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, October 15, 2009

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Mylodons in New Zealand? Surely not!

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.

Dear folks,

No, you are not hallucinating and no, it isn`t April 1st. Whilst reading Gavin Menzies`s book 1421: The Year China Discovered The World (2002), which I mentioned in conjunction with a giant tortoise in Hong Kong, I came across comments about once-living mylodons in New Zealand!! The following is a copy of the notes I made about a year ago on this subject:

(This is the reason I made enquiries about New Zealand cryptozoologists in my blog the other day.)

`Several years ago…I made an interesting discovery, which may be relevant to the history of New Zealand`s fauna. Menzies`s theory is that huge Chinese vessels set forth from their home to reach much of the world, including South America and New Zealand via the east coast of Australia. Menzies says `The Chinese would have had to claw their way back against the current;[in the Tasman Sea] as they did so, at least two of the great treasure ships were lost. The wreck of an old wooden ship was found two centuries ago at Dusky Sound in Fjordland at the south-west tip of South Island. “It was said to be very old and of Chinese build and to have been “there before Cook” according to the local people.(1)

This Chinese voyage would have taken place c.1421

Furthermore : “Even more bizarre was a story,also reported to Collector of Customs in Sydney when the Sydney Packet returned home in 1831. One of the ship`s gangs which had been stationed in Dusky Sound told of the discovery of an enormous animal of the kangaroo species.

The men had been boating in a cove in some quiet part of the inlet where the rocks shelved from the water`s edge up to the bushline. Looking up they saw a strange animal percing at the edge of the bush and nibbling the foliage. It stood on its hind legs, the lower part of its body curving to a thick pointed tail,and when they took note of the height it reached against the trees,allowing a metre and a half for the tail,they estimated it stood nearly nine metres in height! The men were to windward of the animal and were able to watch it feeding for some time before it spotted them. They watched it pull down a heavy branch with comparative ease, turn it over and tilt it up to reach the leaves it wanted. When it finally saw them, the animal stood watching the men for a short time, then made one almighty leap from the edge of the bush towards the water`s edge. There it landed on all fours but immediately stood erect before making another great leap into the water. The men were able to measure the first jump and found it covered eighteen metres. They watched the animal plough its way down the Sound at tremendous speed, its wake extending from one side of the Sound to the other. (2)

Menzies, commenting on this, says, “The animal described corresponds in size, posture and eating habits with the mylodons the Chinese could have taken aboard in Patagonia. Perhaps a pair escaped from the wreck, survived and bred in similar conditions to their home territories in Patagonia-the latitudes are the same. Sea-otters, which are not indigenous to New Zealand but, of course, were kept in the Chinese junks to herd fish, have been seen swimming in the fjords of South Island. (3)

Forty three years later,the Otago Witness reported on `Notes of the Luna`s trip.` on April 11th 1874, thus:

There are two things, however, mentioned by Cook on which little reliance can be placed. One of these is that the sailors reported seeing a four-footed quadruped, with a bushy tail,in the bush, and from this statement of the sailors Cook concluded that there were land mammals at Dusky Bay. What this animal the sailors saw was, I know not.(4) Cook visited New Zealand in 1772. So if Menzies is to be believed, mylodons were supposed to have survived in New Zealand at least 351 years between 1421 and 1772,not to mention up to at least 1831.

Part two will examine his claims of living mylodons further, otters on South Island, New Zealand, and other alleged animal travels from China`s vessels to other parts of the world.

1.R.Gossett New Zealand Mysteries (1996) p.31

2. R.Gossett Ibid. pp148-149

3. G.Menzies 1421 The Year China Discovered The World (2002) p.173

4.Otago witness Issue 1167 11 April 11 1874 p.10


Richard Freeman has just sent me this email from Dally Supriyatna, one of the guides to the recent expedition. We print it completely unedited, as it is a remarkable testament:

Hi All

here I send information of Orang Pendek

Orang Pendek still in near of Gunung Tujuh, on October, 5 2009,

There was hunter of bird were looking for bird, they were from Siulak Mukai Village, Orang Pendek who found at near Gunung Tapanggang (near our camp or we saw Orang Pendek), but the people were walking went to Tandai forest,

beside on information from those people, they saw Orang Pendek big body, long hand, and walk like human, black skin colour and silver,

those people gave the information to me on October, 8 2008, when those peopl still was in forest they saw Prang Pendek about 4 minutes, 10 meters from them,


Blog Action Day on Climate Change

Gavin Lloyd Wilson just wrote to me:

Hi Jon,
Have you seen this Blog Action Day thing on climate change?
On 15th Oct blogs are being invited to sign up and write a piece about climate change. I'm not sure if it's something you might want to do.

It is something with which I think that we should be involved, so I checked out their site. Their mission statement reads:

'More than any other country, action taken by the United States to limit greenhouse gases and build a clean energy economy is needed to achieve a sustainable solution to our global climate crisis.

This December world leaders will gather in Copenhagen to negotiate a global response to climate change. As a world leader in greenhouse gas pollution as well as clean energy technology, the United States needs to take bold action by implementing comprehensive clean energy policies to curb emissions.

Nobel Peace Prize Winner and President Barack Obama has said that climate change is an urgent threat, and now is the time for him to lead the United States in confronting the climate crisis.

This is a chance for people around the world and in the United States to join together in telling President Obama that we want him to lead the United States in taking bold and significant action to reduce greenhouse gasses.

Time is running out, and our planet can't afford to wait.'

Every week now I receive reports on the subject of climate change. Some believe that it is directly linked to man's depredations on the environment; others don't. On the whole the people who deny the concept are apologists for the military-industrial complex, but there are an increasing number of alternative types who like to believe that everything is a conspiracy; the type who wrote articles in alternative magazines saying that AIDS was spread by the CIA rather than by unsafe sex.

But even if you ignore the issue of climate change, anyone with half a brain can see that man's depredations on the environment are reaching a crisis point. We cannot carry on like this because soon we shall reach a tipping point of no return, after which the ecosystem will be irretrievably ruined.

So, don't just sign petitions. Do something about it!


There is a line in the glorious Tintin pastiche cum anarchist polemic Breaking Free about being forced to start up `Revolutionary Meals on Wheels`, and I have been thinking of that line quite a lot over the past few days.

I am basically an old hippy who wanted to run a club for those folk interested in mystery animals, breed tropical fish, write books and tend his garden (or more honestly, watch Graham tend his garden). When I moved here four years ago to look after my father it was with the firm intention of living as reclusive a life as possible and never leaving the village unless I was dragged kicking and screaming to do something that I couldn't avoid.

OK, I exaggerate but basically I intended to run the CFZ and let the rest of the world run itself. I have enough healthy distaste for the mechanisms of modern society to be able to label myself an anarchist, but I am not the sort of anarchist who marches, throws things or stops the city. My anarchism is on a personal and family level.

However, I do have dependents, animal and human, both within my family and from outside, (and I seem to have a life skill in acquiring them), and in recent weeks, and most notably in recent days, I have been dragged into the real world of doctors, nurses, social workers, age and disability support teams and stuff - a world which I am vaguely familiar with from my days working as a nurse for the mentally handicapped (or whatever they are called these days) a quarter of a century ago.

I hated working with the so-called `caring professions` then, and hate it even more now. I am completely amazed at quite how inefficient and stupid some of these people are!

I thought that the CFZ were inefficient, because we are staffed by unpaid volunteers, more than a few who have physical or mental health problems, but compared with the DSS, the National Health Service, and Social Services - especially those branches with whom I have had to deal in the past week, we deserve the Queen's Award for sodding Industry.

I have been faced with:
  • Care needs assessment for a chronic case that took 48 hours to arrive
  • Someone who fell out of a hospital bed injuring themselves because no-one had bothered to get a `side thingy` for their bed, despite repeated requests, although a gaggle of staff were always to be seen cackling and watching Neighbours
  • An old lady of 87 threatened with eviction from her new flat because no-one had helped her fill in her rent forms (she is both deaf and blind)
  • The same old lady who (until I put the boot in) would have had to wait for three months hardly being able to hear anything, because of the waiting list to get a new hearing aid at the audiology department
And so much more that I really cannot be bothered to repeat it. You get the idea.

And I always remember the shocking standard of treatment that my fcather received during his final illness, both in and out of hospital. Just one incident comes to mind - we had been trying for weeks to get a visiting district nurse to come and sort out a quite important problem, to no avail. However, I was out one afternoon when two nurses turned up, and Graham and Mark assumed they were the ones we had been waiting for. They weren't. They woke the old man up purely to get him to fill in a questionnaire for a survey called `Options for Change` - and then left again.

This is the sort of nonsense we have to deal with every day.

The New Labour `style over content` society has reached ridiculous levels of stupidity: vast amounts of money are spent achieving absolutely nothing. I am not attacking the people on the shop floor. Nurses, doctors and social workers etc. are as good and bad as they ever have been. I have met some wonderful individuals in the last week; individuals who move mountains and cut any administrative corners necessary to do the best for their clients. But I have also met some complete idiots who do nothing and care less, and I have come to realise (OK I always did realise) that we now live in a culture where the dullards, idiots and incompetents flourish, and the freethinkers and bright sparks who actually care, and who have the skills and enthusiasm to actually make a difference are in danger of being swamped beneath a tide of mediocrity and pointless paperwork.

It's a bit like contemporary cryptozoology really.

We are rapidly approaching a stage where the services provided by the powers that be for the aged and vulnerable are completely inadequate, and the onus of care is thrown back upon the families, and irritating folk like me who insist on pushing their noses into the social workers' business and causing trouble. Which is why I have a lunchtime meeting with one set of DSS bods, and a housing association, and I am out of bed and working hours earlier than usual, just t0 get the blog done before Graham and I ride out on our steed (ok the Daihatsu) to do battle with the powers that be in aid of an 87-year-old damsel in distress and another one a few years younger.

So at the moment the CFZ is not just the world's largest and (we like to think) best cryptozoological organisation but it is also the Bideford branch of Anarchist Social Services. Weird, huh?

Read `Breaking Free`Online I think you will approve.


LIZZY: Thank you very much to those who sent kind messages about my being ill. I'm thankfully out of the hospital now - bad spellers beware!!!!

JON: Bloody hell. I hope she doesn't look at the posts of the past few days. My spelling quite probably left something to be desired, and Lizzy is scary when she gets the bit between her teeth. But seriously, welcome back honey...

(at least she is not in the office at the moment so I don't have to be subjected to Take That)

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


More news from the CFZ’s daily news blog, uploaded by Gavin Wilson and formed into an easily digestible bloglett and with a bad pun by me.

Beavers are answer to UK flooding

'Skunk whisperer' in peanut butter rescue

Can you rename William, the F-reg horse?

Invading giant snakes threaten U.S. wilderness areas

Halloween fake spiders 'could scare arachnophobic man to death'

New flying reptile fossils found

Marabou Stork on the loose in West Sussex

I expect twitchers will be out ‘stork’-ing the bird in the hopes of catching a glimpse.