, Alain Delcourt, a curator at the Museum d`Histoire Naturelle in Marseille, discovered in the museum`s zoological collections a mounted specimen of a huge gecko...

'When and how the Marseille specimen got to France is unknown. French expeditions have visited New Zealand since the earliest times of European exploration. There have been French missions and French settlements. Marseille was regarded as the "gateway to the Orient", and was the home port for most voyages to this part of the world. Biological specimens from collectors and curios from seamen would pass through Marseilles on their way into France. The huge gecko was probably acquired by the museum between 1833 and 1869, a period for which all the records have been lost.' (3)

I have a report titled Large Lizard Sightings in the Gisborne Region: Report on a National Museum Investigation 7-11 April 1990 by A. H. Whitaker and B. W. Thomas. This was 1 month after the stuffed 'kawekaweau' arrived at the National Museum in Wellington. 'Four of the sightings by four different observers are not so easily explained. These people are largely unknown to each other yet on separate occasions over a 30 year period saw what are described as remarkably similar animals. More remarkable is that these observations were all within a few kilometres of each other on a short stretch of Anaura Rd, north of Tolaga Bay. Possible explanations are that...there is a hitherto unrecorded indigenous lizard present.' (4)

On July 15th 1994 I received a letter from Chris Paulin of the Natural Environment Section of the Museum of Wellington saying:'Thank you for your letter regarding lizard and moa sightings. There have been no large lizard sightings in the last twelve months. The moa sightings reported in the press originated from a local hotelier and were based on some very blurred photographs of a red deer.' (5)

Raymond Coory, mentioned at the beginning of today`s blog, says the kawekaweau is covered in the International Society of Cryptozoology Newsletter vol 7 no 1 and vol 9 no 4. He concludes: 'Did it really live here and could it possibly still be alive? We have a constant stream of subfossil and fossil bones coming through our research departments,and among the millions of bones there have been many vertebrate fossils of birds, lizards and frogs but nothing from a big gecko. Also New Zealand is intensively tramped and there have been no credible sightings or photographs. An attempt was made to get DNA from the French specimen in 1990, but failed. The technology is vastly more sensitive now so another go would probably yield results. I don`t know if this has already been attempted, but the results would be very interesting. (6)

I will be e-mailing the people Raymond Coory gave me the details of before the New Year. If anyone has any specific questions they want me to ask about this creature please contact me at richmuirhead@ntlworld.com a.s.a.p.

1. A.M.Bauer and A.P.Russell Hoplodactylus delcourti n.sp.(Reptilia:Gekkonidae),the largest known gecko. New Zealand Journal of Zoology 1986. p.147
2. A.P.Russell and A.M.Bauer The Giant Gecko Hoplodactylus delcourti and Its Relations to Gigantism and Insular Endemism in the Gekkonidae. Bull.Chicago Herp.Soc. 26 (2):p.26.1991
3. T.Whitaker Kawekaweau-mtyh or monster? New Zealand Geographic 6 p13 1990
4. A.H.Whitaker and B.W.Thomas. Large Lizard Sightings in the Gisborne Region: Report on a National Museum Investigation 7-11 April 1990 p.1
5. Letter from C.Paulin to Richard Muirhead July 15th 1994
6. E-mail from Raymond Coory to Richard Muirhead December 15th 2009

Bob Dylan Ballad of a Thin Man

You walk into the room
With a pencil in your hand
You see someone naked
And you say "Who is that man?"
You try so hard
But you don`t understand
Just what you`ll say
When you get hone

1 comment:

Bruce Spittle said...

Further details on the hotelier's moa sighting claim referred to in reference 5 are given in a new 3-volume book Moa Sightings, published on 1 January 2010, and available from www.moasightings.com
Bruce Spittle