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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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Sunday, May 02, 2010

LINDSAY SELBY: Mysteries from "The Green Hell"

There have been reports since the 1800s of living dinosaurs in Bolivia and other South American countries. At the end of the 19th century Scientific American recorded the following remarkable events: 'The Brazilian Minister at La Paz, Bolivia, had remitted to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Rio photographs of drawings of an extraordinary saurian killed on the Beni after receiving thirty-six balls. By order of the President of Bolivia the dried body, which had been preserved in Asuncion, was sent to La Paz.' The 'monster' was reported to be twelve meters long (39 ft) from snout to point of the tail, which latter was flattened. Its head resemblance the head of a dog and its legs were short, ending with formidable claws. The legs and abdomen sported a kind of scale armour, and all the back is protected by a still thicker and double cuirass, starting from behind the ears of the anterior head, and continuing to the tail. The neck is long, and the belly large and almost dragging on the ground."( "A Bolivian Saurian," Scientific American, 49:3, 1883.)

It sounds like a crocodile-like species but reports continued to trickle in. Franz Hermann Schmidt, a German traveller, told of an encounter in 1907. Schmidt was travelling along the Solimoes River in Colombia along with Captain Rudolph Pfleng. Pfleng and Schmidt encountered some huge tracks along the shores of a small lake and trees nearby were stripped to a height of 14 feet. The following day Schmidt, Pfleng and their Indian guides saw a dark shape among the trees on the shore. A large tapir-like head was suspended on a snake-like neck more than 10 feet above the ground. The creature advanced towards the party but did not seem agitated. It was some 8 or 9 feet tall, with clawed flippers in place of legs. The explorers opened fire on the beast and it dived back into the water. Sounds like a strange sight; almost giraffe-like head and neck.

In 1931 Harald Westin reported seeing a creature along Brazil's Rio Marmore. He said it was 20-foot long and resembled a legged boa constrictor. Leonard Clark reported that he heard tales when travelling up the Rio Perene in Brazil and was told of herbivorous creatures that sounded much like a prehistoric sauropod. 'In 1907 Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Fawcett of the British Army was sent to mark the boundaries between Brazil and Peru. He was an officer in the Royal Engineers and was well known as a meticulous recorder of facts. In the Beni Swamps of Madre de Dios Colonel P. H. Fawcett saw an animal he believed to be Diplodocus... The Diplodocus story is confirmed by many of the tribes east of the Ucayali...' (The Rivers Ran East by Leonard Clark, 1953.) Then in 1975 a Swiss businessman was told by a guide called Simon Bastos about such a dinosaur-like creature. The long-necked creature had destroyed Bastos's canoe after he had landed along a riverbank. Bastos was later told that such long-necked creatures frequented deep waterholes and rarely came out on land.


It is all hearsay and inconclusive, and the report in Scientific America was later thought to be a hoax. The reports taken at face value seem to describe different creatures, creatures that we may recognise now but were not known then.


Then there are tales of giant apes, like King Kong. The evidence amounts to mainly a grainy photo published in a 1929 London newspaper. Sitting on a packing case, propped up with a large stick, was what purported to be the body of a giant ape, the 'Mono Rey.' It was said to have inhabited the dense jungles of northern Bolivia around the Madidi river. The last person to explore the region, Major Percy Harrison Fawcett, in the 1920s, disappeared without a trace. Simon Chapman, along with two companions, took a canoe into the swamps and rainforests of Bolivia to find the mythical monster of the Madidi. The story became a book: The Monster of the Madidi - Searching for the Giant Ape of the Bolivian Jungle. Simon Chapman.


He, however, did not find anything, but an interesting tale if you get chance to read it.


So the stories continue but I think the sightings may turn out to be creatures we now know and have named. I just love the romance of these tales, though; the explorer hacking their way through the jungle and coming across new wonders and unknown creatures.

1 comment:

Dale Drinnon said...

The Mono Rey and Mono Grande are actually distinct creatures that leave different types of footprints. I believe the Mono Rey to be a smaller form of Mapinguari-both are described as looking like tailless Howler monkeys.

As far as I can tell, Percy Fawcett did not see a "Diplodocus", he saw tracks, which might have been left by a toxodon. It is my contention that Schmidt and Pfleng's account matches a very large very misplaced elephant seal.

That the creature publicized in the Scientific American was "Thought to be a hoax" proves nothing: many things were thought to have been hoaxes at one time or another, including duckbilled platypuses and gorillas. In this case there is a strong indication that the "Body" in question was an artificial, manufactured item (a gaffe)

Some of the reports on the other hand do indicate a very large unknown lizard, often described as a "Snake with Legs" but also compared to a Komodo dragon or a really big iguana. The last suggestion is the likeliest. There may be more than one type since elsewhere there are reports specifying a large type of Tegu lizard.