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, December 30, 2010



Dear friends,

It is sixteen years since I first sat down at what was then my reasonably state-of-the-art Amiga 500 to type out the first CFZ Annual Report. It had a circulation of fifty people, and took me about 20 minutes to write. How times have changed! The CFZ is now a massive organisation with branches on three continents, a flourishing publishing wing and research going on all over the world.

Traditionally I have always written this report during that quiet week between Christmas and New Year, and 2010 is no exception. The only difference is that this year both Corinna and I are suffering greatly from the depredations of swine flu, and that what is usually a pleasant task is remarkably more difficult as a result.


The CFZ Bloggo is one of the most popular things that we have ever done. I believe that it is unique in that it is a collaborative effort from a loose 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 going from strength to strength, and is getting an average of about 2,600 hits a day, which is about 1,000 up on this time last year.

We are consistently in the Top 10 of the Nature Blogs network, and this Christmas were mostly at #6.


This year we published 12 books:

Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo
Shuker, Karl P.N 10/6/2010
Tetrapod Zoology Book One
Naish, Darren 8/3/2010
UFO DOWN: The Berwyn Mountain UFO Crash
Roberts, Andy 7/26/2010
Hanson, John 7/17/2010
The Mystery Animals of Ireland
Cunningham, Gary + Coghlan, Ronan 6/23/2010
Monsters of Texas
Gerhard, Ken and Redfern, Nick 5/27/2010
The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia
Freeman, Richard 4/29/2010
NEW HORIZONS: Animals & Men issues 16-20 Collected Editions Vol. 4
Downes, Jonathan 4/10/2010
A Daintree Diary - Tales from Travels to the Daintree Rainforest in tropical north Australia
Portman, Carl 2/24/2010
Strangely Strange but Oddly Normal
Roberts, Andy 2/21/2010
Centre for Fortean Zoology Yearbook 2010
Downes, Jonathan 1/1/2010

We also published an issue of Animals & Men and two issues of The Amateur Naturalist (now edited by Max Blake) We are very aware that there are a number of problems vis-à-vis these two journals, and hope that we shall be able to begin redressing them in 2011.

We are very happy with the sales figures, bearing in mind that CFZ Press was never intended to sell books in any numbers, and believe that the books that we have planned for 2011, which include new titles by Nick Redfern, Richard Freeman, Karl Shuker, Neil Arnold and Karl Shuker as well as vols 2 and 3 of the massively successful Haunted Skies will give us another bumper year.


This summer we launched our second imprint. We are very much aware that the CFZ Press imprint should be for fortean zoology, zoomythology and cryptozoology only, and as of this summer non-animal related fortean books now have a new home.


We carried out two foreign trips this year. In March, due to the kindness of Richie and Naomi West, Corinna and I went to Texas to carry on with the work I started six years ago regarding blue hairless dogs.

This is an expedition that I had been wanting to make for a long time. When the first accounts of blue hairless dogs from Texas first began to filter into the cryptozoological community back in the summer of 2004 they were widely dismissed by cryptopundits as being of mangy coyotes. I was never happy with that, basically because according to the testimony of every veterinary expert I consulted, if an animal was as riddled with mange (or any similar condition) as to be completely hairless, it would be so ill as to hardly be able to walk, let alone run around, attack chickens or sire progeny, which, by all accounts, are as hairless and blue as the adults.

We brought back enormous amounts of data, which will eventually appear in a book, and we hope to go back again soon.

Our second expedition of the year was to India and is described in a press release that we put out at the time.

On 31st of October the CFZ 2010 expedition leaves England. They will be exploring the Garo Hills in Northern India in search of the mande-burung or Indian yeti. The five-man team consists of team leader Adam Davies, Dr Chris Clark, Dave Archer, field naturalist Jonathan McGowan, and cryptozoologist Richard Freeman.

The creatures are described as being up to ten feet tall, with predominantly black hair. Most importantly, they are said to walk upright, like a man. Walking apes have been reported in the area for many years. These descriptions sound almost identical to those reported in neighbouring Bhutan and Tibet. Witnesses report that the mande-burung, which translates as forest man, is most often seen in the area in November.

The Garo Hills are a heavily forested and poorly explored area in Meghalaya state in the cool northern highlands of India. The area is internationally renowned for its wildlife, which includes tigers, bears, elephants and Indian rhino and clouded leopards.

The Indian team will be led by Dipu Marek, a local expert who has been on the trail of the Indian yeti for a number of years and has found both its nests and 19inch long `footprints` on previous occasions. The expedition team has also arranged to interview eyewitnesses who have seen the Mande-Burung.

Camera traps will be set up in sighting areas in the hope of catching one of the creatures on film.

The Mande-Burung may be a surviving form of a giant ape known from its fossilised teeth and jaw bones, called Gigantopithecus blacki, which lived in the Pleistocene epoch around three hundred thousand years ago. This creature is of course extinct. However, much contemporary fauna such as the giant panda, the Asian tapir and the Asian elephant that lived alongside the monster ape, still survive today. It is thought by many that Gigantopithecus also survives in the impenetrable jungles and mountains of Asia. Its closest known relatives are the Orangutans of Sumatra and Borneo.

The team brought back samples, footprints and lots of eyewitness testimony. The results will be released as soon as we have them.


In late November we released the following statement from Lars Thomas:

In late 2009 I was given a sample of hairs collected in Sumatra earlier that year by Adam Davies, Richard Freeman and several others taking part in the expedition searching for evidence of the elusive orang pendek, the Indonesian “abominable snowman.”

A small part of the hair sample was subjected to a DNA-analysis, but due to the small amount of DNA extracted and the rather poor condition of it, no firm conclusion could be reached. The DNA did show some similarities to primate DNA, possibly orangutan, but no definite results could be obtained.

Following this I subjected the remaining hairs to a structural analysis to see if this could bring any information to light that might reveal the identity of the owner of the hairs.

I checked all of the remaining 6 hairs and they were all consistent with hairs from large primates or humans. They all had the rather large medulla with a lot of pigmentation typical of large primates, and the intermittent holes in the centre of the hairs, making them look somewhat like hollowed out tree trunks. I compared the hair samples with reference samples of 3 different species of gibbon, orangutan, chimpanzee and bonobo, gorilla and some 15 samples of human hairs in various colours, mainly red or reddish. I was never able to ascertain their identity with total certainty, although I could eliminate some. The hairs were not modern human, and they were not from siamangs or other gibbons. They have a very deep rusty-red colour, very similar to the colour of orangutan hairs, but varied in other structural details.

So based on these results alone I concluded that the hairs were from something closely related to orangutans or from a form of orangutan I had not seen before.

In the autumn of 2010 Tom Gilbert from the DNA Laboratory of the University of Copenhagen did a further DNA test of the remaining hairs. In this case he was able to extract a good amount of DNA enabling him to conclude that whoever used to wear these hairs were either human of very closely related to humans.

So the structural analysis point to either an orangutan or something very closely related to an orangutan. The DNA analysis on the other hand point to a human or something very closely related to humans.

Based on this information I am forced to conclude that Sumatra is home to a completely new species of large primate, but I am also well aware that these results can in no way be called conclusive evidence of the existence of these animals. But it should be more than enough reason for a new expedition to go back to the area, hopefully obtaining enough evidence and samples to come to a final conclusion.


On the 17th August I was happy to announce that Danish zoologist Lars Thomas had examined hair samples found in Huddisford Woods near Woolsery, and pronounced them to be leopard.

I offered the hairs (which were found by Lars, Jon McGowan and a team known as the Four-Teans) to any research group or academic institution who wanted to try and verify Lars's findings. The first person to contact me was Dr Ross Barnett from Durham University who has done DNA analysis on them, and has confirmed that they are Pantherine, probably leopard.

He is carrying out further tests to establish the species and subspecies for certain and a full announcement will be made then.


Another remarkable recent discovery was made in the archives of the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery by Max Blake, one of the best known of the younger brigade of CFZ members, and as I have said on a number of occasions, someone who together with Dave Braund-Phillips will be managing the circus once I've finally retired or died.

Although there have been reports of unknown cat-like animals in the UK on and off for centuries, there has been a paucity of hard evidence. Until now the only reports of specimens actually being secured are from the last 40 years or so. Max has discovered an animal, which appears to be a Canadian lynx, which was shot over a century ago.

He is currently working on a technical paper with Dr Darren Naish, which will contain all the details. He has asked us not to reveal any more details until it is published, and we of course agreed. When we are able to do so we shall have more photographs, and all the technical details that anyone could possibly want. Well done.


This year we produced 11 monthly episodes of our regular show On The Track (Of Unknown Animals). Because of flu, the latest issue will be a few days late. We also produced some shorts, and introduced the irrepressible Jessica and India girly duo to the world of webTV. We covered some of Uncon, and all of the WW (editing out an unfortunate joke that one speaker made about his wife). There were no full-length films this year, although Emily and the Big Cats is 75% done, and there will be a film of the India expedition.


Most people only have one or two pets, and if their ventures into petkeeping are – for example – a cat and a goldfish, they won’t have many dead animals to grieve. We have about 300 (OK, the vast majority are small fish or inverts) and so – sadly – have bereavements quite often. Apart from Biggles (see below) the saddest loss this year was Jerry the Jackdaw, who dies in the early autumn, after having lived in our lower aviary for about eighteen months. There were no obvious signs of cause of death, and it is tempting to think that he may have had some internal problem that was the cause of him falling (or being pushed) from his nest above the village shop in the first place.

The other disaster which really rankles happened early in December when an equipment failure killed off all but two of our Alfaro cultratus livebearers, including the ones we had bred. The two survivors are - sadly – both females, and as their tank is on my desk I am forced, every day, with the reminder of what went wrong. However, we shall be getting some more in the New Year, and will try again..

We bred fourteen species of livebearer this year and joined the British Livebearer Society, which appears to be an estimable organization. We also heard – this morning – that Naomi West of the US Office is starting a tank of local (to her) fish. There are some smashing livebearers in Texas, and I have cheerful daydreams of importing some of her surplus breeding stock.

Our colony of spiny mice are now past breeding age. We are going to let them die off naturally, rather than replacing them. They were part of a project that I had hoped to do when we were still involved with the zoo. Now we are no longer involved we shall just let the colony dwindle and die.


One of the saddest, if not the saddest event of the last year was the untimely, and completely unexpected death of Biggles, our two-year-old border collie. It turned out that he was almost certainly born with a congenital defect of the liver which none of us had suspected. His death was quick, and the news was devastating both to us, and his fans across the world. The CFZ is truly a global family, and Corinna and I took great comfort from the dozens of letters of support that we received. We are at present fostering a doggie, a five-year-old boxer x bulldog cross called Prudence who is in poll position to become the CFZ Doggie MkIV. It is a bit like Doctor Who. When one dog leaves us, it is never more than a few weeks before his or her successor ambles into our lives and takes possession of our hearts.


In mid-September we did something we probably should have done many years ago, and became a Company Limited by Guarantee. The Centre for Fortean Zoology, CFZ Press, and The Amateur Naturalist plus all the other things we do within the realms of both Cryptozoology and Natural History are now administered by a Company Limited by Guarantee called "CFZ Natural History Ltd". A Company Limited by Guarantee is basically a limited company set up not to make a profit, and is the next step to being a charity. There are two Directors: Graham and myself, and - by law - neither director can benefit financially from the activities of the company. This has very few disadvantages, and quite a few advantages, and not the least being that we are now legally allowed to fundraise using methods that we could not before.


This year’s event took place, as always, in August. It was – we think – a great success. Speakers included:

CARL PORTMAN: On the track of the whistling spider
ANDY ROBERTS: The Berwyn mountain UFO crash
MAX BLAKE: Singular Species
MIKE HALLOWELL: The Kapree; the Strange Tale of Cornwall's
Out-of-Place, Cigar-Smoking Philippino Cryptid
LIONEL BEER: Treacle Mines
COL JOHN BLASHFORD-SNELL: President’s address
JON/CORINNA DOWNES: Texas Blue Dogs Expedition Report
LECTURE: RICHARD FREEMAN: Yokai - Japanese monsters
MIKE WILLIAMS AND RUBY LANG: Australian Mystery Big Cats
RICHARD FREEMAN & CO: Sumatra Expedition Report
OLL LEWIS: The Cardiff Giant and his kin
LARS THOMAS: Identifying hair samples
MIKE DASH: The monster of Glamis
JON DOWNES: Keynote speech

The day is in sight, I am afraid, when we shall no longer be able to do the Weird Weekend. I always said that we would do 10; next year’s event (held on the 19-21 August) will be our twelfth. I will continue promoting them for as long as I can, but am now just going to have forward plans on a year-by-year basis.

Although the CFZ and its sphere of influence is getting steadily bigger, the crew at Myrtle Cottage are getting older, and the younger members of the team are, because of education, work and general lifestuff are not always as available for CFZ activities as they were a few years back.

This where we need to make a serious attempt to bring in some new blood. So, if you feel like becoming involved with our activities, this is just the time for you to do it.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us this year. I personally (and we collectively) cannot express quite how grateful we are for your help.

Together we have achieved some remarkable things. Next year will – I hope – see that trend continuing.

Onwards and Upwards,

Jon Downes

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