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, May 20, 2009

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today

Yesterday’s News Today

As I am on a diet I’m afraid there will be no biscuit of the week this week before the cryptozoology news round up. But don’t worry, to replace it may I introduce to you the fascinating fact of the week:

Lego is the world’s largest producer of rubber tyres.

And now the news:

Don't call them buffalo
Bison turn back the clock on a patch of prairie
A new Twist in Megafauna History
Russian tourists try to break Florida law having sex with porcupine
So ugly they're cute! - eagle owl chicks hand reared
Meet the real mutant ninja turtle!
Well that’s a ‘turtle’ innovation for you. (yes I know I’m ignoring potential comedy gold, but I honestly couldn’t think of a tasteful joke I could tell about the Russian tourists).

CFZ PEOPLE: Pat Delgado

Just in:

May 20, 2009
From Colin Andrews.
To those who know my friend and co-author Pat Delgado, this is a good time to please send prayers for him and his family. Pat is very seriously ill in Winchester Hospital, England.



Being a massive Kipling fan I was immediately drawn to the story of the white southern elephant seal spotted on a sub-Antarctic beach.

OK Kipling's hero Kotick was a completely different species, from a completely different hemisphere, but it isa a singular occurrence. Even more singular when, the BBC claims, it is the first confirmed sighting of such an animal.

Eared seals, which include sea lions and fur seals are more usually seen sporting unusual colours, but not true seals, a group which includes elephant seals. Details of the seal, which has creamy white fur but normal brown eyes and nose, have been published in the journal Polar Biology.

Do they mean that this is the first albino (or leucistic by the looks of it) true seal? Or the first white elephant seal? C'mon guys, we need answers.

OLL LEWIS: Phrustrations and Phun Phinding Pheasants

Oll Lewis, the Welsh dude who lives in my spare bedroom, who also happens to be the CFZ ecologist, and Richard's assistant as far as looking after the CFZ menagerie is concerned, is rapidly becoming one of the most popular bloggers on the network.

Since I joined the CFZ I have been given many missions to carry out, but as it turned out none were quite as frustrating as my latest one. On the face of it the job of locating two pheasants suitable for the CFZ aviary seemed like a simple task. How hard can it be, I mused, to ring up a breeder to get a list of what they have in stock ask about any possible discounts relating to the fact we are a not for profit organization and present said list to Jon for his perusal before we hop into the CFZ mobile to select our pair. As it turns out incredibly hard, what I thought would be a short easy task has taken up a large portion of yesterday and is still ongoing as I write this blog.

The first stumbling block I came across was in dealing with a certain pheasant conservation society. They had, according to Jon, assured Emma that they would be sending us a list of local pheasant breeders in Devon and buoyed by this Jon had paid around £30 to join them and gain access to their private internet forum which was supposed to be a hotbed of pheasant/conservation activity. A few days later we had heard nothing from them so as the curtain raiser to my pheasanty quest I was to contact them and remind them about their earlier dealings with us to get them to send off a list to us as they had promised. No such luck. When I telephoned them the phone was answered by a most befuddled sounding lady, who denied point blank having ever heard of us or even being aware that anyone had paid any money to join their organisation. One example of how frustrating this conversation was when I introduced myself as ‘Oliver Lewis from the Centre for Fortean Zoology’ and she insisted that she didn’t have anyone by that name there, and another was when she asked her colleagues if they had received any phone calls from the zoology department of Aberdeen! Well this was all starting to get stupid, I know for a fact that I don’t have a strong accent, there have been times when English people have even been surprised to find out I was even Welsh, so clearly something was up with her phone line at the very least. Eventually, god only knows how, I got her to promise that she would check the records to find the record that we had paid for membership and send off an email with our username and password and the list of local pheasant breeders.

In the meantime Jon had acquired the phone number of a nice chap called Alan who breeds the pheasant species we most wanted, Temminck’s Tragopans, so I called him. Pheasant Alan, not to be confused with our friend and local publican Alan Lindsey who owns the local pub and comes into this narrative later, was very interested in what we were planning and even offered us a discount on a pair of Tragopans. There was a slight problem with this though; the birds hadn’t hatched yet and would be ready in November. This was certainly a setback as we needed to get the pheasants as soon as possible, not only so that visitors to the Weird Weekend (remember, buy tickets in advance to save money) will be able to see them but so we can make absolutely sure that the pheasants are used to Woolsery’s changeable weather before autumn and winter arrive.

While I was reporting this to Jon he received an email from the afore-mentioned conservation society with our log-in details and the list of local breeders. Except it didn’t have a list of local breeders at all, only the suggestion that the quickest way to obtain this information was to make a post on their forum. The trouble with this was that the forum there moves at a snail’s pace and would appear to only have 3 members. So their lofty promise of a list of breeders was a bit of a damp squib and it was up to me to scour the internet and yell.com to find pheasant breeders.

Finding pheasant breeders on google is not the easy task it might seem; you have to wade through hundreds of pages of details of pheasant shoots and some stuff which to be completely honest you can’t work out what possible connection it could have with pheasants at all. For example, to the best of my knowledge, Rasputin had no interest in the breeding and rearing of pheasants and although Tron is a fantastic movie I don’t recall a light cycle race between two pheasants (be great if that appears in the sequel though). Anyway, eventually I managed to track down a few breeders and started to phone them up to find out their prices. However, many of them refused to answer their phones, had I only tried to phone at lunch time or after 5pm I might have been able to understand this but one breeder I’ve been trying to contact since yesterday to no avail. Another problem that came up was that most breeders only have pheasants available from the autumn, this was the case with one breeder in Somerset that Max found for us. The fellow’s advert stated that he had grouse available, however this turned out to be a (ho-ho) grouse exaggeration as the man insisted he didn’t have anything available and didn’t sell grouse anyway, despite what the advert said.

Another ‘highlight’ of the day included me telephoning a Welsh language school in Cardiff that presumably some rapscallions that were being taught there had posted onto the internet as being the phone number of a pheasant breeder. I managed to get in contact with one pheasant breeder that did have some interesting birds available there and then but when I tried to call back I just couldn’t get hold of them.

However, 6pm came and it was time to nip up to our local pub, The Farmer’s Arms, to feed special pellets to some of the fish we have housed there and perform water tests. It was there I started relating my tale of pheasant related woe to the landlord Alan Lindsey. To which Alan responded:

“There’s a fellow that comes in here, that’s the biggest pheasant breeder around for miles, he’s got hundreds of them. I’ll pass your email on to them if you like.”

So, after all that it might turn out that we get pheasants from just up the road. Stay tuned for future updates on the search and please send us an email if you know any pheasant dealers.

THE BIG THREE: Georgina Edwards

It is always a pleasure to welcome a new guest blogger, but this is a special pleasure, because it is the first time that we have had two generations of guest bloggers in the same family. Georgina, who was pivotally involved in the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau during the glory years, is also the mother of bloggo regular Fleur Fulcher.....

First how to define cryptid, and then how to define favourite, well - mm? Let's see - I'm told a cryptid is either and animal that should be extinct but isn't , an animal that might have existed ,but might not or an animal that definitely exists but is in the wrong place. ( no anti - immigration comments please !). And favourite, is that the one I like best or would most like to see re-established?

For me the best of all has to be Mokele Mbembe. To start with it ticks the most important box, it is supposedly huge! ( note - why don’t we get excited about crptid ants ? - oh well I suppose Max would ). To imagine a gigantic sauropod stamping about in the steamy forests of Africa, gobbling up all the veg for miles round is just too good to be true, it would be better if it was gobbling up all the humans of course but you can’t have everything. Roy Mackal mounted an expedition to find this chap but had as little luck as when he was looking for Nessie.

I don’t know why, but ever since I read Tim Dinsdales’ The Leviathans which must be at least forty years ago, one story in particular has stuck in my mind. It is an account of some Soviet geologists who were, in 1953, on an expedition to the Sordongnokh Plateau in Eastern Siberia. It is an area even today that is very sparsely populated, in 1953, the nearest inhabited spot to the lake in question was 75 miles away. What the geologists saw was a beast whose head measures 6ft across with wide set eyes, it had what seemed to be a dorsal fin on its’ back which was swept backwards. It was grey in colour with two light coloured patches on the side of its’ head. It moved through the water in a series of ‘leaps’ . On enquiry , the inhabitants of the Plateau confirmed that they knew of the beasts existence , it had taken hunting dogs and once chased a fisherman’s raft. They called it the ‘Devil’. Maybe a giant crested frog ? - Makes crested newts look a bit lame !!

One Russian scientist said that the plateau was covered in swamps, where long red moss grew. He thought this was the bog moss of the tertiary period and that maybe some fauna from that period still existed there. (CFZ expedition fodder?)

One further thought, for my third cryptid I have decided on an animal that was common in this country up until the late 1960s. It hung on in rural areas during the 70s and 80s. But now I think you would be hard put to find it except maybe on a few Scottish islands. This animal was often to be found in the woods, where it often made dens, and especially by streams and muddy areas. Although it would usually return to the family nest for its’ nourishment, it would often graze during the day on berries, nuts, apples etc. - I am of course talking about the country child. The country is still there, the children are still there - what has changed.

Is it stranger danger? We’re told that most abuse and harming of children is committed by friends and family. Why can’t we let children roam the countryside as they used to. Children today must read Swallows and Amazons with disbelief. For those of us privileged to live in the countryside, why have we robbed the young of our species of their birthright?


More gallinaceous jollity to keep me happy during the long summer evenings...

AUBREY: The tale of the albino garter snake

It is always a pleasure to introduce a new guest blogger. This is Aubrey - the sculptor and artist from Canada that we talked about a week or so back. He specialises in fantastic cetacean sculptures, and the other week we showed you a video of the progress of his work on a fantastically detailed fin whale skeleton. Now he joins us as a blogger...

As a young boy I spent many a day hunting snakes in Southern Ontario. I vividly recall returning home on a good day with a sack full of Garter, Ribbon and Dekay Snakes. The hunt had my Friend Robert and myself drudging through ravines, swamps, creeks and open meadows in search of our prey.

The stories I recall are numerous the snakes many.

One such story was set in early spring of 1973. Equipped with nothing more then a blue gym sack to hold our snakes and a few apples we set out on the hunt. Our destination was Black creek pioneer village set in North Toronto.

Briefly, Pioneer village is a recreated Victorian community from the 1860's. Outside the gates of this park (village) remained a few cellars from homes long past. The basements were nothing more then pits after more then a century of erosion. But it was in these pits that Robert and I found our prey. Sliding into one of these pits we found ourselves up to our ankles in snakes. A green mass of slithering flesh. The stench of moss and the secretions from the snakes was overpowering. The ground below us moved in all directions. This spring ritual found hundreds of males all seeking the affections of one solitary female. This mass of snakes is called a Mating Ball.

We then went about selecting the biggest and healthiest snakes available. We quickly filled our bag with snakes then set off home. The snakes that were taken from this ravine would be relocated to others. We got the idea from watching Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. Starring Zoologist Mel Perkins along with his sidekick Jim Fowler.

Upon returning home the snakes were stored in my friends backyard, where his father built giant pens for us to house our snakes. At any given time I would say we would have several hundred, of all sizes, colors and species. Our greatest catch was a two-headed garter that was around four feet in length with a rather bad disposition.

After a long day of work I would then return home. I smelled so incredibly bad that my mother would make me almost strip down in the backyard before entering the house. She also would insist that I take a bath, which at 15 I thought I could do without.

Many years have passed since then but at 51 I still can't walk by a log without taking a peak beneath. About a year ago shortly after moving into my new home in Whitby, Ontario, I discovered a local ravine. It was quite heavily treed and bush filled. Working my way down to the river I walked gingerly for about 20 minutes before discovering among the bulrushes and a rather large swamp some fallen logs. After shifting several of these logs all I came upon were some crickets, toads and one little field mouse.

About to give up I then noticed a large piece of bark lying untouched in the grass. Lifting this large piece of bark I was left looking straight at a huge albino Garter snake. It was one of the largest snakes I ever saw and the first albino ever. I estimated its size to be over 4 feet long. Reaching for the snake he lashed out at me biting my hand. The bite is more surprising then painful. Most people don't realize that garter snakes have small teeth no fangs and are not venomous. His strike landed between my thumb and first finger drawing blood. It then darted for some tall grass. Grabbing it by its tail, it tangled its body into the grass, this is a defensive mechanism these snakes use making it hard to extract them. Not wanting to hurt it I released my grip.

This beautiful and very, very rare white snake disappeared into the undergrowth silently like the ghost it looked. I hope to hunt for him again this year only this time with my camera in hand.

TONY LUCAS: Moa Feather follow up

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....

As you may well remember, if you have been keeping up with the blog, a few weeks ago I wrote to Jon regarding a Moa feather that was for sale on the Internet auction site "Trademe".

I decided to conduct an investigation into whether this was a genuine Moa feather, which if it was would have proven the Moa was still around in the late 1800s, or whether it was a very similar Emu feather. After some investigation I found an anomaly at the bottom shaft of the feather which seemed to indicate a secondary feather which would definitely indicate emu as it is the only bird in the world which has this double feather configuration. My suspicions aroused I tell the seller to take it to the museum which they did and visually identified it as Moa, they also wanted to send a small portion away to be DNA tested. I advise the seller strongly to do so which he duly did.

I decided to follow this up the other day and wrote to the seller, with the merest slimmest of hope that it was indeed a Moa feather.
I received his reply last night, and regrettably for both him, he was trying to get the money together to buy a house, and I, it turned out to be a 100-year-old emu feather.

The one thing I've learned from this is not to take things at face value but to investigate everything thoroughly, there was apparently an American buyer interested as well as a large auction house.

So hopefully through a little research I have saved all parties involved a lot of embarrassment.

Who knows perhaps the next item to appear may well be the genuine thing, what a discovery that would be. Until then I'll continue to keep my eyes open but not take things at face value.

NEIL ARNOLD: Crypto Stories From The Illustrated Police News Part Four

I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a mod schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...

From 1873 – AN ENCOUNTER WITH A SEA DEVIL: ‘We have received from the mate of an English trading vessel a rough sketch of “a monster of the deep”, known by the title of a “Sea Devil” attacking a fishing smack. We are informed by our correspondent that he can vouch for the truth of the strange encounter, which is briefly described in the paper he forwarded…(Japan Gazette April 23)…The apparently exaggerated description of the Sea Devil in The Toilers of the Sea loses much of its impossibility in one’s mind after an inspection of a huge cephaloped now being shown in the house near the temple at Asaksa, Yedo. It seems that a fishing boat was seized by its tentacles whilst off the village of Kononoto, in the district of Kisarazou, and that the boatmen killed the creature by repeated blows. Its length from the tail to the insertion of the tentacles is about sixteen feet, one of arms is from the junction of the body to the sucker at its point nearly five feet. It must be borne in mind that the polypus has shrunk since its death, so that living it would probably measure considerably more. After this, even Bishop Eric Pontoppidau’s kraken stories are almost credible.’

From 1876 – A SPONGE DIVER SWALLOWED BY A SEA MONSTER: A very terrible story reaches us from the Holy Land. There can be no doubt that in the depths of the sea there exist uncouth fantastic monsters, which like the Great Sea Serpent and Devil Fish, are only seen occasionally by mariners. It is difficult to persuade some persons that there is any truth in the story of the Sea Serpent. Nevertheless it seems most improbable that so many witnesses can be found to vouch for the truth of the statement. The monster depicted was seen by some score of persons or more. Mr T.S. Jago, Her Majesty’s Vice Consul at Beirout, in his report of the trade of Syria in 1875, states that the crop of sponges were very deficient, in consequence of the appearance of a sea monster, alleged to equal in size to a small boat, in the neighbourhood of Batroun, Mount Lebanon, the chief sponge fishing locality. The actual injury done appears to have been confined to one man, but as he was “swallowed whole”, according to the testimony of his fellow workers, there was such a fright among the divers that many of them ceased operations, and the deficiency in the quantity of sponges obtained ran prices up.’

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Do you want news? Do you want cryptozoology related news? Do you want cryptozoology related news featuring dancing penguins? You want too much, you’ll have to make do with just the cryptozoology related news I’m afraid. Still there is a chubby hedgehog in it so that makes up for the lack of dancing penguins:

Dragonflies face uncertain future
‘Giant’ shrew lived in Sierra de Atapuerca mountains nearly a million years ago
Secret of Komodo dragon's bite unlocked by scientists
Velcro petals help bees hang on
Cat food diet helps fat hedgehog
Scientists hail stunning fossil
Tall story: Scientists fail to get to the bottom of giraffe evolution

Why was the giraffe late? Because he got caught in a giraffic jam.


Plans for this year's event are gathering momentum, with just one major guest left to confirm. A few weeks ago we went to the British Cichlid Association bash in Redditch and jolly good it was too.
But there was hardly anyone there.
Organisers blamed the recession, and they blamed the internet. Both of these are probably quite true accusations, and it is very probable that both are responsible for the sad decline in attendance numbers at events.
Until now, the Weird Weekend has got bigger with each successive year. I will make no secret of the fact that I am worried about this year's event. Ticket sales are only slightly lower than they were last year, and I am pretty sure that these numbers will be made up by people buying tickets at the time. But there is less money about than there has been in previous years, and many people are facing an uncertain financial future.
However, I hope that despite that, people still dig into their pockets and come to the Weird Weekend. Because it is an important event; not only is it an event where the cream of cryptozoological researchers from around the globe can be seen under one roof, but it is a genuinely life-affirming event where something magickal happens.
People of all walks of life, of all ages, and of all backgrounds come together for a common goal. New friendships are made, new alliances forged, and new relationships formed. It would be a great pity if it went the same way as so many other events. So, dear friends, I am going to do my damndest to make sure that this doesn't happen.
Gimme your support.

LIZ CLANCY: Bees Make Honey

It is always nice to be able to introduce you all to a new guest blogger. Possibly the nicest thing about the CFZ bloggo is that it is a living, breathing community, and new people arrive on a regular basis. I can't tell you anything about Liz, apart from the fact that she bought some books from us at Uncon, briefly spoke to Richard, and had a charmingly old-fashioned habit of referring to me as `Mr Downes`, when everyone else calls me `Jon` or `Hey You` (or somethimes something more scatological), until I told her not to. She is obviously one to watch...

There's a more immediate problem with the shortage of honey bees than impending Armageddon. I and many like me rely on local honey to cure symptoms of asthma and rhinitis because often conventional medicine is just not good enough (believe it or not you can overdose on a reliever inhaler, which is easy to do when the recommended two puffs fail to make you breathe).

I bought my honey from a shop in Rochdale for years until last year the beekeeper was forced to retire when ALL the bees in his hives died or deserted. For months I struggled as he was the only beekeeper for miles (supermarket honey, for some reason, can make things worse). I recently found another beekeeper a little closer to my home but who charges a fortune because his bees, too, are dying off and he's struggling to make ends meet.

I would urge all CFZ readers to follow the advice in yesterdays article (http://cryptozoologynews.blogspot.com/2009/05/bee-population-collapse-could-be-saved.html or see Oll's link to is in "yesterdays news today" post) in order to help honey bee populations to rise. It's not difficult and will help not only those with respiratory and other health problems but also the whole of life on Earth if the worst case scenario we've been told of is to be believed.