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, March 26, 2009

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Here we go, its CFZ news blog update time.

Mr Hyena can't be late for dinner
Nuisance gerbils are being put on the pill
New Species Found In Papua-New Guinea
Newly discovered frog in Papua New Guinea
Endangered and Adorable
Rare Octopus Fossil Found
Man Frees Trapped Fox In Fence
Hopefully the fox didn’t take o’fence’ at being trapped so long.


My witticisms were completely lost on a surprisingly large number of the CFZ bloggofolk, because when I included a pleasantry about `yellow bellies` in my email post to Usenet yesterday, I had several e-mails asking what I meant.

In fact that is not true. I had several e-mails asking what I meant, two saying non comprende senor, and one saying "Oi. What the *****ing ***** was I ****ing well talking about?"

So I had better explain

The CFZ have indeed just taken delivery of a breeding group of yellow bellies, but they are the yellow bellied girardinus (Girardinus falcatus ), a small livebearing fish from Cuba which are distantly related to guppies.

The reason that we have them is part of our outreach projects, trying to breed them for our static displays.

However, I have always been fond of fish from the family Poeciliidae, and I do not really need much excuse to keep them

I have been keeping livebearing toothcarps since I was a small child when I used to catch feral guppies and gambusia in the catchment ponds of the stream that flows down from Victoria Peak to Pokfulam Reservoir on Hong Kong Island.

But the amusing thing about these fishes is that they have a strikingly similar name to one of Heuvelmans' original nine sea-serpent types as delineated in In the Wake of the Sea Serpents (1968)

He described it thus:

"A sea animal of very great size shaped like a tadpole. Usually of a very striking yellow colour marked with a black stripe along the spine, and black transverse bands along the sides. The huge flat head merges imperceptibly into the flat fusiform body, and the tail is extraordinarily long and tapering"

Fusiform, by the way means "having a spindle-like shape that is wide in the middle and tapers at both ends." (I didn't know either)

So my pathertic attempts at humour failed monstrously. However I am very fond of my little fishies, and intrigued by the crypto yellow belly which I think is a strange colour form of the whale shark, and Richard thinks is a colonial salp colony.

Watch this space... (perhaps)


MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Giant Pike and a Weird Whale

Richard Muirhead is an old friend of the CFZ. I have been friends with him for 40 years now, since we were kids together in Hong Kong. He is undoubtedly one of the two best researchers I have ever met; he and Nigel Wright both have what Charlie Fort would have no doubt called a wild talent; a talent for going into a library, unearthing a stack of old newspapers, and coming back with some hitherto overlooked gem of arcane knowledge. Twice a week he wanders into the Macclesfield Public Library and comes out with enough material for a blog post..

For some reason the early years of the Macclesfield Courier were full of stories of somewhat unusual behaviour by aquatic creatures both inland and on the open waters within and around the British Isles. For example:

“A pike was lately caught in Windemere Lake of 30lbs weight: but a larger was once caught in the following extraordinary manner:- A calf belonging to a gentleman at Hawkshead was heard to make an uncommon noise by the side of the river,and on going up to it,there was a large pike seen hanging from its nostrils,which it is supposed the fish had seized while the calf was drinking. The calf had dragged it about fifty yards from the river,and the pike was killed with a stone. It weighed 45lb". Macclesfield Courier July 24th 1813.p.2

“A whale,nearly 30ft in length, was lately brought ashore in the neighbourhood of Irvine,in Scotland.” Macc.Courier August 7th 1813.p.2


Maxy was out birdwatching yesterday, and he got three snaps of this peculiar looking cormorant.

Now we know that cormorants do flaunt white head feathers in the breeding season. One authority (the URL at the bottom of this page) writes:

"Both subspecies acquire white heads prior to breeding, with some evidence that older birds have whiter heads. As an illustration, in a colony in coastal France comprised entirely of P.c.carbo, 92% of early breeders had white head feathers, while none of the later breeders showed this feature. The white head fades from egg-laying onwards, so while P.c.sinensis may average more white filoplumes at its peak than P.c.carbo, this is not a reliable character since it is dependent on the stage of breeding.

Perhaps one reason why it has been tempting to record white-headed birds at inland sites as P.c.sinensis is because only a proportion of birds in any breeding colony show the characteristic".

Now we had always thought that cormorants were cormorants, (unless they were shags) but it seems that there are two distinct subspecies jostling for our attention.


Has lots more information, but does not get us any further in identifying this bird, whose fine white head plumage and what appears to be a yellow chin, seems far more marked than any other images that we have been able to find. Over to you guys...

Maxy had a particularly good day birdwatching (I could make twitching jokes but I won't), seeing two sorts of egret as well as some other goodies. Expect a full report on his blog in the next few days, although with his A-Levels looming it is not unsurprising that his postings are a little erratic at the moment.



After my request for any information about a British Sunday paper article from the 1970’s, describing an expedition into a previously unexplored jungle region, Richard F sent me this great piece detailing the British Trans-American Expedition from 1972.


It’s extremely interesting, particularly the bit about the chap with appendicitis, but overall, I feel that there too many details that just don’t fit. For starters, the Trans-American campaign involved a large team of people, and overland vehicles. The article that I remember reading described a small group that were trying to negotiate virgin rainforest which was so dense that they had to cut their way through, surely rendering the use of cars impractical.

Also, the Trans-American trip took the expedition across a large chunk of South America, whereas the team that I read about were only exploring a single--albeit very large--part of the jungle which had so far proved inaccessible. Giant spiders are certainly mentioned in the Trans-American report, but are not given any special attention, certainly not to the point of being photographed to give evidence of their great size. In the article in the Sunday paper, the picture of the monster spider appeared to have legs at least a foot long, making it considerably larger than the ‘dinner plate’ dimensions described in the Trans-American article. Other strange creatures, such as the frog that rolled downhill are not mentioned at all by the Trans-American
team, but were one of the main points of interest in the Sunday paper story.

The bit about the guy with appendicitis does seem amazingly coincidental, could it be that stomach trouble was a common complaint among 70's jungle explorers? Could it have been people connected to him that saw the giant spider and kept it to themselves until they got
home? I doubt it somehow...

So while the Trans-American expedition does seem tantalisingly close, I’m sure that the article that I read described something else, some other journey into mystery that I sincerely hope will be solved soon. So if anyone has information of any kind, don’t be shy……

While we’re on the subject of past recollections, does anyone remember a British children’s TV series from the earlier part of the 1970’s called either Great Mysteries, or Unsolved Mysteries? It was on the BBC, and was presented by Magnus Magusson, before he did Mastermind. It
was on for about six weeks, each edition dealing with subjects such as sea serpents, ghosts, and ancient curses. I remember the sea serpent edition with great clarity, as it included clips from Harryhausen’s The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms. It was the first programme I ever saw that
explored Fortean themes, and I loved it. Does anyone else have memories of it?

DALE DRINNON: Giant Eels; Marine division:

Heuvelmans' "Super-eel " was a dustbin category but did contain good reports of evidently local, well-defined forms of outsized eels. The specific categories included a giant conger about 20 feet long seen off of Singapore (Heuvelmans indicates Charles Gould as a source and multiple local sightings), a type of "camoflage" eel in the Mediterranean and a much larger form with fins at the side of the head like a titanic conger with a characteristic dark top and light bottom (unlike the smaller forms). In the 1970's, I statistically separated the category and called the larger well-defined form Titanoconger and the smaller conger-like form Megaconger; the two apparantly are also different in habitat and coloration. I leave Heuvelmans' "Camoflage" eel the way it was without further comment. The more clearly-defined animals were the ones with eellike fins behind the head, but there was also evidence of a different giant eel with a blunter head and an unusual bichir-like set of backfins, but this was not so clear [The St. Olaf creature would be in this category and the original SITU document suggested the name Pluripinnium].
James Sweeney in his book Sea Monsters also indicates a well-defined form of Giant green moray, 20 to 30 feet long and centered around Fiji.

Similarly the reported sea monster that allegedly attacked Brian McCleary and companions rafting off of Florida in 1962 may have been a similar type of giant green moray eel in a completely different location.

The rest of the reports are difficult to categorize. However, once the sorting had progressed to this stage, it became evident by statistical comparison that the "?LN?SE" category had the proportions of the Longneck's neck and not the proportions of the forepart of a Super-eel's body. The eellike forms are much thicker cylinders per length, the thickness typically being 1/10 to 1/12 of the total length. A good number of Heuvelmans' longer-bodied reports in this category turned out to be wave patterns as in the many-humped and super-otter categories.

The Pauline case merits special attention. In checking this report, it became evident that ALL the mesurements were very severely off. Three male sperm whales were seen together, and each one was not only large, each one was unusually large. This statement alone is highly suspicious, given what is known of sperm whales. In order to be constricting the whale with two coils of its bodyand have 30-foot sections in front of this and after,the eel does indeed have to be 140-160 feet long; other commentators have not done the math on this. The original writer also evidently said "girth" (circumference) for diameter, unless the diameter was actually intended to have been less than a yard.

The dismissal of the Dana leptocephalus as a notacanth fish was premature: the reported conformation of the fins definitely did not correspond to that classification. In any event, the determination was made on paperwork when the actual specimen had gone missing. This opinion does not deserve the air of authority it is often given in the literature.

Giant eels, Freshwater division:

When he was advancing the theory that the Loch Ness monster was a giant eel, Maurice Burton noted several reports of river monsters that were like giant eels in Britain and on the continent, seemingly France and Germany. Sometimes, these were reported with doglike heads and serpentine bodies. no individual reports and no further details were given. These might be the same as similar reports from Scotland, Ireland and possibly Scandinavia, but these are mostly in the small "Monster" size range, 10 to 30 feet long. These would include animals called Horse-eels, Bethir and Lindorms. Occasionally, the conger-like small fins behind the head are noted and definitely described as rayed fins, hence they must needs belong to the Osteichthys. The number of segments in these fins seems to be about the same in the larger and smaller congerlike forms (8-9 rays being consitently cited)

Similar "eel" reports in a similar size range are mentioned as coming from Eastern Canada, including a report by a diver in Lake Memphremagog. Very Likely reports of "Primor'ye snakes" in far Eastern Siberia are also of the same sort.

James Sweeny[ibid] was told by Dr. MacGregor of Loch Ness investigation of the remains of a purported giant eel 40 feet long found in a lake in Uruguay, but it is safer to call this an outsized Anaconda, even though the reported length is unusual. There is no indication that any of the local witnesses knew enough to accurately identify the skeleton of a giant eel.

There is as so far no direct connection between saltwater and freshwater reported forms of giant eels. The freshwater reports are however consistent with the "Megaconger" category, averaging 20-30 feet long with a more or less even overall medium graybrown coloration.

PS, Heuvelmans In The Wake of the Sea Serpents is the primary source. My statistical analysis was my own work, of course. Eberhart should indicate most of the rest: Burton's reference was written before he did his book on the Loch Ness Monster.


At last the new feature-length documentary from CFZtv directed by Jonathan Downes and produced by Richard Freeman.

In the summer of 2008, five British explorers from the UK based Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ], the world's largest mystery animal research group, fly to the mountains of southern Russia, just weeks before the region erupts into war..

They are searching for the almasty, a semi-mythical apeman, that the team believe could be man's closest relative; an evolved descendant of Homo erectus. Along the way they have many adventures, and several members of the team are nearly killed on more than one occasion.

With music by Gogol Bordello and Jonathan Downes. We wrote to Gogol Bordello's management, and were overjoyed when they wrote back saying that we could use the music as long as the movie was "non-commercial". Well, it is completely non-commercial, and like every other film from CFZtv, it is out there purely because this is a good thing to do. However it is mildly amusing to note that Gogol Bordello are doing two films this year - one with Madonna, and the other with the CFZ!


This following item has been posted across the internet. I do not know whether it is true or not, but if it is true it is disgusting:

"I have received some very alarming news regarding the RSPCA’s decision NOT to treat any wildlife, Hedgehogs included

The RSPCA's new policy ( because of lack of funds due to the credit crunch) is to euthanise ( KILL!!!) all wildlife taken to them or picked up by them

They will not pay for any wildlife to be taken to a vet or wildlife rescue centre and inspectors & ACO ( Animal Collection Officers) have been told to kill all wildlife they get instead. The Inspector or ACO has to get specific permission from the duty Chief Inspector for the region/group BEFORE considering any treatment or rescue/rehabilitation of any wildlife. This is all to do with saving money. The Chief Inspectors are instructing euthanasia for almost everything.

I am really worried that RSPCA staff are being told to kill sick, injured, orphaned hedgehogs and all other wildlife. If they become ill, no matter how minor or easily treatable the illness or injury is, they will be automatically killed regardless, without even being fully or properly assessed. Even if just cold, hungry and underweight. What about those just waking up from hibernation? They are all just thin and weak, nothing else wrong with them.

The big worry that I have, is that a member of public rings the RSPCA control centre. The call centre staff don't know that a different policy is now in place. They take the call, pass it to an ACO or inspector. The inspector or ACO report back to the Control Centre saying the call has been dealt with. The public won't know that "dealt with" means euthanised, instead of taking the animal to a vet or wildlife hospital for care and attention.

I can understand that the RSPCA has financial problems. It is totally unacceptable to use Euthanasia because of a decrease in their funds.

We must all protest about this decision by the RSPCA.

It is now even more important to tell as many people as you can to feed and look after hedgehogs in their garden. We need to keep them healthy. Once they become ill, that is the end of it. They will not be treated or saved any more.

Please spread the word, ask all your friends and family to support their local wildlife hospital and local carers.

Please do NOT ring RSPCA for wildlife. Contact your local carer or wildlife centre"

We have since received the following comment from a RSPCA volunteer:

"No of course its not true. Where do they get these stories. For a start members of the BVA and some other vets do not charge to see wildlife during working hours and we have 3/4 HQ run wildlife units who take wildlife along with many branch homes and volunteers and fosterers. Go put them straight for me please if you get the chance"

Now, we cannot leave a rumour like this. In recent years the RSPCA have done a lot of things which do not overly impress me, and their attitude towards captive exotic animals does, in our opinion, leave a lot to be desired. But I cannot bring myself to believe that the above statement can possibly be true.

I would like as many readers of this blog as possible to telephone 0300 1230721 and ask for the Wildlife Centre Administrator, or telephone the advice line: 0300 1234 555. Politely ask them for a comment on the above allegations. Then tell us what happened.

If it is true then the result of enough people telephoning them on the same day to ask about this policy, will give them a `shot across the bows` that such a policy is unacceptable from an animal welfare organisation, in which the British people have put their trust. If not true, then it will alert the RSPCA to the fact that their current PR is not working, and that in the public eye they have changed from a relatively benign organisation, into a rather sinsister Kafkaesque one that - on the whole - people no longer trust.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Its time for the daily update on cryptozoology news from the CFZ daily cryptozoology news blog, which is packed full with crytozoology news. But before that there is the further ado of biscuit of the week. This week I received an email from a young lady called Mimsy Carbon-Footprint of Skinning Grove which I quote here for reasons that will become apparent:

“Hi Oll,

Just dropping you a line to say how much I enjoy reading your column every day with my granddad Buster Fridgemonkey. The highlight of our week is gathering around our monitor screen to read what the biscuit recommendation is, I then drive to my local supermarket and buy 10 packets least we run out during the week. It’s my grandfather’s birthday this week and it would make his day if his favourite biscuit, the iced gem, were the biscuit of the week.”

Well Mimsy, as a special favour to your granddad this weeks recommended biscuits are iced gems. Now for the news:

Big Batch Of Komodo Dragons Hatches At Zoo
The lynx effect?
Russian bigfoot expedition postponed due to weather conditions
Woman called Nutt over-run by squirrels
Antique giant bird's egg on sale

Well that’s ‘cracking’ I wish I had enough money to ‘shell’ out for that, it’d be ‘egg’celent if we could get one of those for the CFZ museum.

Snow leopard in Poland...

This is fairly peculiar. Polish TV news claiming that a snow leopard is roaming the country wantonly killing pigs, and that the spokesman from the zoo claims that human lives may be at risk.

There are no known records of snow leopards attacking people (of which we are aware) and they are secretive hunters rather than the blatant behaviour described in the film...