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Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Sorry for the loss of service..

Sorry for today's slightly erratic service. The electricity company had to do some `essential maiontainance` so the village was without electricity much of the day. Oll spent all day tidying the office and rushing about with saucepans fuill of warm water to keep the fishtanks from getting too cold, Graham cleaned the windows, and Corinna and I (and the dog) did the banking and went to the drycleaners.

Tomorrow we shall be back to normal, but I am going to bed early to finish Phillip Norman's biography of John Lennon, eat chocolate, and drink brandy..

A CAUTIONARY TALE


I want to tell you a story.


One of the rarest amphibians in the world is the tiny Romer`s Tree Frog (Philautus romeri) which was discovered in a sea cave on Lantau Island in 1955. Romer's Tree Frog was named after the late J. D. Romer, who first discovered it. That population disappeared in 1953 due to the collapse of the cave. Once thought to be extinct, the frog was re-discovered on the island in 1984.Other small colonies were eventually found on two adjacent islands. In 1992, however, plans for a new Hongkong airport spelled potential disaster for the entire species.

The total population was about 1300 individuals. In order to build the airport, the island of Chek Lap Kok , just north of Lantau was levelled. It was estimated at the time that a third or more of the world population of this animal would vanish during the demolition of the island. Something needed to be done if the frogs were to ve saved.

In April 1992, thirty frogs were caught and taken to Melbourne Zoo, in Australia. They started a breeding programme and together with the Ecology and Biodiversity department at the University of Hong Kong identified suitable sites across Hongkong and the surrounding areas where these refugees could be re-released.

439 frogs bred at Melbourne were returned to Hongkong in 1994 and a further 260 captive-bred frogs were returned in 1995. They were released eight selected sites on Hong Kong Island and what was once known as the New Territories. Frogs in 7 of the sites survived. Surprisingly, a very small number of the creatures also survives in Chek Lap Kok.


So the species has been given up for dead once, and had its main habitat flattened, but still it survives. There is a lesson there for us both as a species, and as cryptozoologists. Mother Nature is more resilient than we give her credit for being. It doesn't take too much of an effort to save, or at least optimise the chances for a species. However, it takes a lot more than we often realise to destroy one. How many other `extinct` species are just awaiting a serendipitous rediscovery?

GUEST BLOGGER FLEUR FULCHER:
ROCKY RACOON STEPPED INTO HIS ROOM ONLY TO FIND A WATER PISTOL...

Hooray for the irrepressable Miss Fleur Fulcher. She turned up unnanounced at the 2008 Weird Weekend, and seemed to somehow stroll around the place causing high strangeness wherever she trod. The nearest analogue any of us have ever met to a real-world version of J.K.Rowling's Luna Lovegood, we have persuaded her to occasionally step out of her wardrobe full of pretty frocks and strange inhabitants in order to give us her insight upon the natural world. Yesterday she spat venom at Sarah Palin. Today she waxes lyrical about a lost raccoon..

Those among you who think that bird watching is a boring hobby can learn something from the experience of David and Ena Webber from Christchurch. Deciding to join in the RSPB big bird watch this year they got more than they expected. But the startling visitor to their attractive garden was not of the winged type. Gazing back at Ena from one of their trees was a charming looking spectacled chap who looked very much at home.

Thinking at first it was just an odd looking neighbourhood moggy Ena fired a water pistol at it (good for her!) thinking it would stop the creature from scaring her feathered friends. Apparently it was at this point that she realised what it was, as it looked unimpressed about its wet awakening, it gave her a look that she thought meant “Stop it, I want to go back to sleep”. Left alone whilst Ena phoned the local police the racoon decided against making an escape and stayed perched in the cosy tree.

The police, on arrival, tried to coax the little chap from the tree with an apple on a stick. This did not work so the RSPCA were called. By this time the racoon had decided he wanted to go somewhere a little less crowded and left with the RSPCA. Apparently there are no reports of a missing racoon in the area, but as he was obviously well fed and cared for it is thought he is a recent escapee.


This little chap is not the first raccoon to be found roaming the UK, since 2007 you can keep them as a pet without even needing a license.

In 2003 one was found sitting on a shed roof in Penzance and in 2004 a Coati was seen a dozen times ambling around the lake district. So next time you fancy a bit or ornithology you might get a little more than you bargained for!

GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD FREEMAN - Crocodile Cults Part Two - ASIA

Guest Blogger time for Richard Freeman again. As you are probably beginning to guess, the boy Freeman has crocodiles on the brain. He is travelling up to the north of England this week to give a talk at a newly opened spooky bar in South Shields. However he has left us with a treat - a three part article about crocodile cults around the world.

A veneration of crocodiles, similar to that of ancient Egypt, once existed in India. The Victorian traveler Andrew Leith Adams wrote of it after a visit in the 1860s. The “Mugger-Peer” lived in a sacred crocodile pond in Karachi, which in those days was part of India. The pond contained many crocodiles but the “Mugger Peer” was pre-eminent among them. A huge specimen, he was reputedly 200 years old and had his head painted red. He was attended by priests who fed him and his kin. Travellers were expedited to make donations to both the priests and the crocodiles. Adams and co had a goat sacrificed to them and watched as the dismembered beast was fed to the holy crocodiles.

The mugger pool still exists today, together with its population of holy reptiles. It is a Sufi shrine. This liberal strand of Islam has no problem with the veneration of the muggers. It is known as the Mango Pir shrine and lies around 15 miles southwest of the city centre. The 700-year-old shrine is said to be the resting place of a Hindu bandit who tried to rob the caravan of Baba Farid Shakar Ganj, the 13th century Sufi saint. The bandit saw the error of his way and was converted to Islam. The saint blessed him, and his lice grew into crocodiles.

The surrounding area is very dry and it is somewhat of a mystery how the 150 crocodiles got to the shrine. Some believe they are a relic of when the area was more lush. Pilgrims travel from all over Pakistan and India to feed the crocodiles on beef, chicken, and mutton in the hope that they will grant their wishes. The King of the shrine’s crocodiles is a huge male known as More Sawab, who despite his size, is reputed to be very placid. If he accepts an offering then the wish is granted. Ten years ago a child fell into the pool and More Sawab pushed him to the bank with his snout.

Lepers and those with skin afflictions bathe in the waters that run outside the shrine in the belief it can cure them.

On the Philippine island of Luzon a particularly large crocodile haunted the mouth of the Cagayan River. It was believed to contain the soul of a dead chief. This man was apparently the leader of a fierce mountain tribe. Ergo the croc was left well alone.

In Indonesia, crocodile folklore is rampant. On many islands in this vast chain, it was thought that women could mate with crocodiles. The product of this union was a human baby and a crocodile. The little reptile was released into the river whilst the human child was taken home. The mother left food for her scaly child by the waterside. Its human brother / sister would carry this on as they grew up. In return, the crocodile would protect the family. On certain feast days, they would throw special foods to the crocodiles.

On the island of Buru if a crocodile was terrorising a community it was believed that the offending creature had become infatuated with a local girl. Some poor woman was chosen (by what means it is unclear, but it was probably akin to European witch-hunts) and dressed in a bridal costume and given to the crocodile. There are no prizes for guessing what the wedding feast consisted of!

On the Moluccas crocodiles played a part in puberty rites. Youths would be taken from their mothers and passed through the jaws of a replica crocodile. Then the priests would take them away and teach them tribal secrets. After several days, they were passed out through the crocodile’s jaws again and rejoined the tribe to great rejoicing.

The influence of Islam in turning the crocodile from a subject of veneration to one of fear is illustrated by the Malay legend of Putri Padang Gerinsing. This woman took care of Siti Fatima, daughter of the Prophet Mohammed. Putri created the crocodile out of clay, betel nut sheaths, saffron, stones, and sugar cane. The crocodile was supposed to guard Fatima but at length became treacherous and savage. Fatima cursed it, driving it into the sea and giving it nails for teeth.

Of all places in Asia, the island of Borneo has the most folklore concerning crocodiles.
Many of the legends tell of marriage to crocodiles or crocodiles protecting certain tribes or peoples.

One such story relates how Sarani, princess from the Iban tribe, fell in love with a handsome prince. After a brief courtship, they were married and the prince took Sarani away to his kingdom. They paddled away in a canoe for several miles. The prince told Sarani to close her eyes. When she opened them she was in a wondrous underwater kingdom surrounded by fish.

After several months, Sarani told the prince that she missed her family and wanted to return. The prince said that if she left she would never be able to return. After some thought she said that she wished to be with her family again. The prince then revealed that he was the prince of the crocodiles. He gave her a parting gift, a magic jar that would bring prosperity to whoever owned it. If the jar was filled with water and sprinkled on the paddy fields it would ensure a good harvest. Also Sarani and all her descedents would be protected from crocodile attack.

The jar is now said to be in the possession of Jimmy Donald in Sarawak, Borneo.

Not all such relations were so friendly. One legend from central Borneo describes how a Dyak hero called Bantangorang tricked his way into a crocodile’s lair to steal its treasures. He disguised himself in bird feathers and animal skins and told the crocodile that he was its son sent to see his father by his mother who lived far away. The crocodile thought Bantangorang smelled suspiciously human so he decided to test him. The crocodile grabbed a man from the riverbank and cut him up. The unfortunate man was turned into a stew and offered to Bantangorang. The man (who was a cannibal anyway) had no trouble eating the stew. Convinced, the crocodile led the man to his lair under the riverbank. After a time Banatangorang made as if to leave then quickly turned and speared his host in the belly. He was then free to steal all the gold and jewels.

Another story has a Dyak man meeting a crocodile whilst out on a walk. The two struck up a conversation and became friends. The man invited the crocodile back to his longhouse were it entertained the whole family with fascinating stories and anecdotes. The family realised that it might do them good to have such a mighty beast in the family and offered their daughter to the crocodile in marriage.

As it turned out the crocodile was a very bad son in law. He did no work and ate all the family’s stores of corn and rice. He then began to threaten neighbours and eat their food stocks, much to the family’s shame. Finally, they ambushed the crocodile and hacked it to bits. Other crocodiles are so ashamed of their colleague’s behaviour that they do not eat Dyaks to this day.



Fish You Were Here – Naturalised fishes of the world Part One

Until about 200,000,000 years ago, all the Continents that we know today were joined together into one a super-continent called Pangea. Very few of the animals and plants which can be found today, were found there - in exactly the same form - and it is unarguable that the process of continental drift has contributed largely to the amazing diversity of life on the planet today.

Wherever mankind goes, he brings a host of other animal species with him. Some of these are well known. The brown rat, the domestic cat, the domestic dog, the pig, the horse and the goat, for example. Less well known are other species of animals - for example birds, small mammals, reptiles and fish that mankind has translocated - by accident, or design - from one part of the world to another.

In this two-part article, we will give an overview of some of the more important, and bizarre, incidences of naturalised fish species, and will reveal how, without meaning to, the human race has allowed the biggest mixing of global fish species there has been known this since the days of the super-continent.

There are three main ways in which the process of naturalisation can occur.

These are as a result of:

a. deliberate introduction (usually for food but sometimes for other - more arcane at - reasons)
b. accidental introduction (usually as a result of escapes from captivity)
c. inadvertent introduction (where a species to choose a ride with humans into a new geographical area without the humans being aware of it.)

It would be nice to be able to finish this article by giving this simple list of species in each of the above categories. However, the machinations of the natural world are, as Oscar Wilde put it, never pure and seldom simple, and much to the surprise of the present authors the genesis of some of the more peculiar naturalised fish species is highly complex.

For example, take the giant gourami (Osphronemus gouramy) - an enormous species which can - in extreme cases - which over three feet in length. Originally these enormous fish were found in the rivers and ponds of Indonesia where it can often be found in a brackish water, and oxygen depleted water as well as rivers and ponds. However they have been introduced to a wide range of countries across the world. The earliest introduction that we have been able have to pinpoint was in 1761 when colonial French authorities imported large numbers of these fish from Batavia to their colonies in Mauritius. Their eventual intention was to transplant these remarkable fish to the homeland of France herself. Although it seems that these experiments never took place, the French colonial authorities also introduced them to Madagascar in 1857.

In 1841 the first attempts were made to introduce this species to India when they were introduced to the Botanical Gardens in Calcutta. However, this experiment was unsuccessful and the stock died out. However, in 1865, Sir William Denison - the Governor of Madras - was so struck by the attractiveness of these giant fish that he introduced them to several waterways surrounding the Government House in Madras. Other introductions at same time were made in Nilgris, and quite possibly in other parts of India as well. The burgeoning population was boosted by at introduction of another 200 specimens which, bizarrely enough, were from the already well-established population in Mauritius making them second generation transplants. They were introduced to Papua New Guinea and New Caledonia in 1956 by an Ichthyologist called H. Van-Pel. Whereas it is a matter of record that the introductions into India and to the French colonies in the Indian Ocean were purely because those responsible felt that the fish were attractive ornamental creatures, the raison d'etre behind these later introductions remains obscure. They were introduced into Sri Lanka, (1909) and the Philippines (1927), for aquacultural purposes, but possibly the most interesting was an accidental introduction into a waterway in Colombia in 1988. In this case the fish escaped from captivity, but we have to say that we are mystified as to the precise mechanism or on axle until escape of creature that can reach such enormous size.

In some cases, the introduction of an alien species can wreak havoc upon an insular or isolated ecosystem. Whereas the giant gouramis have caused little or no damage to the ecosystem because of a their vegetarian lifestyle - indeed in some places are they have been used to clear matted weed from overgrown waterways - other invasive species have had a far more significant effect. Possibly the most notorious of these is the Nile perch (Lates niloticus) An enormous and ferocious game fish which can grow up to six feet in length and which has a fearsome reputation both amongst anglers and the aquaculture community. Originally from the Nile and from the rivers and lakes of West Africa, they were introduced in two various East African river and lake systems in a wide ranging exercise which was first mooted by the colonial authorities in the 1920s, but which did not take place until 30 years later. The British Empire is responsible for several inadvertent acts of zoological genocide. The introduction of foxes, weasels and stoats and New Zealand - for example - caused enormous amounts of damage to the local wildlife as did introduction of similar animals on to island ecosystems in the Indian and Pacific oceans. However, it was the introduction of this fish into East Africa that was arguably the British Empire's worst eco-atrocity. Within only a few years of the initial introductions, it was noticed that the main item of prey for this ferocious predator was the local cichlid population. The cichlids of the Rift Valley have been compared to Darwin's finches on the Galapagos Islands as living examples of the mechanism of evolutionary Biodiversity. It is certain that some entire species of cichlids were wiped out by the Nile perch before they were even recorded and named by scientists. Until someone invents time-machine we will never know quite how much irreparable damage the introduction of this single species of fish has caused. In 1987 it was claimed that Nile perch made up over 80 per cent of the fish biomass in Lake Victoria - an amazing feat for a species which had only been in existence there for 30 years. An unforeseen side-effect to of the introduction of the species is the disappearance of the local Forest. Because the local fishing population now has to subsist almost entirely on the species the eating and cooking patterns the local population have also changed. Because of the flesh of the Nile perch is very greasy it has to be smoked or fried rather than sun-dried and the search of the necessary firewood has had grave results.

The Stone Moroko (Pseudorasbora parva) is a small fish of the family Cyprinidae. It is naturally found in many parts of Asia, especially those connected to the basin of the Amur river. It is a small, insignificant fish of no commercial value either to the aquarist or the fishermen. However, it has spread from its homeland across much of Europe, Asia Minor, and what used to be Soviet Central Asia, and even as far as Fiji. Its eggs and fry have been imported to all these places in shipments of Chinese carp, grass carp, and silver carp. In Europe, because of its population density and success in breeding, it is becoming a serious competitor to many native species and in Uzbekistan it - for example - its success at naturalisation has a seriously displaced many invaluable native food species.


In part two of this article (tomorrow morning) we will see how even the waters of the United Kingdom have been invaded by alien species from all over the world.

Indian Surprises


2009 has already thrown up some interesting surprises on the Indian subcontinent, with at least two wildlife sightings of note.

Indroda National Park is a nature reserve in Gujarat on the west coast of India, near the border with Pakistan. They have a museum and a zoo, and according to their website:

"In addition to the animals in the zoo, the wilderness created in an area of about 400 ha at INP is inhabited by a large number of animals, birds and reptiles. This includes around 180 species of birds of which 65 have been reported to be nesting here. The park is, in fact, a paradise for bird watchers. Moreover, the common venomous and non venomous snakes are abundantly found in the Park. As per the census conducted in 2004 by the Foundation, the wilderness of the park has 545 Nilgai, 475 common langurs and 819 peafowls."

However, they now have a rare, and totally unexpected resident - a Rusty-spotted Cat - one of the smallest species of cat in the world. The Rusty-spotted Cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus) only measures 35-48 cm (14-17 in) in length, plus 15-25 cm (6-10 in) tail, weighing in at only approximately 1.5 kg (3.3 lbs). A healthy adult female can weigh as little as a kilo, which makes it arguiable that it is even smaller a species than the black-footed cat (Felis nigripes) of southern Africa.

GEER, the organisation who manage Indroda Nature Park are understandably making quite a big deal of the sighting. CN Pandey, the director said: "Last night, GEER staff was patrolling when they spotted this cat and photographed it. It is rare to spot this cat in Indroda Park let alone the state. In the past it has been spotted in Surpaneshwar in south Gujarat and by Bharat Pathak in Gir forest."

It is not a particularly rare species, being classified as "Vulnerable" but it is nice to hear of a species increasing its range.




The other notable wildlife sighting of the year so far, in India at least, is the "hyaena" reported from Kolkata (Calcutta) airport. It was seen by a pilot coming in to land who "promptly reported the sighting - probably a stray dog or one of the jackals that live in the airport grounds - to air traffic control. Officials in the control tower asked a Jet Airways flight from Mumbai, scheduled to land in a few minutes at 6.50 pm, to hover over the city. As an inspection was carried out to check for the presence of the animal, the Jet flight was delayed by 10 minutes.



Airport officials later said they immediately carried out a spot verification on the runway , but could not find any animal".




This species os commoner than the rusty spotted cat, being graded as `Near Threatened` and having a range that covers parts of the Middle East, Africa and bits of India and Pakistan, but it is unusual to have a report from a major international airport.









STRANGE DAYS

I am writing and formatting the bloggo postings for the 27th January, the night before (that is last night to you guys) because - in their wisdom - the electricity board are goimng to be playing fast and loose with our electricity supply tomorrow, and I don't know when I shall be able to post again.

It is going to be a weird day for me anyway. It is my father's birthday, and he would have been 84. Although we disliked each other intensely for most of our lives, when he was taken ill in what was to be his final illness in 2005 I came back to the old family home to look after him. I am glad that I did, because after a lifetime of strife we became friends, and I was there with him when he died.


So I don't know when scheduled postings to the CFZ bloggo will resume, but the teatime one should go out as scheduled but most importantly..... Happy Birthday Dad.


GUEST BLOGGER GLEN VAUDREY: Seeing is believing

Glen is a very new recruit to Planet CFZ. Indeed, we had never heard from him until a few months ago when he wrote - slightly diffidently - to us, asking whether he could write a volume in our ongoing series The Mystery Animals of The British Isles. We asked him for a proposed synopsis and a sample of his writing, and were overawed by what we received. Here was a man who loved both words and the countryside, and could use one to describe the other in poetic but always down to earth terms. We were beginning to come to the conclusion that here was someone that Bob Marley would have described as a `Natural Mystic`, when the final manuscript arrived, and we knew that we were right. So we asked him to be a guest blogger..
When looking for mystery creatures does our current knowledge affect our perception of what we are going to see? For example whenever I catch the briefest glimpse of a great northern diver as it swims past in the distance, would it ever even cross my mind that I might have seen a Great Auk if I didn’t already know what one looked like.

It was a little over a year ago on a particularly foggy day when I saw what I at first suspected to be a long necked sea serpent popping up its head in the most unusual of places, Stornoway harbour! After both the initial excitement of the sighting and the obligatory cursing at not having a camera upon me I soon realised that what I had been privileged to observe was not an unidentified sea serpent but rather a grey seal as it was periscoping, it raised what appeared to be getting on for nearly half its body clean out of the water as it struggled to see around.

The reason all this came to mind was that as I set about researching mystery animal sighting in the Hebrides I became aware that not all the things reported over the years were necessarily mystery animals, for instance there is one sighting of a long necked sea serpent the description of which sounds remarkably like a submarine.

But not all reports come out so negatively, on the Isle of Mull in the years leading up to the First World War there were reported sightings of a large mystery black dog. Fast forward a few decades to the late ’70s and reports start to appear of sightings of a large mystery black cat.

Maybe those two sighting are not connected in any way other than my mind running ahead of itself, but perhaps we should consider that if today you see a large black animal in the distance it is almost certainly chalked up as a cat because that’s what people see, even if the sighting might be couched with ‘I thought it was a dog till it moved’.

What then are the chances that those earlier mystery dog sighting had more to do with the viewer being secure in the knowledge that it had to be a dog because such a thing as a large black cat on the Isle of Mull just couldn’t possibly exist.

GUEST BLOGGER TONY LUCAS: Where have all the cryptids gone?

Tony Lucas is one of our New Zealand representatives. We first published his work in the 2008 Yearbook when he wrote us an overview of New Zealand cryptozoology. New Zealand is a particularly fascinating place because of its zoological isolation from the rest of the world. However, Tony argues that although it was once home to many mystery animals, it is now - quite possibly - too late.

If we look back on the history of Cryptid sightings, the further back we go the more frequent the sightings seem to be. It seems once an area is colonised sightings appear, instead of as one would expect to increase, to decline sharply.

Is it because these creatures seek retreats further apart from the colonised areas or is a more menacing mechanism at work here?

The New Zealand Moehau and corresponding hominoids used to be plentiful and frequently spoken of by the Maori people. European colonizers made a push to populate the land for farming and instead of sightings and encounters becoming more numerous, as one would expect, what creatures that were encountered had gone from being barbarous, confrontational monsters of the forest to wary, timid creatures which would abscond at the first sign of humans.

Could it be these hominoids associated mankind with death? Sightings declined, and nowadays are virtually unheard-of. Why should these creatures associate us with death? Simple: in a single word.... disease.

We have witnessed it down through history where a less advanced civilization, free from the many pathogenic woes of their discoverers and conquerors, are wiped out of existence, or nearly so, by pathogenic marauders to which the new arrivals are totally immune.

The conquistadors brought smallpox and influenza to the Aztecs. In scarcely 100 years the Aztec population collapsed from 22 million down to a mere 2 million, a 90% loss in population. Easter Island and the Canary Islands also endured the same fate in the 16th century via measles, whooping cough and influenza.

However, this is not just restricted to humans; rats on Australia's Christmas Island were decimated by a hyper disease carried there by other rats that had jumped ship. Nowadays the Tasmanian Devil faces annihilation by a lethal type of introduced facial cancer, the list goes on and on.

Isolated island populations appear the most vulnerable as they are populations already under pressure from habitat loss and often hunting. This tendency clearly shows domestic introductions have had an impact on wild populations, and if they are genetically close it doesn't take much for a pathogen to jump hosts. This has been noticed and is still a concern with the recent H5N1 Bird flu epidemic.

One hypothesis advanced for the extinction of the Mega-Herbivores advocates that it was human introduced diseases that tilted the balance and lead to the mass extinctions which followed. With hunting and climate change it is easy to see how this could occur.

Taking this into account, judging by the absence of sightings here in New Zealand, I fear many of our Cryptid species may already have succumbed and for them, it is now too late. The Moehau is an excellent example. If these hominids were genetically close to humans the smallpox, measles and influenza which colonized the country alongside the colonists may have spelt their death knell.

A species already under pressure by habitat loss due to clearance for farming of the land by both Maori and European colonizers, all it would have taken would have been an outbreak of disease to drive the species to extinction.

Was a headless and partially devoured body of a miner and a woman found with her neck broken and 1882 the result of vengeance by a grief stricken Moehau? Interestingly, Bigfoot tracks in the United States have exhibited foot deformities and witnesses have also reported these creatures hobbling, being assisted and supported by another creature and acting sickly. Could these maladies be from catching some ailment to which they have no resistance?

Back in New Zealand, the Moa, the most famous of New Zealand Cryptids, was also under pressure from hunting and habitat loss.


Accounts also became spasmodic with colonization. Could the poultry and species introduced by the Acclimatization Society, such as sparrows, blackbirds, Indian mynah and countless others, have carried disease along with them to which the Moa had no immunity?

A poultry disease like infectious bronchitis which is highly contagious, could easily have wiped out or reduced Moa populations to unfrequented pockets far away from areas of contamination.

I believe the Moehau to be no more.


The last possibly dying from something as uncomplicated as the flu. Moas may yet hang on in remote and relatively unexplored areas like Fiordland in the lower South Island. But I'm forced to ask myself how many additional Cryptids worldwide have we doomed by introducing microscopic pathogens that neither known or cared for the rarity of the next victim.