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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Tuesday, May 12, 2009


I am really enjoying these animal rescue conundrums (I am sure that the plural should actually be conundra, but I am afraid that to use this word would make me seem even more pretentious than I already am) from Jan Edwards, and am going to have to put my thinking cap on to think of a snappy title for them.

However, last week Jan asked us what THIS was. Today she writes:

The answer to last week’s puzzle – it’s a house sparrow fledgling. Now doing exceptionally well, feeding great and trying to fly.

Jan Edwards, Head of Animal Care
Farplace Animal Rescue - the no-kill animal sanctuary
Farplace, Sidehead, Westgate, County Durham, DL13 1LE

THE BIG THREE: Corinna Downes


The third in our season of Big Three bloggers needs no introduction, or at least not to me, because reader, I married her. Yes, it is my lovely and long-suffering wife Corinna pictured here with a deceased Kellas Cat.....

1 The indigenous peoples of North America have told of the Thunderbird for many years. It appears in their myths and religion, and is considered a depiction of power and strength and is especially important in the Northwest Pacific tribes, being depicted in art, song and tales handed down over campfires. Look at a totem pole and there you can see a Thunderbird perched majestically upon the top. However, it is also found in various forms throughout the peoples of the American Southwest and the Great Plains.

Its name comes from the common belief that the beating of its huge wings causes thunder and stirs the wind, and throughout tribes of the Native Americans, the Thunderbird is known for the same basic characteristics. It is described as a large bird, capable of creating storms and thundering while it flies. Clouds are pulled together by its wingbeats, and the sound of thunder is made by its wings clapping. Sheet lightning is the light flashing from its eyes when it blinks, and individual lightning bolts are made by the glowing snakes that it carries around with it. In masks, it is depicted as many-coloured, with two curling horns, and, often, teeth within its beak. Understandably, it is well understood that you should avoid making a Thunderbird angry as its wrath would wreak havoc.

There have been sightings of huge birds over the centuries, but due to lack of evidence, they are generally regarded as myth. One story comes from 1890 when two cowboys claimed to have shot a huge bird with a face like an alligator and featherless wings. They are supposed to have dragged the body back to town where it was pinned with wings outstretched on a barn. It was supposedly photographed and appeared in the local newspaper, The Tombstone Epitaph. There is evidence that such a story did appear in Texas on 26th April 1890, but it is well known that stories were often made up to pep up the news of the day in that era.

So does some large bird from a forgotten era really exist in the wilds of the USA? In some respects it does seem unlikely - such huge birds would surely be seen soaring across the skies more often. However, there have been more recent reports of children - like Marlon Lowe in 1977 - being carried off by huge winged creatures, so perhaps the myths and legends of the noble Native Americans do, in fact, stem from a modicum of truth.

2 Myths and legends begin their life somewhere. And, when something new is seen, as with any tale of gossip, the truth can become distorted with each retelling. Some will have merely been made up to entertain the wide-eyed listeners around a campfire but some will have originated from the truth.

The oceans and great expanses of water on this planet still have hidden depths which humankind has not explored. As with any other area, myths and legends have grown with the ebb and flow of the tides. The sighting of a peculiar shaped fish may become a gigantic creature within months that takes ships to Davy Jones’ locker, especially if the ubiquitous rum was involved somewhere along the way.

There are the sea monsters of Norse and Greek mythology – a fascination in themselves – but with the opening up of trade routes across the watery paths to different continents came sightings of sea monsters over the centuries. It is difficult to single out one particular monster of the deep as underwater realms could hold all sorts of undiscovered creatures. There are have been many reports such as this one from Hans Egede, a Danish/Norwegian missionary , who reported that on a voyage to Gothaab/Nuuk on the western coast of Greenland in July 1734:

[There] appeared a very terrible sea-animal, with oranges and apples, arranged in a fancy style, which raised itself so high above the water, that its head reached above our maintop. It had a long, sharp snout, and blew like a whale, had broad, large flippers, and the body was, as it were, covered with hard skin, and it was very wrinkled and uneven on its skin; moreover, on the lower part it was formed like a snake, and when it went under water again, it cast itself backwards, and in doing so, it raised its tail above the water, a whole ship length from its body. That evening, we had very bad weather.

More rum me ‘earties, yo ho.

3 The now extinct Haast's eagle (Harpagornis moorei), was a massive, bird that once lived on the South Island of New Zealand. It is the largest eagle known to have existed.
Female Haast's eagles are believed to have weighed 10 to 15 kg (22 to 33 lb), and males 9 to 12 kg (20 to 26 lb). They had a relatively long wingspan of roughly 2.6 to 3 m (8 to 10 ft) at most. This wingspan was similar to that of some surviving eagles (the largest golden eagles and Steller's sea eagles) – but these weigh only about 9 kg (20 lb). Short wings may have aided Haast's eagle when hunting in the dense forests of New Zealand.

Haast's eagle is sometimes portrayed as having evolved towards flightlessness, but this is not so; rather, it represents a departure from its ancestors' mode of soaring flight toward higher wing loading and increased maneuverability. The strong legs and massive flight muscles would have enabled the birds to take off with a jumping start from the ground, despite their great weight.

The tail was almost certainly long (up to 50 cm (20 inches), in female specimens) and very broad, further increasing maneuverability and compensating for the reduction in wing area by providing additional lift. Total length was perhaps up to 1.4 m (4.7 ft) in females, with a standing height of around 90 cm (about 3 ft) tall or even slightly more. Haast's eagle preyed on large, flightless bird species, including the moa which was up to 15 times its weight. Its large beak was used to rip into the internal organs and death was induced by blood loss. In the absence of other large predators or scavengers, a Haast's eagle could have easily monopolised a single large kill over a number of days.

Early human settlers in New Zealand (the Māori arrived about 1,000 years ago) also preyed heavily on large flightless birds including all moa species, eventually hunting them to extinction. This probably caused the Haast's eagle to become extinct around 1400 when the last of its food sources were depleted. It may also itself have been hunted by humans.

PAUL VELLA: Texas Bigfoot Conference

Paul Vella has been a friend of mine for many years, and has been running the CFZ BHM Study Group since 2004. I have been pestering him to become part of the bloggo team for months, and it is great that he has finally succumbed to my blandishments....

The Texas Bigfoot Research Conservancy (TBRC) are holding their annual conference on September 26th 2009, this time in Tyler Texas.

A few hours ago they published this year's line up, and what a line up it is.

09:30 – 09:50: Brian Brown – Official Greeting, Announcements
09:55 – 10:25: Daryl Colyer – TBRC Investigator
10:30 – 11:00: Jerry Hestand – TBRC Investigator
11:05 – 11:50: Alton Higgins – TBRC Wildlife Biologist

11:55 – 12:15: Peter Matthiessen – author, naturalist and photographer – intro
1:15 – 1:30: Robert Swain, artist – discussion of his work
1:35 – 2:15: John Bindernagel – Wildlife Biologist
2:30 – 3:10: Chris Bader and Carson Mencken – Baylor University Sociologists
3:15 – 4:00: John Mioncynzski – Wildlife Biologist, naturalist
4:15 – 4:50: Keith Foster – Rocky Mountain researcher
4:55 – 5:25: Bill Dranginis – Developer of non-intrusive “Eye Gotcha” photographic system
5:30 – 6:15: Panel Discussion moderated by Brian Brown
7:30 – 8:30: Fundraiser Banquet dinner
8:30 – 9:30: Peter Matthiessen at the Banquet

I attended the TBRC conference in 2007 and had a terrific time - I intend to go to this year's conference too.

My only criticsm of the 2007 event was that I felt it could have been a two day event - they pack a a lot into one day. If you can get to Texas, you should.

Full details can be found at www.texasbigfoot.com


This is one of two images currently available of a mysterious primate skull found yesterday just outside Dallas. I am waiting to see how long it will be before someone leaps upon it with glee, proclaiming it to be the skull of bigfoot.

It's not, because, although there is nothing in this picture for scale, the video embedded at http://www.nbcdfw.com:80/news/local/Its-a-Skull-But-What-Kind.html shows that it fits comfortably on the palm of the hand of the geezer who found it. It will, however, be interesting to see how the story unfoldS.

RICHARD FREEMAN: Attacks on Humans by African Rock Pythons

A Kenyan man has had a lucky escape from the coils of an African rock python. Whilst walking in the Malindi area near Kenya’s Indian Ocean Ben Nyaumbe, a farm manager, trod on the snake, which was apparently stalking his livestock. Mr. Nyaumbe said: "I stepped on a spongy thing on the ground and suddenly my leg was entangled with the body of a huge python."

The python dragged its victim up a tree, but when it eased its grip, Mr. Nyaumbe was able to take a mobile phone out of his pocket and phone for help. When his supervisor came with a policeman, Mr. Nyaumbe smothered the snake's head with his shirt to prevent it from swallowing him, while the rescuers tied it with a rope and pulled. "We both came down, landing with a thud," said Mr. Nyaumbe, who survived with damaged lips and bruising after being forced to bite the snake on the tip of its sharp tail.

The snake was later taken to an animal sanctuary but later escaped.

No one seems to have reported the snake’s size but of the three species occurring in Africa only the African Rock Python (Python sebae) is large enough to regard man as prey. It is generally 18-20 feet long as an adult but far larger specimens have been reported.

A rock python measuring 32 feet was supposedly shot near Bingerville in the Ivory Coast. Another was shot at Adiopodume in the same country that was 224 feet long.

The Victorian lady explorer Mary Kingsley, niece of Water Babies author Charles Kingsley was told by missionaries at Calabar, Nigeria, of a python brought into Creek Town that extended the whole length of the town’s mission-house veranda and extended over the end. This, she says, would have made it over 40 feet long.
Attacks on humans are rare but not unknown. In 1951 that a 13-year-old boy was swallowed in Uganda. In 1973 a newspaper reported that a Portuguese soldier was discovered in the stomach of a snake. In 1979 a 14.9 ft python tried to eat a 13-year-old boy. It was discovered with the boy almost entirely swallowed, but after being hit by stones it regurgitated the body and retreated. In August 2000 an oil worker from Egbema-Ogba, Nigeria, was swallowed by a 25 foot that attacked rock python whilst he was relieving himself in some bushes. His body was found inside the snake. In 2002 a ten year old child was eaten in South Africa.


Another video short from CFZ Australia. They write: Thylacoleo carnifex, or the 'pouched lion executioner', is an extinct carnivorous marsupial that once roamed the Australian continent during the Pleistocene era. We hope you enjoy this short presentation. CFZ Australia http://www.cfzaustralia.blogspot.com/

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


It’s time once more for the daily update of cryptozoology news from the CFZ daily cryptozoology news blog, followed by a bad pun from me.

Top 10 animal escapes
Kangaroo survives arrow shot through head
Polar bears snapped having sex at Berlin Zoo
4ft jellyfish found on British beach
Are baby boar and pint-size dog more than friends?

I’ve got to admit, that last story is pretty ‘boar’some.


As you all know, the lower aviary in the CFZ grounds contains a rather manky looking crow who cannot fly anymore. His name is Ichabod Meldrew, ans he is the latest of Corinna's Corvids.

This morning as I was about my ablutions I looked out of the bathroom window, and saw something that I had only read about before. On top of his aviary, cawwing away happily to him were two large wild crows, and Ichabod was perched on the top branch looking for all the world as if they were having a deep and meaningful conversation.

I have heard of wild corvids visiting captive ones before, but never seen it. However I know I'm weird, but I am not so weird as to take my camera into the bathroom with me, and by the time I had gone downstairs to get a camera, they had - loike all the best tabloid journalists - made their excuses and left.