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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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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER IVAN MACKERLE: Hunting for the Elephant Bird

We are very pleased to welcome the legendary Czech cryptozoologist, adventurer, and explorer Ivan Mackerle to the CFZ blogging family. He has been an inspiration to us all, and we were very glad to be able to finally meet him at last November's Unconvention. Today he tells us about an expedition in search of the elephant bird of Madagascar...


Do the pieces of eggshells that people in Madagascar still find today come from the legendary elephant bird? Does the monster still live in the midst of the forest? We were full of curiosity as we set out for an adventurous trip.

Half-ton colossus

"It was about fourteen feet high from the ground to the bill, with a big, broad head like the end of a pickaxe, and two huge brown eyes with yellow rims, set together like a man's - not out of sight of each other like those of a hen.

The skeleton of an elephant bird
compared to the skeleton
of an ostrich
in the Muzeum Tsimbazaza in Antananarivo -
the capital of Madagascar



Its plumage was fine - none of the half-mourning style of your ostrich - more like a cassowary as far as colour and texture go. And then it was he began to cock his comb at me and give himself airs, show signs of a nasty temper...and then he kicked me. It was like a cart-horse. I got up, and, seeing he hadn't finished, I started off full tilt with my arms doubled up over my face. But he ran on those gawky legs of his faster than a racehorse, and kept landing out at me with sledgehammer kicks and bringing his pickaxe down on the back of my head. I made for the lagoon, and went in up to my neck. He stopped at the water, for he hated getting his feet wet, and began to make a shindy, something like a peacock's, only hoarser. He started strutting up and down the beach.”

This is how H.G.Wells, the English classic of science fiction, described the meeting of a shipwrecked mariner with the prehistoric elephant bird. But his story “Aepyornis Island” is not too fantastic. Such a bird actually once lived on the island of Madagascar. People wrote about it in fairy-tales and also in old travelogues. The traveler Marco Polo was told by natives that a bird called the Ruh lived on the island and was similar to an eagle but was much larger. They said it could kill an elephant. It would grasp the elephant in its claws, take it up and than drop it. The bird wold slice open the elephant`s stomach with its beak and eat the entrails.

Giggling scientists

It did not take long for the world to come to believe in the existence of these giant birds. Doubtful voices of skeptical scientists were silenced in 1850 when an Arabic merchant Abbadi brought three intact eggs and several bones of a giant bird to France. It was the zoological sensation of the 19th century.

The eggs, which natives used to find in the bush
had a volume of ten litres

The egg had a volume of ten litres, which equals the contents of approximately one hundred and eighty hen's eggs. During the following ten years the French paleontologists managed to find enough bones to allow them to reconstruct the entire skeleton. It become apparent that - in life -the bird had looked like an ostrich with strong legs. It was three meters high and weighed half a ton. But it could not fly, let alone carry an elephant. But it would still have been dangerous to man. With a blow from its strong beak the bird could crush the human skull, and kill a man with a single kick. Scientists called it Aepyornis, but they could not determine when it went extinct.

At first they thought it was during prehistory, but than they came up with a finding that changed their ideas. They found a bronze ring on the leg of Aepyornis with some mysterious signs. Soon the scholars found out, that the signs on the ring came from the epoch about the oldest city-civilization of India, Mahendzo-Daru – from five thousand years ago. Other findings gradually reduced this date and today it is thought the bird could have lived as late as the 17th century. However, the natives keep worrying the zoologists by saying that the eggs they sometimes find in moors and dunes of the southern part of the island look as if they were laid only recently.

What if the scientists are wrong and the elephant bird still survives somewhere in the far away parts of the island?

Will we find it?

For many years I have been passionately engaged in looking for unknown and supposedly extinct animals, such as the Loch Ness monster or Bigfoot. No small wonder that our group set out to search for the legendary elephant bird. We were an experience-proven group. Jirka Skupien, Jarda Prokopec, my son Danny Mackerle and me. Past objects of our expeditions include the wild man/hobbit nittaewo of Sri Lanka, the potentially dangerous tatzelwurm of the Austrian Alps and the Death Worm of the Mongolian Gobi Desert. Pascal Gui, a native Malagasy now living in Prague, joined us in the search for the giant bird. He studied journalism in the Czech Republic and he speaks Czech well, so he made an excellent interpreter for us.

We wanted to go through the southwestern coast of the island and explore the out-of-the-way places around the mouth of Ilinta River. We were lucky from the very start. A native from Tulear showed us a giant Aepyornis egg. We looked at it with reverence and examined it from all sides. It was truly magnificent. It did not seem to be very old, so we asked him where he had found it. The bird could not be far from the nest. At first the native hesitated to tell us but a bundle of bank notes finally opened his mouth. He pointed at a place on the map in the area of sands near a small village called Androka.

Surprise in the dunes

We were driving for an entire day. The road was in terrible condition with deep holes and huge stones. At some places it reminded me of a hiking trail somewhere in a rock city, or the dry bottom of a river. Occasionally we had to utilize the four wheel drive. There was dry and thorny bush all around us. Finally the bush disappeared and we had a beautiful view – blinding yellow dunes spreading far in all directions. We stopped in a small grove of treelike cacti and raffia palms to build camp. Impatient Jirka grabbed his camera bags and went scouting. We drunk a few gulps of warmish water, took our backpacks and ran after him. Jarda took a spade - just in case there was an Aepyornis skeleton sticking out of the sand. We feel like we were in the Sahara. Our feet sunk into the fine sand, the sun shone mercilessly and hot haze of fata morgana hovered above the dunes.

We separated into an extended order and slowly walk among the hilly sand dunes. I looked for the highest place to be able to see the surroundings and then I heard Pascal shouting. He had found something!



Shells from a broken egg of the elephant bird
layed right on the surface of a sand as if they
had been laid there only recently




We ran to him and could not believe our eyes. The plateau of one long sand dune was covered with a number of shells. They looked like scraps from a porcelain mug but they came from a broken egg of the elephant bird, or rather from multiple eggs. We did not have to dig them out of the sand because they were right on the surface as if they had been laid there only recently. Had young birds hatched out of them? Or had the eggs just been broken by something? We crawled on our knees, and looked for matching scraps. We would have liked to compose at least one whole egg. In our collector´s fervor we forget about the world.


The native woman stopped several feet
from us, and looked at us with curiosity.


“The natives are coming,” said Danny. And they were. A weird procession was walking on the crest of a sand dune – women carrying loads of wood on their heads. They walked upright and as light as if they felt no loads on heads. Sometimes, they carry goods to the market, at other time a bucket with water or a pack of bricks. One might wonder how their thin necks can hold the burden. Their hands remain free so they seem light even with a heavy basket on their head. They develop a noble poise and a charming gait. The women walking on the sand dune stopped and looked toward us. Some of them separated and came down to us. They saw we were whites and wanted to know what we were looking for there. They stopped several feet from us, put aside their plastic buckets with wood and looked at us with curiosity.

“Salam,” we greeted them. The women had a cheerful light in their eyes and started murmuring something. However, our conversational skills came to an end; we did not know another Malagasy word. When we failed to respond, they realised we did not understand and started arranging something. They must have been talking about us because they kept looking at us and laughing out loud. One of them started singing, swinging in the rhythm and wiggling her hips. She playfully smiled at us and uncovered her shining white teeth. She radiated energy and sensuality. Still wiggling, she turned her back to us, rolled up her skirt and pantomimed motions of sexual intercourse. Taken aback, we watched her chocolate brown buttocks.

The other women laughed hard. Our embarrassment seemed ridiculous to them, they must have been accustomed to different reactions from their men. We quickly recovered and called Pascal who was digging in the sand nearby trying to find a whole egg or even bones. He came and translated our “witty” sentences. After a while, conversation was at full speed and our meeting ended with prospect of hope. We were invited to dinner in their village.

Food for the whole village

We arrived to the village before sunset. It was only a few primitive shacks, under coconut palms right on the seashore. Only then did we learn that the girl who had invited us for dinner was the daughter of the village chief. She ceremoniously lit a lamp and brought food – a giant three-kilogram lobster and a bowl of manioc. We were hungry and the fine lobster meat quickly disappeared in our mouths. We were joking about the ironical situation: We did not eat anything the previous night , talked about a simple hot dog for hours and just then we were having a royal dinner that would cost at least thousand crowns in Europe. Lobster is gourmet speciality and we were eating it there to satisfy hunger..

After dinner we were introduced to the chief and got to explain the purpose of our trip. We expected to hear some stories from him indicating that some last birds might be hidden here some places, but we were disapointed. The chief did not confirm it. If someone had seen the giant bird, we would have known about it. He had not even heard the neighbouring tribes talk about it. We are interested at least in legends – so we asked when was the last time Aepyornis lived there. He remembered that in his childhood he used to hear that fathers of their grandfathers hunted this bird. He is said to have been slow and clumsy, so he was easy prey. By rough calculation, we learned it was about one hundred years ago, which is not very long! We regained hopeful that the bird did survive some place well-hidden from people. While the chief´s daughter took away our plates, we made jokes that if the tribes had not exterminated the bird, but rather bred it like hens, they would have enough to eat now. One egg would feed the whole village.

The hideout is empty


The next day we set out for the delta of Ilinta River. It is a large area of forest marshes that is absolutely inaccessible most of the year. Before the trip we read about some weird larynx squeaking being heard here. If a couple of the remnants of this bird species truly survived today, it could only be there. But it was a dry period when we were there and the river was dried up. Thick bushes and trees prevented us from scouting. Our jeep was scratched from boughs and we proceeded very slowly. Quite often we had to turn back and try another road. Finally we realised that walking would be faster. Although we were using a machete, the journey was difficult and exhaustive. It was likely that no human foot had ever trod these places. At night we tried to record Aepyornis´s voice. But we heard no screeches and the tape remained empty. We did not give up and kept looking for some traces during the following days – maybe a print of a big three-toad foot in the sand, a piece of feathers or perhaps some droppings. But we found nothing.

Gradually we realised that such a big bird could hardly be hiding there. The former high forests had vanished and the entire area was covered with thorny bushes and brushwood. The head of a three-meter high bird would stick out of the bushes. At last, we have seen the elephant bird after all. In the museum Tsimbazaza in the capital city of Madagascar we at least got to examine its skeleton.

The former high forests in the land of Aepyornis had vanished and the
entire area is covered with thorny bushes and brushwood.









Happy Cows

My father always bemoaned the fact that when he was an apprentice farmer just after WW2, before my mother dragged him to Africa, and a life of serving the empire, that his cows all had names, whereas "the poor bloody animals these days" just had numbers. I always tended to agree with him, but was aware that this was part of my inate anthropomorphism rather than as a result of any scientific reasoning.

Now, however, it turns out that some scientists agree with him. According to the BBC website today:

"Happy cows produce more milk, according to researchers at Newcastle University.
Cattle that are named and treated with a "more personal touch" can increase milk yields by up to 500 pints a year. The study, by the university's School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, involved 516 farmers across the UK. Published in the journal Anthrozoos, the study found farmers who named their cows gained a higher yield than the 54% that did not give their cattle names. "


Read the rest of the story HERE

However the story raises at least one social/ethical issue, and also an exciting possibility for those of us who are engaged in conservation work.

The first issue is that whatever you call the poor bloody animals, they will still be sent for slaughter when their period of economic usefullness is over. I have no intention of straying into PETA territory here, but much of the way that we treat animals is morally dubious at best, and there is something particularly grotesque about sending an animal called "Bluebell", with whom you have built up some degree of a relationship to the abbatoir when she is no longer of use to you.

I once had a girlfriend who lived on a farm. Each year she would let her two young daughters adopt lambs as pets. They would come in the house, be cuddled, and generally be treated in the way that one would a dog or cat. But when their time came, "Lamby" would be sent off to the slaughter without a qualm.

No wonder both of the girls grew up with mental health problems!

I am sure that the results of the study are correct, but I think that it is time to have a serious look at how the farming industry works. I have no easy answers, and - to be quite honest - if Tim Matthews had not sent this news item to me, I would probably never have broached the subject on these pages, but it opened a few cans ofworms for me.

On a related subject, however, one wonders whether a similar approach would make the breeding of some endangered species more viable.....

HOW OLL SAVED THE CFZ FISHES

After I bellyached at length about the power outage yesterday, I was touched by the number of emails we received from people concerned that the CFZ fishes and herps might have suffered, or even met their demise, as a result of this.

However it was Oll Lewis, the Welsh dude who lives in my spare bedroom, who also happens to be the CFZ ecologist, and Richard's assistant as far as looking after the CFZ menagerie is concerned, who saved the day (after I had completely forgotten about the whole thing until the night before), and here he is to tell you how..


Row, Row Fight The Powah

There are only two drawbacks with living in a nice little village in one of the most rural areas in Britain; one is that if you want to catch a film in a cinema you have to be prepared to mount the sort of expedition Robert Falcon Scott would have thought twice about and the other is that you tend to suffer from short power cuts due to the antiquated mains power distribution. These cuts last for a minute at most but play havoc with timer switches and if you are not working on a laptop computer you have to save your work every 5 minutes or risk loosing it if there’s a power cut. Having lived in small towns and in cities my whole life previous to coming to Woolsery all this took me by surprise that there still existed places where you couldn’t rely on an uninterrupted power supply in Britain in the 21st century, after all if certain films staring Michael J. Fox are to be believed we are only three years away from flying cars and hover-boards.

Well, where as the prophecies of ‘Back To The Future 2’ were wildly optimistic, we received a letter last week with the good news that Woolsery’s power cables were finally going to be upgraded. The drawback being that the power would be off from 9.00 until 17.00.

A small price to pay some might say, well not if you have seven turtles, five rare amphibians and two large tanks of tropical fish to keep warm during one of the coldest winters in Britain since the 1970s!

All our heating systems in the conservatory and the museum, where the animals are housed work off Electrical mains power (as most aquariums do) and Woolsery doesn’t have a piped gas supply, but thankfully we do have a Rayburn that is powered by a tank of heating oil. In order retain heat I raided the house’s supply of towels and blankets to wrap around the tanks similar to the way one would lad a boiler and hot water pipes. Using at least two layers around each tank this worked remarkably well, meaning that I would only have to replace a bucketful of water in each tank with some that had been heated by the Rayburn twice for each tank during the day to keep the water temperatures between 24-28 degrees. So if you are ever faced with a similar power outage you know what to do to save your animals from any discomfort, be sure to check the temperatures every half hour though, just in case.

Hopefully, now the power-lines have been upgraded, that’s the last long duration power outage we’ll see for a good while.

THIS is why we have to get political

Over the past few days there has been some debate on these pages about whether politics should be discussed. Party politics will never rear its ugly head on Cryptozoology:Online. However it does behove us to get more political, even militant when faced with news like this....

January 2009. The three-year battle to save West Thurrock Marshes from destruction suffered a massive set-back when the Court of Appeal judged that the decision to build on the site was lawful.

One of the three most important sites for endangered wildlife in the UKWildlife charity
Buglife took Thurrock Development Corporation to Court on the grounds that it had failed to protect the Marshes - rated as one of the three most important sites for endangered wildlife in the country with 17 protected species. The proposed warehouses and car parks will destroy up to 70% of the flower-rich habitat, home to many of these species including the Brown-banded carder bee. The case is the first legal test of recent biodiversity protection laws.


You can read the rest of the article HERE


This is dreadful news and shows the current British Government up in their true colours: exploitative cynical operators who put their own selfish needs, and the needs of their lickspittle cronies before anything else. They may be dressed in the clothers of caring, sharing New Labour but it is still Capitalism Uber Alles, and as far as I can see it always will be.

Now, boys and girls the Government, and in particular our beloved leader launched the following initiative recently:

Welcome to the Number10 YouTube channel. This is where you'll find exclusive films and features from Downing Street and the British Prime Minister.NEW: The Prime Minister has launched a regular initiative, 'Ask the PM', where he will be responding to the most popular questions submitted by the YouTube community. Submit videos on this channel by clicking the gadget to the right.

You can find out more HERE

I strongly suggest that as many readers of this blog as can go to this page and ask Gordon Brown whether he is a cynical despoiler of the environment or merely a crass idiot?

GUEST BLOGGER OLL LEWIS: A Species To Grebe For

Oll Lewis, the Welsh dude who lives in my spare bedroom, who also happens to be the CFZ ecologist, and Richard's assistant as far as looking after the CFZ menagerie is concerned, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular bloggers on the network. Today he takes a look at extinction - a much overused word, especially in cryptozoology - and discusses the tragic extinction of one, fairly obscure, species - a flightless waterbird from Central America.

There are lessons for us all here, but after reading this little homily I bet that, like me, you will want to go to Guatamala just to see for yourself if there are any left...


There are countless sad tales one could tell about how species become have extinct. Dodos, if you want the most famous example, died out as a result of man accidentally bringing rats to their island and those rats eating the dodo eggs. The great auk was hunted to extinction by humans and one of the last auks ever seen was executed for witchcraft. In my opinion though the most tragic tale of extinction is that of the poc (Podilymbus gigas), also known as the Atitlán grebe or the giant grebe.

The poc was a large flightless grebe found only on or around lake Atitlan in the mountains of South West Guatemala. In the early 1950s this localised species was thriving with more than 200 pocs on the lake, but this was soon to change. In 1958 small mouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) were introduced into the lake to encourage tourism to the area and this was followed by large mouth bass (Micropterus salmoides) in 1960. This plan to increase tourism in the area worked and soon enough there were throngs of fishermen with more money than sense eager to catch fish in the lake.

All this was very bad news for the poc. Both species of bass were eating the same food as the poc, crabs, and were much more efficient at catching it, which led to a sharp decline in available food. As every biologist knows, when the numbers and availability of a prey species is in decline numbers of the predator species will start to decline as individuals start to starve to death and the poc was no exception. The larger fish also went after chicks, hastening the decline. Things went from bad to worse for the poc when an an industry sprouted up on the lake to sell reed mats to tourists. These mats proved very popular and lead to the destruction of a large amount of the reed beds where the poc nested.

In 1966 in a last ditch attempt to save the species, which was now thought to number only 80, Dr Anne LaBastille, an expert on the species, decided to move the birds to a safer location, while there were still enough breeding pairs for there to be a possibility of recovery. However, when the scientists attempted to catch the pocs over a third of the birds flew away, which is unusual behaviour for a flightless bird to say the least.



It turned out that a large number of the grebes were not even pocs at all but a much more common species, the pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), which made the rescue plan all the more difficult. Eventually though LaBastille’s plan was successful and by 1973 there were 210 pocs, the species had recovered!

Then in 1973 an earthquake came resulting in the deaths of all but 30 of the birds. The species was functionally extinct, just when it looked like they may have been saved. The species went into a slow decline and the past poc was seen on the lake in 1989.

FISH YOU WERE HERE II: The Empire Strikes Back

Continued from last night..

It probably seems unlikely to any readers under the age of 40, but only half a century ago Great Britain was the hub of the greatest empire that the world has ever seen. On maps in schoolrooms all over the globe great swathes of the world were coloured pink to denote the fact that they were a pivotal part of the empire on which the sun would never set. Although the impact of the British Empire on the commerce, politics, and defence of the former colonies is well known, what is not widely realised is the effect that centuries of empire building had upon the Zoology of British colonies all over the world, and, indeed upon the motherland herself.

Whilst working on this two-part article we were surprised to find quite how many species of fish that we had assumed were native to the British Isles, were in fact no such thing, and were amazed how many British fish had been translocated to a pond or stream in some corner of a foreign field.

The Tench, for example, is an unassuming, bottom living fish found in still, and slow-moving waters found across Western Europe. Although they are edible, anyone who has tried to eat a tench souffle for example, will confirm that they are far from being the most appetising of Mother Nature's under water subjects. It is surprising, therefore, to learn that Frank Buckland - the founder of the Acclimatisation Society, whose name has cropped up in these pages before - introduced them to Madras in India in 1866 and again in 1873, 1874 and 1876. They were introduced to Tasmania in 1858 and from thence to the mainland, by the Australian branch of the society, also introduced them to New Zealand a few years later.

It must be admitted that Buckland could well be perceived as a zoologist of the "because I can" brigade, and there is very little that one finds out about him which is really surprising. However, the same species was introduced into Indonesia - by the Government - in 1927, and apart from remarking that Johnny Foreigner is a rum cove, it is hard to fathom out why they undertook this exercise. They were introduced into South Africa in 1910 - bizarrely enough - as a food source for another introduced species; the large mouth bass. They were introduced into Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe ), in 1938, Canada (1915) and the United States in 1877. In these cases, however, the motivation is an obvious one - the fascination that so many British expats have with a dangling worms on strings into muddy water of a weekend.

Rudd - another humble Western European species of no great economic importance have also spread across the globe as a result of Empire. On this occasion it was the French Empire who introduced this fish to several of them of their North African colonies for reasons best known to themselves. Curiously they have also turned up in Canada and parts of the United States with no one knowing how they got there, although other introductions to the USA over the years have been recorded for both food and sporting purposes. They were amongst the first species to be shipped to New Zealand aboard HMS British Empire in 1864, although none survived the journey. From 1971 onwards fertilised Rudd ova were smuggled into New Zealand illegally, and the species has now become established on both north and south island to the detriment of local wildlife.

The common perch has been introduced to Cyprus (1971), Spain (1970), and South Africa (1915) as well as New Zealand, Australia and to the Azores - all for sporting purposes. However, what was most surprising to us - at least were the foreign species which have become a familiar part of the British ecosystem. Carp, for example, were originally natives of central Asia, but were introduced to Britain some time in the middle ages. A book published in 1486 notes them as uncommon in British waters, but they soon spread across the country. Although most fish were introduced into the UK for sporting or gustatory purposes, at least four species arrived purely as a result of the aquarium trade. The two colonies of Guppys which survived for some years in artificially heated water in the UK are common knowledge, but less well-known are a species of cichlid which became established in a Liverpool Canal after a tropical fish shop went bust, and a small but viable population of the North American pumpkinseed in Somerset, and another one in Surrey, which have since died out although another colony in Hampshire remains healthy. More problematical are the bitterling which have been recorded from a few isolated locations in Lancashire, Derbyshire and the Welsh borders. These have long been assumed to have been introductions because although these are popular aquarium fish - especially during the 19th and early 20th century - they were popularly believed only to exist in central Europe, Asia Minor and eastward across Eurasia. However, the recent discovery that the pool frog is actually a British native, and furthermore has been recorded in exactly the same locations as the British bitterling, suggests that this attractive small fish may indeed have been a British resident all along.

Perhaps the most striking piscine introductions to British waters are the Zander and the Wels. Both originally natives of central Europe and Asia Minor, they were both introduced to the UK by Frank Buckland's cronies. The Zander is an extremely aggressive species which has disastrous effects on the native livestock of any area which it colonises, and the wels - or European catfish - is not only the largest freshwater fish in the world, but has even been rumoured to have eaten people. During the summer of 2002 the present authors led an expedition to Martin-Mere in Lancashire where "something" had been reported attacking swans on a nature reserve. It turned out to be a wels catfish, and we estimate that it is in excess of eight feet in length.

There is a popular misconception that the Zander is a cross between a pike and perch. This is complete nonsense, but the belief lives on. It is shaped vaguely like a pike, and has the bars and coloration of perch, but is not closely related to either. It has the voracious appetite of a pike and as it can also tolerate brackish water, its incursions into British waterways are viewed very seriously indeed. By 1996 this species had been reported from the Midlands, East Anglia, Kent and was making serious incursions into the Cotswolds. Despite all efforts to eradicate it, and its special position within the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1980, which condemns it to an ignominious death, it looks as if - sadly - this piscine predator is here to stay.

Global warming, and the attendant climate changes have already seen some exciting additions to our marine fauna. Such species as barracuda and even great white sharks have been noted from British waters in recent years. It is tempting to theorise that as our climate changes further, more freshwater species from warmer climes will become established. The White Cloud Mountain Minnow - a Chinese species which one of the present authors remembers catching as a child in Hong Kong - has reached as far afield as Madagascar and Columbia. Other species familiarly kept by aquarists have also spread around the world from their original locations. When our great grandchildren go down to the local pond with jam jars and nets in the 22nd century, what species will they bring back with them?