WELCOME TO THE CFZ BLOG NETWORK: COME AND JOIN THE FUN

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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Monday, February 02, 2009

The Weird Tale of the Weardale Wolverine

We have been in contact with Jan for ages, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her aboard, not only as a guest blogger, but as a Co. Durham representative for the CFZ. With Davy Curtis already at the helm in the country, the two of them will make a dream team par excellence...

The winter snows lay deep and untouched on the high moors of Weardale. It was dark – a thin crescent moon, shrouded in snow-laden clouds sailed high in the heavens, but other than my car’s headlights, this was the only light for miles.

I’d stopped several times on that single track road in the middle of nowhere, mostly to let the odd disgruntled rabbit hop out of the way of the car, and once to wonder at the pure white ghost which was a barn owl hunting along the verge.

It’s a road I know well. The wilderness it runs through is home to many species, but other than the occasional rabbit, people don’t notice just what’s “out there”.

If you sit quietly surrounded by the cotton grass at the height of summer, you’ll hear the silver song of the skylark, and if you follow the notes into the sky, you may be fortunate to see the tiny black dot which is the small brown bird singing his heart out.

There are brown hares, adders, short-eared owls, Merlins, Hobbys, buzzards a-plenty and, if you are really fortunate, red kites, eagle owls and once, a golden eagle.

One summer’s day I braked hard to avoid a fleeing rabbit... only to hit the stoat which was chasing it.

That night, however, nothing stirred but the rabbits, until I’d reached the little pine wood at the top of the moors. As I turned the corner, and started the long decent back into the valley, a strange creature ambled along in the car headlights. I’d seen it before, and I STILL didn’t know what it was.

It was the size of a large boar badger, but with longer legs. It’s tail was bushy and help almost straight out from its spine. It was various tones of brown and tan. And it ran like a weasel.

Now... it was too big to be a mink an otter or a pine martin, bigger too (and the wrong colour) for it to be a racoon (although I DID see a racoon in Cumbria) so, either this beast was a large odd-coloured badger, which carried its tail wrong... or it was a wolverine. I followed it in the car as it ran down the centre of the road. It was touching 25mph, and I got the feeling it wasn’t even trying. After 50 yards, it jumped over a dry stone wall and into a field, where it disappeared into the night.

Of course it left no discernable tracks on the road, and I couldn’t get into the field, so I left it to go its own way, and promised to return the next morning with a camera.

As so often happens, it was several days before the weather cleared enough to make driving on the moors a viable option. There was no sign of the beast. I asked a walker if he’d seen anything unusual, but he’d seen nothing all day... (typical!)

It’s been 2 years now since I saw it, and although I’d seen the creature several times previously to that beautiful night, I never did see it again.

GUEST BLOGGER MAX BLAKE: By the way, which one's pink?

GUEST BLOGGER MAX BLAKE

In the last year we have met a number of frighteningly intelligent young people who look certain to overwhelm the CFZ over the next few years. One of the youngest, and most frighteningly intelligent is Max Blake, who is the youngest speaker at the forthcoming Weird Weekend. He will be talking on the subject of how unknown animals, smaller ones at least, sometimes turn up in the pet trade. Today, however, he waxes lyrical on the subject of a new Galapagos iguana (and manages to get a Roger Waters pun in there). I am sooo proud of him!

It appears that Darwin, my hero though he is, missed something when he visited the Galápagos Islands in 1835. He did not explore the Volcan Wolf volcano on the island if Isabela, and thus a stunning species of pink land iguana was overlooked, which may provide evidence of the ancient animal's diversification in the archipelago.


The pink “type” was first noticed by park rangers on the slopes of Volcano Wolf on the island of Isabela in 1986, but it was thought to be only a colour morph or an external environment influenced change and it was not investigated further. 14 years later in 2000, scientists began to examine it, and came to some interesting conclusions. This was the only home of the "rosada" iguana, a newly identified species of the land iguana Conolophus.


Genetic analysis of the rosada and other species of land iguanas has been performed by Dr Gabriele Gentile of the University Tor Vergata in Rome show that the rosada iguana originated in the Galápagos more than five million years ago, and diverged from the island's other iguana populations whilst the archipelago was still forming. Interestingly, the Wolf volcano has been radiometrically dated to be only 350,000 years old, so the rosada iguanas had evolved before the volcano was created.


The iguana’s population has been estimated at around 100 individuals, making the species critically endangered.


Needless to say, this is a tiny amount of knowledge for such a stunning animal and more research on its habits needs to be done. Its numbers appear to be declining, so something needs to be done now to save this animal.

THE ARCHIVING PROJECT:The second trenche of aquatic cryptoclippings is online


The other day we told you about how Oll Lewis is hard at work on the long awaited CFZ Archiving Project. He is still hard at it, and the second trenche of downloads is now available. They include stories on Lake Van in Turkey, various sightings at Loch Ness, as well as odd aquatic stories from the west of Ireland, and from Tasmania.

Download them for free: HERE

GUEST BLOGGER TIM MATTHEWS: STINGRAY STINGRAY!!!

Tim Matthews is one of my best friends, and also - coincidentally - one of the most controversial figures in contemporary forteana. He has been involved with the CFZ for nearly a decade now, raising eyebrows wherever he goes.

I am always surprised at the relative ease with which some scientists, no matter how small their budget, continue to make amazing discoveries. Whilst watching a National Geographic documentary featuring Biologist Dr. Zeb Hogan (1) I was impressed not only by the man’s obvious dedication to his work but by his sheer enthusiasm and hands on approach to his quest to find legendary huge Stingrays - said by seemingly credible locals living along the Mekong Delta in Cambodia to be up to eight metres in length - and oversized catfish in the river. These had also been seen and reported by locals, the sorts of people who scientists would, until recently, not have taken much notice of.

It seems that Gerald Durrell was correct in his introduction to Heuvelman’s On The Track where he argued that by ignoring locally produced evidence for Cryptids we are missing the best evidence for their existence, location and modus operandi.

Despite Hogan’s obvious suitability for the role of Discover General - and his obvious similarity in style to Dr Mark Van Roosmalen - he is not doing anything that we couldn’t do. He spoke to locals, engaged with them, visiteda local market, spoke to fishermen and built up the best picture he could locally. True, finding a village where the local delicacy was the Tarantula was somewhat disturbing (!) but he took it all in his stride, even when several of the beasties decided to go for a walk all over him!

His simple approach seems to have paid off. He had a small team, a local translator, one camera (by the look and feel of the programme) and a limited budget. (I am reliably informed that the budget for such productions often comes in at less than $25,000 from cradle to grave and this from a Hollywood film producer colleague of mine for whom I have worked in the recent past.) Within a few days, Hogan was up to his neck in the Mekong’s waters fighting a giant catfish in a net, caught by local fisherman in a stationary bag net. This megafish was indeed huge weighing some 500 pounds (230 kilos) and was later released. (The largest of these was captured in 2005 and weighed 646 pounds!)

Not to be outdone, Hogan has also gone after the Giant Stingray and I am fascinated to learn that these, the largest freshwater fish in the world, are elusive, cloaked in mystery and that little is known about them. Indeed, they have only been studied in any detail for around the last 20 years. Their natural habitats in Cambodia, Thailand, Borneo, New Guinea and Northern Australia have been degraded by harmful human activity in recent times and that’s another reason for Hogan’s project to hunt them. Some reports put these mega fish at a length of 16.5 ft (5 metres) and a weight of 1320 pounds (600 kilos). They’re dangerous too, with poisonous barbs that can severely wound a victim.

In April 2008, Hogan hit pay dirt when he, with a group of local fishermen located a Giant Stingray of 4.3 metres in length near the Thai city of Chachoengsao along the river Bang Pakong. Remarkably, the ray had just given birth and its offspring was found clinging to its mother’s back.

These examples suggest to me that although time is perhaps short for some of these vulnerable species, they are there to be seen if we plan effectively and use the best local knowledge available. It should also go some way to silencing the negativists who claim that there is nothing new to be found because if Hogan can do it from his position within the scientific mainstream we understand that he is not using magic, but basic science combined with common sense and, perhaps, a little bit of luck.

The game is still afoot……
...............................

(1) Hogan now leads a new National Geographic Society project to identify and protect the world's largest freshwater fishes.
--------------------

More news on those New Zealand bats

Bats attack unlikely
03/02/2009 5:16:01


A man who specialises in investigating unusual claims involving animals believes two men in Rotorua were more likely to have been attacked by birds than bats. The men were walking home along Amohia Street in Rotorua early yesterday morning when they say they were bitten by a flock of bats. They jumped into a taxi and the driver later went back to the street and says she saw about a hundred bats roosting in trees.

Cryptozoologist Tony Lucas says it is a bizarre situation. He says the two species of bats in New Zealand are the size of a mouse and are generally very shy. He does not believe the mammals would have the strength in their jaws to cause any damage to humans.

Mr Lucas says the chances of spotting the bats, let alone being attacked by them is incredible. He says they usually favour forested areas, not suburban streets.



There is also video footage of the story:




GUEST BLOGGER TONY LUCAS: NZ Bat attack has sinister implications..

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. This lunchtime we posted a story that Tony aent us about bats, but now it is spreading, and - as Tony says - this is all beginning to look rather sinister. I, for one, am beginning to agree with him, and I have a sneaking suspicion that this story is going to run and run, and that it will have some ramifications that we never considered when we first decided to print it....

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/4835601a23881.html
http://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/41691/rotorua039s-039batman039-jokes-about-close-encounter

In all honesty I am somewhat concerned by this as there are some strange things happening here. Normally the gardens in this area are swarming with aphids this time of year, they are a yearly bane of the roses, this year there isnt one. Besides them there are no Praying mantis and usually they are comming into the house on a regular basis at night.

The waxeyes - smallish birds that regularly come through in the mornings are just not here this summer. This is not just happening locally Ive checked in other areas of the country with the same results. There seems to be some kind of breakdown in the foodweb.
Bees are also very scarce.If these are Bats and they have come into a town area they could be looking for food as they are insectivorous. There has never been a year like this, lack of insects, extreme temperatures like we have never had; here in Hastings yesterday we had 38.4 C, totally unheard of, we get up to 33 maybe on a couple of days in summer but this heat seems to be on going with no sign of rain whatsoever.

All very unusual

regards
Tony Lucas
NZ Cryptozoologist.

GUEST BLOGGER RICHARD FREEMAN: DID YOU SPILL MY PINT?

Guest Blogger time for Richard Freeman again. He has, as regular readers will be aware, been away from the CFZ for a week or so now. This is where he explains why...


The last time I lectured at the Alum Ale House, South Shields, Tyne and Wear (in the North of England, for those of our readers unfamiliar with British geography) the cellar bar was a dingy, damp, bare. Now redecorated the new landlord Tony Shawcross is hoping to turn it into a 'Fortean Bar'. This is such a great idea that I don't know why it hasn't been thought of before!

Sure there are 'Wine Bar Forteans' in London who gather to dismiss all phenomena as subjective, and as states of mind, but there was nowhere for real hands-on researchers to gather, listen to talks, and swap information. Until now. Together with my old mate Mike Hallowell, I lectured on the opening night of the cellar bar. It was packed to full capacity, and all the tickets had been sold. Mike gave a short talk about the monster lobster of Trow Rocks. This little known cryptid is supposedly a ten foot long arthropod that has been seen close to Marsden Bay (also home to the Shoney, the infamous sea-dragon of the North East coast).

Seen both on land and in the water, this weird beast is unlike anything else reported from the UK or even the world for that matter!Mike has postulated that it might be a Eurypterid, a giant arthropod believed extinct some 280 million years. Alternatively, he says, witnesses could be viewing the beast through some form of `time-slip`.

After this i gave my lecture on the CFZ's 2008 expedion to Russia in search of relict hominids. Both talks were very well recieved, and there was a Q+A session afterwards. Rounded off with a buffet, and an evening of drinking, it was an excellent night. Mike is aranging monthly talks in the Cellar Bar, and I wish them every sucess.
Fittingly the bar is suposedly haunted. The joiner who worked on the cellar's refurbishment saw somthing in a mirror he was erecting. It was supposedly so horrific, he refused to talk about it.
Perhaps it was his own reflection.

GUEST BLOGGO FROM NICK REDFERN: Completely Off Topic but..

As surreal as it may sound for those of us who lived through it, today marks the 30th anniversary of the death of Sex Pistols bass-guitarist, Sid Vicious. 30 YEARS! Of course, in reality, Sid could play the bass about as good as I can pilot the space-shuttle. And the biggest mistake the band ever made was parting ways with original bassist Glen Matlock. But the important thing about Sid was that he looked the part, with his sunken cheeks, sneer, spiky black hair and leather-jacket. But, of course, it all got very dark when Nancy Spungen came on the scene, and Sid ended up as nothing more than a useless heroin junkie, doomed to fail and die - which is precisely what happened. Despite what some have said, there was nothing glorious about Sid's demise.


There was none of that "I hope I die before I get old"-style romanticism. It was all about someone who got in too deep with some very dark people, who got dragged down, and who ended up dying while trying to live up to an image that was, basically, just that: an image. But, it was without doubt that image which defined much of late 1970s punk-rock, and left a mark in musical history that is as recognizable today as it was 30 years ago. So, today, let's all raise a glass to poor old Sid. What else can I do but quote from a bloody good sing: "Oh, You Silly Thing..."


THE NEW EPISODE OF `ON THE TRACK` IS ONLINE...

THIS MONTH'S TOP TEN....

When I was a teenager and the charts still meant something, I and my friends would wait agog for the tuesday morning (I think it was) when Tony Blackburn on Radio One would read out the top 20. Oh how we thrilled to the news that T.Rex or David Bowie had another hit. Oh how we booed when someone like Perry Como struggled into the Hit Parade. What was an old git like him doing alongside our glitter cheeked idols?

Thirty five years on, and I have no ideas who is at number one, nor do I care. I am looking forward to hearing the new Morrissey album, but I have no idea what his chart placings are gonna be.. nor do I care.

However, CFZ Press now have enough titles in our roster to make a monthly sales chart viable. I would never have thought of compiling one if it hadn't been for requests by two of my authors, and a surprising number of punters. So, by popular request, here is the Top 10 for January...




UK



1. Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker
2. Island of Paradise by Jonathan Downes
3. In the wake of Bernard Heuvelmans by Michael Woodley
4. Big Bird by Ken Gerhard
5. Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker
6. Monster! by Neil Arnold
7. Dark Dorset by Mark North and Robert Newland
8. CFZ Expedition Report: Russia 2008
9. Dragons: More than a Myth? by Richard Freeman
10. The Owlman and Others by Jonathan Downes



USA

1. CFZ Yearbook 2009
2. Dr Shuker's Casebook by Dr Karl Shuker
3. Extraordinary Animals Revisited by Dr Karl Shuker
4. Monster! by Neil Arnold
5. CFZ Expedition Report: Russia 2008
6. Man Monkey by Nick Redfern
7. Big Bird by Ken Gerhard
8. Dark Dorset by Mark North and Robert Newland
9. Dinosaurs and other Prehistoric Animals on stamps by Dr Karl Shuker
10. The Owlman and Others by Jonathan Downes



I suppose then, to go back to my original analogy, with multiple entries in the charts someone has to be Bowie, and someone has to be Bowie. But who is the Perry Como? And who is the Chicory Tip? So just for fun, here is a competition. A free copy of your choice of a book from these charts to the most libellous (or appropriate) pop singers from the arly 1970s who's analogues can be found amongst the nine different authors that can be found in our CFZ best-deller list...

NICE ONE MATTY

We just got an email from Matt Osborne. Apparently this map appeared alongside a BBC headline "Wildcats seen Nationwide". As he wrote, `it is a very cryptozoological headline for a very political story`.


The wildcats referred to are wildcat strikes which have shown once agin how our present government has misjudged the mood of the people. The story reads: "Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said wildcat strikes in protest at the employment of foreign workers were "not defensible". Hundreds of workers staged unofficial walkouts on Friday over the use of foreign staff at Lincolnshire refinery"


I wish that the wildcats seen nationwide were actually Felis sylvestris because it would mean that the indigenous Englsih wildcat would not have been persecuted to extinction in the 19th Century, and the riddle over its precise taxonomic status might then have been resolved.


But that is another story.....