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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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Thursday, January 29, 2009

NEW CHINESE BABBLER


Most people know that I was brought up in Hong Kong which was where I first started my lifelong interest in the natural world. Whilst a child I kept several of the Chinese babblers - a large family of Old World songbirds characterised by `fluffy` feathers. They are diverse in size, but mostly resemble large, noisy thrushes. They are a family of which I am extremely fond, and so I am particularly thrilled by today's news that a "new fist-sized, babbler bird species has been discovered in a series of underground caves in China, elevating the hope that the country could find other new discoveries" according to BirdLife International.

Ornithologists Zhou Fang and Jiang Aiwu first saw the bird, dark with white spots on its breast, in 2005 and has since then established its identity as an unknown species. They labeled it the Nonggang babbler, scientific name Stachyris nonggangensis, named for the region of China where the bird was found.

GUEST BLOGGER BETH TYLER-KING: Life with Millie

People at the last Weird Weekend will have noticed a bric-a-brac stall incongrously situated between a bookstall and a specialisr publisher.

Behind the stall you would have seen a pretty young lady called Beth, and on the sunday she was joined by two newborn kittens which were - I think - a bigger draw to Weird Weekenders of all ages than anyone except possibly Ronan.

Her name is Beth Tyler-King and for years she has been involved in Wildlife Rescue, first in Bristol, and now in Hartland. She has become a good friend of the CFZ, and like all our friends she has been persuaded to write for the bloggo...

One morning in May 2008 my dogs started barking crazily. It usually means someone is walking up the garden path, so I opened the front door and found a lady called Fiona leaning over my front gate. I walked over to her to hear her say, “Can you take a fox cub”? Would I? I practically hugged her! It has been my life-long dream to hand-rear a cub ever since I played with three of them at an animal sanctuary many moons ago.

Fiona’s partner Adam had a little furry bundle wrapped down the front of his coat. A little head peeped out, her snout littered with scars. Scared eyes looked at me and my heart just went out to this poor little scrap. She could only have been six to eight weeks old. Fiona told me that Millie was profoundly deaf. She also told me that Adam had been driving along a main road five days before and had seen the fox cub running towards him in his headlights, being chased by three boys. He stopped the car and managed to grab Millie (who promptly bit him but he gallantly held on!)

He demanded of the boys what their intentions were but they just shrugged and said “Nothing”. Adam said, “Well she’s coming home with me”. Adam is a hero!


To their absolute credit, Fiona, Adam and their children really turned Millie around as she was snappy and extremely traumatised at first but she became relaxed after a while and slept on the children’s beds at night. However, they were not able to keep her because of their living arrangements. I couldn’t believe she was meant to be with me, being profoundly deaf myself!

The first thing I did was call the vet and I jumped in the van with Millie to take her there.
The vet tested Millie's hearing and confirmed that she was indeed profoundly deaf. I asked for Millie to be vaccinated just like a puppy would be. Millie, although was quite scared, behaved impeccably.

I took Millie home armed with some Advocate (wormer and flea treatment) and proceeded to give her a Tea tree bath. She was amazing, took it all in her stride! I towelled her down and she looked so cute! Like a fluffy ball.

The real battle I had was trying to get her to eat. I scoured the Internet to learn all I could about foxes and discovered that it’s very good for foxes to have a chicken wing every day as part of their diet plus anything that is raw. I drove to my local butchers and bought up all the chicken wings they had in stock plus I stocked up on raw steak, raw liver, raw lambs liver, raw minced meat; you name it, I bought it! And would the little tinker eat any of it? No.

Over the next few days I was practically tearing my hair out at her complete disinterest in food yet she had the energy of a typical puppy. She tore around the bungalow terrorising my cats (all thirteen of them) and once she had done several circuits in this mad whirlwind manner she would then sleep for several hours on my bed looking so endearing.
I bought cat gourmet food, dog gourmet food, (usually about a million pounds for a tiny two inch pot) and yes, she loved the cat gourmet ones but quickly went off these. I then realised I still had a fantastic veterinary product in stock called a/d - a prescription diet usually given to animals recovering from operations or who have no appetite or who need building up. She ravished these with passions and at £1.30 (US$2) for a small tin and getting through four of these a day she wasn’t exactly cheap to keep! Still, it kept me from worrying about her incredibly fussy appetite for the time being, until I could find something she would eat. I did discover though from chance (preparing my tea one night) that she loved grated cheese and cake…..

I took Millie along to several infant's schools and residential homes in the early days of being a cub and she was a source of fascination to everyone who stroked her, many exclaiming they had never “been this close to a real live fox before!” I wanted people to see that foxes, although considered pests by farmers, are beautiful animals at heart and have feelings and fears too.

Millie slept on my bed at night, curling up on the pillow next to mine. My heart just melted when I looked at her and I wondered how anyone could willingly hunt these animals in such a barbaric fashion and willingly watch them being torn apart by a pack of dogs. Surely it would be better to humanely shoot foxes if they are killing livestock than hunting them in this way!

One night I went to get into my bed (Millie was sound asleep on her usual pillow) and I discovered a “puddle” on my pillow that had steeped into the sheets and duvets. Well, no, actually it was a lake! Millie had done a piddle on my bed!
After that I am afraid Millie was banished to the conservatory at night, where she did in fact have her own settee all to herself, plus the use of a TV. To this day she loves it there and firmly considers it her domain. If any of my dogs dare to go in there they are rapidly chased out by a Millie with her ears back, her mouth open and making little funny noises. If I go in there to clean it up she is chasing me around, jumping at my legs as if to say “Leave that alone, oh no what are you doing now, it was fine the way it was, oh no, you’ve completely ruined it all for me now!”

One time, Millie was probably about four months old when I discovered her passion for things in bags. I had been filling in a few holes in my garden using a bag of cement and had half a bag left. I rolled up the brown paper bag with the cement that was left in it and put it on the floor in the conservatory. The next morning I walked into the conservatory and I just could not believe the scene of utter devastation that awaited me, there was grey dust everywhere and I mean everywhere. The mess was colossal. And I looked over to Millie who I am sure looked at me as if to say “What? It wasn’t me it was the cats.”

It took me two hours to sweep, sweep, clean and mop the entire nine metres of flooring. I really did have to laugh though at the thought of Millie throwing that brown paper bag around in the night saying “Whee, look at me isn’t this absolute fun.” Wish I had had CCTV; that would have been hilarious to watch back.

It took me some time to realise that I would have to be so vigilant with the things I left out so most things had to be shut away or nailed down. On one occasion I did leave a brand new bag of cat litter (not opened) on the floor and Millie decided it would be great fun to tear the bag open and spread the contents everywhere. If ever I was unpacking shopping, no matter how quick I tried to be at getting everything in the fridge or cupboards I would invariably go into the conservatory and find a ripped open bag of watercress scattered all over the floor, a bag of peanuts…….

The funniest time was when Millie discovered how to open my food cupboard doors. I had come into the kitchen in the middle of the night to make a cup of tea and in the gloom I could just about make out “blobs” all over the kitchen floor. I turned on the light to see that Millie had decided that she would be helpful and make me a “carpet cake” with the proceeds of my food cupboard. These included an entire bag of sugar, packet of tea bags, rice, cup a soups, oatmeal, jaffa cakes and crackers. Nothing was salvageable. All the packets had been ripped open, the jaffa cakes had been chewed and spat out beyond recognition. I just swept the whole lot up and had to buy some new cupboard locks the next day.

Millie was spayed when she was six months old. The vet who did the operation said she had never operated on a fox before. I stayed with Millie while they injected her with her pre-med and then I went home. When I went to pick her up a few hours later the vet said she had been so good! Think the nurse wanted to take her home! She sat in her cage looking so sorry for herself and quite dopey. I had her spayed mainly to calm her wild urges down, since she will never be able to be released. She had to wear one of those “lampshades” for ten days and she was an absolute angel. She tolerated it so well. It was nice to have no pranks for ten days as she couldn’t get up to much mischief with that lump of plastic round her head!

After Millie was spayed, she started eating like a horse and began to put on much more weight. I discovered she loved tripe so I buy it by the lorry load now for her. She will also eat cat biscuits with great gusto and of course she still has a chicken wing every day.

My mum made Millie two little woolly coats, one red and one white. Because Millie loves it in the conservatory and its impossible to keep her warm out there that’s why she wears a coat, not that she probably needs it of course. I also bought her a gorgeous purple jumper one time with a fluffy collar and a pink jumper too. She moans at me and grumbles when I am fitting new outfits on her but despite her complaints she doesn’t and never has bitten me.
In September last year (four months after Millie arrived) I was given two kittens to hand rear. They were both just a day old, having been found in a puddle. When they were four months old I introduced them to Millie and they are now all the best of friends, often sleeping together and playing together. Sometimes when I give Millie a piece of tripe one of the kittens will literally take it out of her mouth and Millie lets her! I am then running after the kitten retrieving the tripe to give back to poor patient Millie!

Millie has a really sweet nature and I am truly blessed that she is in my life. If I hadn’t have experienced it myself I would hardly have believed that a fox could very happily live a domestic life surrounded by dogs and cats. I hope as I end this little story of Millies first year that I can continue to give her a happy and contented life.

And what has this story got to do with cryptozoology? Nothing. What has it got to do with overcoming peopl'es preconceptions about animals? Everything. I rest my case.

THE CFZ ARCHIVING PROJECT IS GO

Nearly fifteen years ago, in one of the first issues of our journal Animals & Men I made a manifesto promise. I promised to make our archive of press cuttings and articles available online, for free, to anyone who wanted them. Well, it has taken fifteen years, but today - in a small way at least - we started.



Exhibit One:


This is a picture of a certain Welsh ecologist slaving over a red hot scanner, as he slowly works his way through the CFZ archives. The picture was taken earlier this afternoon, and we are happy to say that the first fifteen scanned clippings from our voluminous archives of lake, sea, and river monsters, and other aquatic anomalies, are now available HERE

The more mealy mouthed amongst you will note that these cuttings are presented in a somewhat willy-nilly fashion. You would be right, but unkind to point it out. At the moment Oll is just scanning them, naming the subsequent files, and then uploading them to basic folders. What we would really like, in a few months from now when there is a significant amount of data with which to deal, for a couple of volunteers who have basic htm coding skills to offer to arrange them into some coherent order on a dedicated blog page.

We are hoping to get some trainees from the government's New Deal scheme, and have a hell of a lot of scanning completed within the next three months. So if you want to be involved in an interesting and useful project, now is your time to volunteer.

We will, of course be keeping you all up to date with the progress of the project.

GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD FREEMAN: Crocodile Cults. Part 3: Australiasia and the New World

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.

Papuans along the Sepik River in New Guinea credit the crocodile as the great creator of all things. He cased the first dry land to appear from the primal waters. He formed a crack in the earth and mated with it. From that crack, all animals and men came forth. When he opened his jaws, the upper jaw became the sky and the first dawn occurred.

The Itamul people also tell of how crocodiles roamed around the new earth founding villages. They carve crocodile heads on their canoes and statues of crocodile headed men.

Skulls of crocodiles are often kept in men’s cult houses and given offerings of betel nuts. During the initiation of Itamul youths into manhood, they are said to be swallowed by the primal crocodile who spits them out as men. Their shoulders and torsos are subjected to ritual scarification. These, to the uninitiated, are the marks of the crocodile’s teeth.

Crocodiles are powerful totems and the consequences of breaking the totemic relationship can be fatal. A well-known folk hero is Yali of Sor, leader of the Madang cargo cult. Whilst in the jungle a comrade of Yali killed a crocodile. Without the protection of the totem Yalis` friend became lost in the bush and died.

In Northern Australia there is an Aboriginal legend of how the crocodile first came into being. The story goes that a group of people were being transported across a river in a boat. An old man was waiting to be taken across the river. The boat came and went, picking up more people, but ignoring the old man. Eventually he became so angry he leapt into the water and turned himself into a crocodile. From then on crocodiles have always attacked boats.

The Gunwinggu people of Arnhen land believe that the Liverpool River was chewed out of the land by a giant crocodile who rose up inland behind the mountains and proceeded to munch his way out to sea.

Another Dreamtime story has the crocodile or Gumangan and the plover Birik-birik creating fire. The pair travelled together carrying with them the world’s only fire sticks that they rubbed together to create fire. One day they camped by a river and the crocodile decided to go hunting. The lazy plover declined to join his friend so the crocodile instructed him to make a fire whilst he was gone so that they could cook their meal.

When crocodile returned he found the plover asleep and no fire lit. He was so angry that he seized the fire sticks and threw them into the river. The plover quickly grabbed the sticks and flew away into the hills. From then on crocodiles lived near the water and plovers in the hills.

Oddly the bone-idle plover is thought of as the hero of this story for saving the fire sticks!

THE NEOTROPICS

The Olmec culture of Eastern Mexico had a crocodile deity. It was associated with good harvests. They seem to have passed on crocodile worship to other peoples. The Mayan god of death Ah, Puch was portrayed as a crocodile. Despite being a death god his image is also associated with crops. The Myans saw him as carrying the world upon his back.

Later the Aztecs still held the link between crocodiles and crop fertility. Their crocodile god Cipactli was an agriculture deity. Another crocodile god Tlaloc was thought to be responsible for bringing rain. This last facet is of particular interest when we remember how dragons are associated with the creation of rain and the control of water in the Orient.

William Homes, a 19th century anthropologist, lived with the Chiriqui tribe in Panama. He was able to trace the development of their ancestral crocodile god into a dragon like beast akin to the creatures of western myth. The monster decorated much of their contemporary pottery.

Further south the Montana people of Peru believe that carrying a crocodile tooth protects them from poison. Several tribes from the Pomeroon River basin in Guyana believe that they are descended from caiman. The story goes that the Sun was a keen fisherman and was upset that the fish in his ponds kept disappearing. He appointed the caiman to guard the ponds, unaware that the caiman was actually the one stealing the fish. When he discovered the caiman’s chicanery the sun slashed his back creating his scales. To make amends the caiman offered to give his daughter to the Sun as a wife. The caiman carved out a woman from a tree trunk. His friend the woodpecker hollowed out a vagina for the woman. When the Sun, a snake, emerged from the woodpecker’s hole he realised the woman was fertile. The carved woman bore the Sun twins who ultimately gave rise to humanity.

NORTH AMERICA

Only two species of crocodilian occur naturally in North America. The American crocodile, at the very north of it’s range reaches southern Florida. The American Alligator is more widespread but is still confined to the warm southeastern states. There is one well known legend among the Choctaw Indians.

There once was a man who had very bad luck when he hunted. Although the other hunters in his village were always able to bring home deer, this man never succeeded.

He was the strongest of the men in the village and he knew the forest well, but his luck was never good. Each time he came close to the deer, something bad would happen. A jay would call from the trees and the deer would take flight. He would step on dry leaves and the deer would run before he could shoot. His arrow would glance off a twig and miss the deer. It seemed there was no end to his troubles. Finally the man decided he would go deep into the swamps where there were many deer. He would continue hunting until he either succeeded or lost his own life. The man hunted for three days without success. At noon on the fourth day, he came to a place in the swamp where there had once been a deep pool. The late summer had been a very dry one; however, and now there was only hot sand where once there had been water. There, resting on the sand was a huge alligator. It had been without water for many days. It was so dry and weak that it was almost dead. Although the hunter's own luck had been bad, he saw that this alligator's luck was even worse."My brother," said the man, "I pity you." Then the alligator spoke. Its voice was so weak that the man could barely hear it. "Is there water nearby?" said the alligator."Yes," said the man. "There is a deep pool of clear cool water not far from here. It is just beyond that small stand of trees to the west. There the springs never dry up and the water always runs. If you go to that place, you will survive."

"I cannot travel there by myself," said the alligator. "I am too weak. Come close so I can talk to you. I will not harm you. Help me and I will also help you."

The hunter was afraid of the great alligator, but he came a bit closer. As soon as he was close, the alligator spoke again. "I know that you are a hunter but the deer always escape from you. If you help me, I will make you a great hunter. I will give you the power to kill many deer." This sounded good to the hunter, but he still feared the alligator's great jaws. "My brother," the man said, "I believe that you will help me, but you are still an alligator. I will carry you to that place, but you must allow me to bind your legs and bind your jaws so that you can do me no harm."

Immediately the alligator rolled over to its back and held up its legs. "Do as you wish," the alligator said. The man bound the alligator's jaws firmly with his sash. He made a bark strap and bound the alligator's legs together. Then, with his great strength, he lifted the big alligator to his shoulders and carried it to the deep cool water where the springs never dried. He placed the alligator on its back close to the water and he untied its feet. He untied the alligator's jaws, but still held those jaws together with one hand. Then he jumped back quickly. The alligator rolled into the pool and dove underwater. It stayed under a long time and then came up. Three more times the alligator dove, staying down longer each time. At last it came to the surface and floated there, looking up at the hunter who was seated high on the bank."You have done as you said you would," said the alligator. "You have saved me. Now I shall help you, also. Listen closely to me now and you will become a great hunter. Go now into the woods with your bow and arrows. Soon you will meet a small doe. That doe has not yet grown large enough to have young ones. Do not kill that deer. Only greet it and then continue on and your power as a hunter will increase."

The alligator continued, "Soon after that you will meet a large doe. That doe has fawns and will continue to have young ones each year. Do not kill that deer. Greet it and continue on and you will be an even greater hunter." Then he said, "Next you will meet a small buck. That buck will father many young ones. Do not kill it. Greet it and continue on and your power as a hunter will become greater still. " The alligator then said, "At last you will meet an old buck, larger than any of the others. Its time on Earth has been useful. Now it is ready to give itself to you. Go close to that deer and shoot it. Then greet it and thank it for giving itself to you. Do this and you will be the greatest of hunters."

The hunter did as the alligator said. He went into the forest and met the deer, killing only the old buck. He became the greatest of the hunters in his village. He told this story to his people. Many of them understood the alligator's wisdom and hunted in that way. That is why the Choctaws became great hunters of the deer. As long as they remembered to follow the alligator's teachings, they were never hungry.

GUEST BLOGGER COLIN HIGGINS: Fish and Myths: The Tench

One of my favourite guest blogs over the last few weeks has been Colin Higgins from Yorkshire, who - incidentally - was the winner of the compy in last month's `On the Track`.

His article on the burbot re-awakened lots of memories of my grandmother (who was a great fisherwoman, as the record breaking chub in the glass case in the CFZ Dining Room bears testament) telling me about this strange fish she had caught in Cambridgeshire in the 1920s.


He emailed me the other day and was full of thanks because I had posted his article. "Dude, it is me who should be doing the thanking" I wrote, "I enjoyed your article immensely. I don't suppose you could do any more for us?" To my great pleasure he did..
In his book on railway weirdness Crossing the Line the folklorist Paul Screeton makes the following observation on the subject of myths:

“Even to the extent of deliberate falsification and invention, such ‘lies’ of a people are not wholly gratuitous. They refer to some strata of communal reality where underlying fears, deficiencies, desires and dreams require exorcising or compensating…it can be a truth without tangibility.”

In an era where strident rationalism seeks to create a binary reality of right and wrong, correct and mistaken, true and untrue, fact and irrational belief, the quotation is apposite.

I am in no way anti-science - you should see how pro-medicine I am in a dentist’s couch awaiting anaesthetic for root canal work - nevertheless I am exercised by the way rationalism is expanding its real estate into ethics, religion and mythology.

I may struggle squaring a modern druid’s claim that he is continuing a lineage going back to the priestly class Caesar saw but support his right to say so, because if science drawn from testable data takes us forward as a species, suspending judgment on those whose beliefs differ from our own surely advances our humanity.

This may have little to do with fisherman’s myths but sometimes you need to get things off your chest and set the scene. Delving into such stories is to peer into murky waters which seldom lend themselves to clear outcomes. Anyway, I failed O’ level biology because I preferred the river bank to school.

Anglers are a superstitious lot. Even hard boiled, card carrying atheists are subject to all manner of instinctive calls on their objectivity when they get a rod in their hands. The vicissitudes of the endeavour, the riverside blanks, the soakings, the misfortune and the rare days of unmotivated plenty lend fishermen (and women) a view of nature as essentially capricious. Many species have been subject to angling’s animistic undercurrents. If Jon permits me I may explore others in future but shall begin with the Tench.

Before the modern era, which for the sake of argument began with the popularisation of specimen hunting in the 1970s, angling publications continued to propagate shibboleths that went back decades if not centuries. Dame Juliana Berners, prioress and sport fishing mother-superior wrote in A Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle (1496):

“A tench is a good fyssh; and heelith all mannere of other fysshe that ben hurt yf they maye come to hym.”

This is the first surviving description of tench as ‘the doctor fish’ a characteristic that’s been tossed around with varying degrees of credulity in angling books practical and nonsensical for as long as anyone can remember.


The reasons for the notion are hard to deduce. Tench are one of the last species to succumb to deoxygenating and I’ve watched them wallow in a silted, road-truncated, weed-choked canal whose only other fauna appeared to be Barbie dolls skinny dipping in its rainbow coloured pollutants.


The tench seemed to rub along together in the only area containing enough water to hold them; that doesn’t explain the myth of the fish’s healing skin causing other species to seek them out.

Other sentiments that have attached themselves to tench, such as the pike’s reciprocal avoidance of tinca tinca as part of its diet for medical services rendered are certainly untrue - tench have been found in many a pike’s stomach (along with rats, frogs, dog foetus, sand martins and even human embryo - but that’s another story).

The best visual evidence I can come up with is a passage by Dr. Tate Regan, icthyologist, in British Freshwater Fishes, (1911) quoted by Falkus and Buller.

“My friend, the late Dr Boedler Sharpe, told me that one day in May he stood on the bridge over the lake at Avington and watched a large Tench lying in the water below; a shoal of Perch swam up and lay round and above the Tench and appeared to be rubbing against him; on being disturbed they swam back under the bridge, but soon repaired again to the Tench and repeated this manoeuvre several times. The meaning of this is obscure, but there can be little doubt that observation of similar incidents has lead to belief in the healing powers of the Tench.”

Use of the pectoral fins in spawning is common to many freshwater fish, especially cyprinids and rubbing contains practical and possibly ritualistic mechanisms but I am at a loss as to why other fish might seek out tench for a quick rub. I welcome any theories or wild conjecture to help nail this one.

One undisputed characteristic of tench is they are growing exponentially, most likely due to the quantity of artificial high-protein ground bait used in still waters by anglers in pursuit of carp, tench and bream. Boilies, balls of exotic flavours mixed with egg and bread paste and boiled have seen the definition of a specimen tench virtually double in weight in my lifetime. The current rod-caught British record stands at 15 lbs and the majority of fish almost that weight have been caught in the last twenty years.

Traditional angling literature often explores the tench’s unseen nature and the still, unchanging ponds with which it’s associated. One of the best evocations of night fishing for tench was by ‘BB’ (Denys Watkins-Pitchford) in a magical passage where he counterpoints the bucolic surroundings with the bombers amassing overhead on their way to Germany.

Next time I shall look at the bizarre lifestyle and legends of the lamprey.

WHAT KNUCKLES DID NEXT...Trapped echidna released into the wild

Regular readers will remember that we have had some interesting contributions in the last week from an Australian lady who wishes to remain anonymous, mainly because her job involves the catching, euthenasing and dissesction of feral cats which are threatening Australia's increasingly beleagured native wildlife. She sent me some gruesome (but very interesting) pictures of a feral cat dissection that I will not be publishing, mainly because each morning as I prepare the day's posts I am usually having my vreakfast. However, she sent me a picture story, of three pictures, showing what happened when a non-target species - an echidna - was caught in one of the humane box traps...




GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD HOLLAND: A Wide World of Man-Monkeys

The CFZ blogging family would like to introduce you to a new guest blogger: Richard Holland, editor of Paranormal Magazine, and all round good bloke. He intends to be a regular visitor tho these pages, and I am sure that you will all agree with me that this will be jolly good news for all of us..

Of the many hobbies I inflict on my ever-dwindling bank balance is my enthusiasm for bound volumes of wonderful Victorian/Edwardian magazines like The Strand, Pearson’s and Pall Mall, stuffed full as they are of Golden Age illustration, crime and spook stories and contemporary commentary.

One of my favourites is Wide World, which first started publishing in the 1890s. Wide World was packed with adventure stories from the exploration (and exploitation) days of the British Empire, as sterling chaps with enormous moustaches forged their way through jungle, desert and mountainous wastes encountering indigenous peoples and, yes, monsters on their way.

I’ve republished several edited highlights from my Wide World collection in the ‘Unearthed’ section of Paranormal Magazine, many of a cryptozoological nature (or supernature). Two of these were devoted to what the editorial chaps of the early 1900s liked to refer to as ‘Man-Monkeys’. ‘The Hunt for the Man-Monkey’ retold an expedition to Borneo, which included the celebrated Rajah Brooke, to capture a Mai-as, described as an ‘extraordinary animal emphatically distinct from any other variety of the ape family [and] gifted with a really high degree of intelligence’.

Needless to say, rather than capture this splendid hominid, they end up shooting one (the accompanying illustration of the savage-looking beast was a Rider Haggard-style treat). ‘The dead body of the monkey having been skinned and the flesh removed,’ we are informed, ‘the skeleton was brought back to England, where it remains in the possession of the owner of the yacht who had organized this expedition.’ Frustratingly, neither the name of the owner or his yacht is vouschafed to us, however: does the skeleton still exist, mislabeled maybe in some private collection?

The other story referred to the Mudevar tribe, also known as Tiger People, who inhabited the jungles of the Cardamom Hills near the Southern India Malabar Coast. These hairy, dwarfish, ape-like people were entirely new to me. Like the Mai-as of Borneo, they are described as living in ‘nests’ high up in the trees. They used boluses to kill their game, which would include humans if they were lucky enough to get one. For this reason alone, we are informed by the translator of a hill-tribe chieftain’s yarn, they were cheerfully slaughtered by other tribespeople. I believe their former stamping ground has been largely cultivated now, all that jungle tamed. They must be long extinct, or, if they were human, absorbed into the more general Malabar gene pool.

I would be pleased to learn how well-known the Tiger People are in cryptozoological circles. Does anyone have any more information on them? And what of the Wild Man of Borneo’s missing skeleton? The Wide World does feature stories that are patently untrue or exaggerated, although I suspect the editors at the time may have been unaware of this. But the tales of the Man-Monkeys do have the ring of authenticity to me. So, over to the experts at the CFZ!

Richard Holland, Editor of Paranormal Magazineand Uncanny UK.