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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, April 01, 2009

NICK REDFERN: The Bear Facts

Things are getting very weird regarding yesterday's post about a bear seen in Rendlesham Forest. First we had the sighting of Jenny Pearce, who said: "I saw it moving through the trees ahead. It was much bigger than a dog. I picked up my son and left for the car straight away."

Then today, news surfaced that the tale of the bear was actually part of a publicity campaign by a theater production company that was putting on a version of Shakespeare's A Winters Tale - which includes a famous stage-direction: "Exit, pursued by a bear."

All well and good, except for the fact that (a) Jenny Pearce continues to stand by her account of seeing a bear-like animal in the woods; and (b) this is not the first time a large animal with somewhat bear-like qualities has been reported within Rendlesham Forest.

Sam Holland, for example, had a close encounter with just such a beast in the same area in 1956. I interviewed Holland in 2001, and published his story in 2004. So, there's no way his case can be connected to the current publicity campaign of the theater production company.

And for those who are interested, here is the text of my original Word document on Sam Holland's story :

"Shortly after New Year’s Day in 1956, Holland was walking through the woods with his spaniel dog, Harry, when he was horrified to see a bizarre-looking creature come looming out of the trees some forty feet in front of him.

"It walked upon four huge, muscular legs – ‘like a lion’s’ – and its thick fur coat was both black and glossy. Incredibly, said Holland, the animal was easily ten feet in length; and so could not be considered anything even remotely resembling a domestic animal, or a known wild beast of the British Isles.

"Holland recalled thinking for a moment that perhaps the animal was an exotic big cat that had escaped from a zoo or private estate; that is until it turned in his direction and he was finally able to see its terrible face.

"Likening it to that of a sliver-back gorilla, Holland said that the monstrous creature possessed a huge neck, widely flaring nostrils, and immense, powerful-looking jaws. For a moment or two, the animal looked intently at Holland and his whimpering little dog; then, seemingly losing interest, continued on its way and into the depths of the surrounding undergrowth.

"Holland would later explain that the creature looked like a strange combination of ape, dog, lion and rhinoceros. Needless to say, the British Isles is not home to any such animal that even remotely resembles the beast that Sam Holland says he stumbled upon. Yet he is adamant that his description of the monstrous entity and his recollections of the day in question are utterly accurate.

"Today, Holland believes that whatever it was that he had the misfortune to run into half a century ago, it was unquestionably paranormal rather than physical in origin. But from where, precisely, he has no idea."

Franky, this whole affair puzzles me a great deal. I have no doubt at all that the theater company's publicity campaign is indeed an integral part of the story.

However, that the company should have chosen a location for their campaign that was already home to a large, mysterious 4-legged beast that was seen back in 1956, is decidedly synchronistic in the extreme.

And what about the fact that Jenny Pearce still stands by her report of seeing a large, lumbering beast in the woods?

Is it possible that, in a strangely Fortean fashion, the theater company decided to embark upon its campaign at precisely the same time that a large, bear-like entity (perhaps related to that seen by Sam Holland) manifested in the woods?

Whatever the ultimate truth, I strongly suspect we have not heard the end of this story!

COMPLETELY IRRELEVANT PICTURE OF CUTE BABY OTTER


Robert Scneck wrote:

Hi Jon,
I promise not to make a habit of this, but a squirrel rescuer sent me the picture and it's pretty damned cute.


Talk soon

Robert

Well boys and girls, when you have had the crappy day that I have had, there ain't much that can make it any better. But pictures of cute baby otters help.

SHOCKING NEWS...

On this of all days the words Caveat Lector should come into play, especially when there is at least one mistake in the opening paragraph of the story:
The inch-long Christmas Island pipistrelle, which weighs about a tenth of an ounce, could become the first Australian mammal to become extinct since the Tasmanian tiger in 1930.

The last captive thylacine died in Hobart Zoo in 1936, and I am certain that I have heard of other Antipodean mammals going extinct in the intervening years (memo to self: Ask Dr Naish) but, a brief trawl around the Internet does support the story which can be found here:

http://ecoworldly.com/2009/03/30/with-only-20-left-australian-bat-could-be-extinct-within-weeks/

APRIL FOOLS

Well of course the panzer frog and the Hemel Hempstead BHM were April Fool's Day jokes. I have always enjoyed such frivolity and have been looking mildly forward to today for months. Chris Clark sent me the panzer frog months ago and I have been waiting for today to post it, and the Hemel Hempstead story just fell into my lap when I received a telephone call from a PR company trying to find a fun story with which to launch their new skislope.

But there have been other ones:

Jan Edwards sent me this:
http://www.naturescalendar.org.uk/findings/newbutterfly.htm
It’s not often you get a new species unknown to science, thriving in England. Currently in Kent, but how far has it spread?

The BBC, however claim that Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine, currently filming the TV adaptation of the late Douglas Adams' Last Chance to See have photographed a true cryptid:

First ever shot of the elusive shark-whale
Until now, scientists have regarded the shark-whale as a modern-day myth. See Stephen and Mark's sensational sighting of the half shark, half whale creature that had never been photographed before.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/lastchancetosee/sites/map/sea_of_cortez/mexico_sea/video/mexico_sea_sharkwhale

BHM REPORTS FROM HEMEL HEMPSTEAD

For immediate release: 1 April



SNOW JOKE

UK Yeti expert corroborates paw print find in Hemel Hempstead. Footprints belonging to the legendary Abominable Snowman have been found at a snow sports centre in Hemel Hempstead.

Since switching on snow cannons at The Snow Centre, workers at the soon-to-open development have noticed large paw-like prints appearing in the freshly made snow overnight.

David Wilkinson, technical manager at The Snow Centre who found the first prints, said: “I was just finishing grooming the main slope when I spotted a series of prints, what struck me though was how far apart they were. I grabbed a snow boot and was astounded to find it was much bigger than a normal print. I know we have some big instructors from Austria, but this is something extraordinary; this measures over a foot in length!”

The ape-like creature, AKA - The Yeti – is rumoured to tower eight foot tall, have a thick hairy body, and reside in the Himalayas. The last sighting of footprints was made in 2007 on Mount Everest and measured 33cm in length.

UK yeti expert Jonathan Downes, of the Centre of Fortean Zoology, said: “This is the most important evidence for the existence of ape men since the Georgia Big Foot body last summer. If this is true it will turn out to be the real deal and great news for Hemel Hempstead.”

The Snow Centre opens to the public in May – with or without Yeti.


YETI Factfile

* The Yeti is Tibetan for rocky bear
* There is dispute over the number of fingers and toes a Yeti has with sightings ranging from two to five on each foot
* The Yeti is nocturnal and rarely seen in groups of more than two
* The Yeti whistles and growls, can kill with a single punch and stands upright when it attacks
* The legend became widely known in 1921 when English explorers found tracks in the Himalayas
* In North America a similar creature has also been sighted called Big Foot or Sasquatch, fuelling speculation the Yeti is a worldwide phenomenon
* In 1953, Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay reported seeing large footprints while scaling Mount Everest
* The Yeti appeared in a British horror in 1957 called The Abominable Snowman

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/

Elbert Hubbards definition of the word editor was:

“A person employed by a newspaper, whose business it is to separate the wheat from the chaff, and to see that the chaff is printed.”

So, given all the chaff about it’s a good job that the CFZ news blog is around to help you find all the cryptozoology related news stories out there:

Fears after 'big cat' spotted near Worcester
Bear spotted in Rendlesham Forest
Bear sighting in Suffolk woods was 'promotional' hoax staged by theatre group
Kofi the sniffer rat
New theory on largest known mass extinction in the history of the earth
Bigfoot Continues to Outsmart Mankind
How Floss the runaway cow escaped capture for nine months and was saved from slaughter
And
Mythical Creatures - 16 June 2009

Be sure to order a first day cover of those stamps to make sure you don’t ‘myth’ them.
Speaking of stamps Karl Shuker’s fantastic dinosaur stamp catalogue is available here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dinosaurs-Other-Prehistoric-Animals-Stamps/dp/1905723342

COLIN'S CONJOINED PIKE COMMENTS

Hi Jon,

It's impossible to be sure from that photograph and I'm not familiar with the image but my instinct suggests it's two pike interlocked, so answer e.)

Pike attempting to devour one another and coming unstuck is a familiar theme in angling history and more than a few have been washed up having choked on similar sized esox. Some examples ended up being stuffed in the position they were found. Pike teeth face backwards so anything entering the jaws is difficult to reject. Also their gill rakers have sharp ends that can act as hooks which may have occured here.

The rope suggests the fish were carried through the gill covers for the table and may have just come to rest in that position.
I fail to see how a predatory fish survived to the size it has (the right hand one must be at least 20 lbs) when it relies on ambush and quick strikes for food. A co-existent twin hanging off the side at 90 degrees must be a bit of a disadvantage. Still, there are records of completely blind pike being caught in reasonably well fed condition and scavenging makes up a substantial part of esox diet.

Pike suffer from two fairly common abnormalities, coalesced vertebrae - which lends them a curious stunted appearance and a pug nose deformity, a kind of Arthur Mullard look with a shortened upper jaw and convex face, both a bit scary but I've never seen a Siamese one.

Best,

Colin Higgins

NO SQUAWK TILL BROOKLYN

I am always impressed by obscure websites.

I was looking for statistics on the ringnecked parakeets which are living wild in the UK when I came across http://www.brooklynparrots.com/ which is a site dedicated wto the feral parakeets of New York. I don't know whether it is purely because I am as mad as a bagful of cheese at the moment, but I find it very easy to get sucked into the dramas of other people's animal-related adventures.
I guess that blogs like this fulfil the same emotional niche for me that soap operas do for other people.

I was particularly pleased to read the account from last week of how the introduced monk parakeets are now receiving legal protection..

For the past year, I have been working with NYC Council Member Tony Avella (Queens) in sheparding a proposed resolution calling for the protection of wild Quakers in New York City, and calling upon the NY State Legislature to change the State Environmental Conservation Law adding wild Quakers to the list of "protected birds."At the Stated Council Meeting of Tuesday, March 24, 2009, this proposal became reality when Council Member Avella introduced the proposed resolution, Resolution No. 1872-2009, to the Council. The resolution was immediately referred to the Council Committee on Environmental Protection, where, it will be discussed, and then probably open to public commeNt.

When that happens, testimony may be called for, and I ask that those of you especially most expert with wild Quakers, stand ready and volunteer some time for testimony.

GUEST BLOGGER DR CHRIS CLARK: The Panzer Frog

Dwain Clement, 38, was driving home one night in 1998 along Interstate 318 in Minnesota when his car gave a jolt as though it had struck some object in the road. Dwain checked for damage, and then walked back to see what he had hit. He was surprised to see a small object moving across the road in regular spurts of a few inches at a time: he was astonished, when he picked it up, to find what was clearly a frog inside a shell like that of a tortoise. He put it back on the road and watched it, apparently unharmed, finish its journey across the highway and into the field, propelling itself by thrusts of its hind legs which gained it about six inches each time.

When he wrote a letter describing his find to the local newspaper, the Thief River Falls Monitor, a number of other readers wrote in giving similar accounts dating back to 1995. According to a local naturalist, Interstate 318 had been built across a migrating route used by amphibians going to the marshes during the breeding season to spawn, and there had been a high mortality rate amongst the local frogs and toads when the road first appeared at the beginning of the century. Despite several later reports, no examples of the armoured frogs have yet been examined by herpetologists.

This account of what is locally known as the ‘Panzer Frog’ raises interesting questions for evolutionary biologists. Are we seeing the expression of genes which have been silent in amphibians since the Carboniferous era, or is there an even more remarkable possibility? It is significant that the frog seen by Dwain Clement was able to finish its journey after an encounter with a car that would have reduced an ordinary frog to a green stain on the road. Is it possible that the death rate after the building of the road imposed massive evolutionary pressures on the frog population, so great that the benefit conferred by armour during this one perilous crossing outweighed its obvious drawbacks during the rest of the animal’s life? If so, it represents a remarkable instance of evolution producing major change in less than 100 years, and probably the first example of the motor-car affecting the evolution of a vertebrate.