And now its time for Richard Freeman, my closest collaborator in the CFZ. WEe have been working together now for thirteen years, and lived together for much of that time. He is the Zoological Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology and an all round good egg...
No prizes for guessing this would be my number one choice. Dragons and their literal existence is somewhat of an obsession with me. But `wait` I hear you cry, dragon legends worldwide are probably based on a number of different creatures. Well yes, in that sense I suppose this choice is a bit of a cheat. The dragon is indeed many things in many lands.
- In Europe it is a bat-winged flame spewing, knight devouring monster with scales of steel or a poison-spewing serpent large enough to coil about a hill or crush a church.
- In Asia it is an antlered celestial rain god whose breath brings life.
- In Africa it is an elephant devouring, blood-sucking monster with a crested head.
- In Australia it is a swamp dwelling, man-eating lizard from dreamtime
- and in the Neo-Tropics it is a feathered serpent that brought music to mankind.
But what of the dragon today? Dragon sightings still occur around he globe. Asia in particular has a rich tradition. From eyewitness accounts I have built up a picture of a serpentine monster of vast length. It has scales of dark green or black that have rainbow sheen like oil on water or crystals refracting light. It has a head shaped like a horse’s in outline with an errectile crest on top. Some witnesses speak of four short legs and two bat-like wings. It appears to be some kind of huge reptile.
This creature has interested me ever since I saw he famous film of ‘Benjamin’ as a boy. It looks just amazing, a wolf with stripes that is actually a marsupial! Like everything else in Australia it is wonderfully weird.
Called the healthiest extinct animal in the world there have been over 4000 recorded sightings since he date of it’s supposed ‘extinction’. These have come not just from Tasmania but from mainland Australia and also New Guinea. It has been seen by a zoologist and a park warden and has also been filmed. How many other cryptids can boast that? The late Peter Chappell (an excellent zoologist and bushman who had seen the animal himself) showed me a frame-by-frame brake down of a thylacine filmed in 1971. It was no fox or dingo.
If only one cryptid exists then this is it. Not only is it the most likely to exist it is also an icon of conservation and mankind’s inhumanity to his fellow creatures. A magnificent beast.