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 23, 2010

REGAN LEE SENT THIS: Oregon Sasquatch Symposium

Oregon Sasquatch Symposium

Saturday, June 19 at 9:00 amSunday, June 20 at 5:00 pmEugene, Oregon -- Lane Community College Campus

Autumn Williams will be the keynote speaker. See here for Autumn's excellent blog post about the symposium, her thoughts on witnesses and BF and her new book... (in fact, her whole site is the best in the field, I think, for it contains data, research, as well as an open minded approach to various Bigfoot theories...)Toby Johnson is the one behind all this, and it seems like he's doing a fantastic job!

Visit the Symposium site for more info.See you there!


Today I am going to take a look at some extraordinary legends relating to Chinese reptiles, from G.vLanning`s book Wildlife in China (1911).* Chapter LV `Reptiles`.

Lanning commences with the Chinese alligator:

'Books on natural history need not to be very old to be innocent of all knowledge of the Chinese alligator, the existence of which was not even suspected in Europe till within recent times. During my residence in Shanghal there have been three occasions, if I remember rightly, when alligators have been found in the river or on its banks. The biggest measured but 8ft. In one instance some six or eight were said to have been brought here by a Siamese barque, [I wonder if anyone has studied the similarities between these Chinese alligators and ones once found in Siam, i.e Thailand?-R] the captain of which thought to dispose of them to the Chinese. Failing in this he turned them adrift in the river…One was caught in the Old Dock, and another, which had so far forgotten himself as to be found in the very early morning in Broadway, was also taken. The species seems to be entirely of the fish eating kind.' (1)

'With regard to snakes, the Chinese not merely assert,but firmly stick to the assertion, that there are certain kinds of snakes with feet, a survival here of a similar old belief in Europe that, before the little episode in the Garden, before the little episode in the Garden, before “Man`s first disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste brought death into the world and all our woe,” the serpent stood upright. [Interestingly, about the time this book was published a “snake with legs” was reportedly found in Kowloon, Hong Kong, according to an English language newspaper-R] I used to combat the feet idea as quite nonsensical. But many years ago as the result of a little incident at the Hills, I ceased to wonder and contradict. I was in search of rare ferns one day on the hillside, when I saw moving swiftly through the undergrowth what I took to be a new snake. It was only about 18 inches long, with a body thickness of about the size of one`s little finger. I killed and examined it. Sure enough there were four legs, very short, but still unmistakeable. It was, of course a lizard - of what species I cannot say. But I never ridiculed the Chinese belief in legged snakes after that.' [I would have thought with Chinese records of natural history going back hundreds of years the Chinese could distinguish between a snake with legs and a lizard, surely?-R] There are several other sorts of lizards which I have come across in my wanderings, but I have only seen one more specimen of the kind just named, and that was under a foot in length.' (2)

Lanning then discourses on Chinese snakes:

'Only once have I come across a specimen of the curious snake known as the “Iron-wire snake,” one of the burrowing family. The Chinese have a belief about these that if they coil themselves round a man`s finger or the tails of animals it is impossible to remove them, that strangulation of the member results, and sloughing takes place till it drops off. “The China Medical Missionary Journal,” Vol.XV. p.303 gives the following description:” The snake is about 6 inches long, shaped much like a common earth worm, has about the same diameter, a triffle smaller perhaps, and darker in colour.” This answers precisely to the specimen I saw. That described was seen in Foochow, mine in Chekiang [east China-R]. ,on the hills at Chapoo…Southern China, of which I have no very intimate knowledge, is said to be rich in reptilian of almost all sorts. Of the reptile life of Hong Kong we have,of course, a more or less complete knowledge. There are at least seven species of snakes, one of them a python which is common but, as a rule, not of any very large size considering its kind. Occasionally, however, we hear of one large enough to cause note to be taken of it in the press. Cobras are numerous in some parts. Some years ago one was found on the verandah of Gen. Black`s house on the Peak. The cats were playing with it. Another species to be avoided is a bright-green pit viper, Trimeresurus graminens, which has the honour of belonging to the same family as the rattlesnakes. One was killed some years ago, as I find in my notes, which measured 3ft. In 1894 cobras were so plentiful that the Government paid 50 cents a head for them, a custom which would probably lead to breeding if continued, the Chinese being always ready to earn an honest penny. One of the very poisonous sea-snakes before referred to, a species of Hydrophis, is found in the waters round Hong Kong. Ashore they have also species of the iron-wire snake, classically named Typhlina, which burrows under stones and into the soil.' (3)

1 G.Lanning Wildlife in China (1911) p.222
2 Ibid pp 222-223
3 Ibid pp 224-225

Image Source: `Alligators in China: Their History,Description and Identification`. A.A.Fauvel.Shanghai 1879 p.24

* Available on abebooks at £16.45, amazon.co.uk £11.87 (not including postage.Cheapest prices.)

Devo Gates of Steel

Twist away the gates of steel
Unlock the secret voice
Give in to ancient noise
Take a chance a brand new dance
Twist away the gates of steel

Twist away, now twist and shout
The earth it moves too slow
But the earth is all we know
We pay to play the human way
Twist away the gates of steel

CFZ AUSTRALIA: Expat platypus on the sales block

Trust those Victorian to stuff things up - literally.

We stumbled across this moth-eaten example of Victorian taxidermy for sale on Ebay recently for a meagre $A1658. View the listing here.

For animal lovers and those enamoured with the macabre alike, the world of taxidermy offers some rare and unusual treasures.

Taxidermy was, and still is to some degree, considered a necessary evil by m

We've heard anecdotal reports of Australian museums regularly refreshing their exhibits when some animals get a bit ratty looking - largely due to poor storage and preservation.

And here's some taxidermy trivia: one of the founders of the taxidermy movement, if you can refer to it as such, was an American woman by the name of Martha Maxwell. Strangely, for someone obsessed with skinning and stuffing animals, she was actually a vegetarian!


So how did I spend my sunday afternoon? David B-P, Helen "of Troy" Lester, and I put the finishing touches to the music for the closing credits of the Emily and the Big Cats movie. Bloody hell, Helen can't half sing! I had no idea that my favourite diva was that good.

Most of the rest of the film is on hiatus (I am sure I have splled that wrong) until Emily finishes her GCSEs, but there are only a few scenes left to film....


Poor Biggles.

Please send him my regards and a pat on the head from across the Atlantic. And maybe a biscuit.


Dear Robert,

Don't say we never do anything people ask


Jon and Corinna (and Biggles)

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1901 78 miners died in the Caerphilly pit disaster. The event is of Fortean significance because according to newspaper reports at the time the disaster had been predicted by an unusually large number of birds flying around the pit, following local superstitions that ‘corpse birds’ will appear when someone’s death is imminent.

And now, the news:

Tiny but deadly rare frogs bred in UK
Baby bonobos tragic victims of illegal trading
Abandoned Crab Pots Threaten Diamondback Terrapins
Tadpoles Screaming Underwater Show Unsuspected Sentience
Prehistoric' Frogs May Face Extinction
'Experienced' Female Lizards Attract Greater Attention
Three New Monitor Lizards from the Philippines
Gulf Oil Again Imperils Sea Turtle

It’s a ‘turtle’ disaster.


Hello Jon,

it's Aubrey the whale artist from Toronto. Love your work I make it my mission to read every story every day, and I love everything you do. Below is a link of a strange unknown animal discovered only days ago in Northern Ontario. No one is sure what it is, but I must say it is very strange looking. Wishing you all the best


Thank you to everyone else who sent me the story. Personally I think it is a dead otter, but I would be interested in your opinions....

For Those Who Flip A Lot Of Rocks. (Via HerpDigest)

I don't usually pinch things wholesale from other sources, but this piece on Herpdigest about the effects of micro-environmental degradation was so interesting (and potentially devastating) that I decided to make an exception..

Interesting study from Australia (by David Pike) demonstrating the negative effects of moving cover materials and not replacing them. Be sure to practice proper field ettiquette as it certainly looks like replacing rocks and logs is important from a habitat perspective (most of you probably already do this anyway).
Jeff Hall/Partners in Amphibian & Reptile Conservation Biologist/NC Wildlife Resources Commission/405 Lancelot Drive/Greenville, NC 27858
cell: 252-917-1683/ http://www.ncparc.org

For Those Who Flip A Lot Of Rocks.


When it comes to habitat destruction, startling events like oil spills and deforestation are certain to grab the headlines.

Yet as a new study in the journal Animal Conservation shows, sometimes habitat destruction can be so subtle that it passes under the eyes of all but the most astute scientists.

David Pike and fellow researchers from the University of Sydney look at the case of reptiles in outcrops and find that people moving rocks less than 30 centimeters out of place can ruin the habitat for species like the endangered broad-headed snake that shelter in narrow crevices.

This impact to rocky environments is widespread across the world, particularly from reptile enthusiasts, researchers, and collectors who move rocks slightly out of place to search for their favorite species.

With an elaborate experimental design, Pike and his team were able to show that altering the position of rocks negatively impacts reptile habitat by modifying crevice microconditions that species prefer.

The study also demonstrated that the impact is easily reversible by restoring the rocks to their original position.

The researchers surveyed for lizards in Morton National Park in southeastern Australia under previously disturbed and undisturbed rocks.

Disturbed rocks are easily identifiable because they normally fit flush with underlying substrate (i.e. they do not wobble when pushed) and displacement usually leaves a light colored "scar."

The researchers found that broad-headed snakes and their prey, velvet geckos, were much less likely to be found under disturbed rocks.

The scientists also conducted a field experiment in which they found 26 pairs of previously disturbed rocks and returned one rock from each pair to its original setting.
They found the restored rocks harbored a much greater number of reptiles, showing that the impact is easily reversible.

It also provides evidence that changes in the crevice habitat itself cause the decreased reptile numbers under disturbed rocks rather than people scaring the animals or collecting them.

To understand how rock displacement alters habitat microconditions, the researchers took life-sized casts of the crevices under disturbed and restored rocks and compared the differences in surface area. They also placed data loggers in the crevices over a period of time to compare differences in microclimatic conditions.

The researchers found that restoration increased crevice surface area by 59% and raised mean daily minimum temperatures.

The findings from this study will hopefully raise awareness among resource managers in rocky environments to warn hikers and reptile enthusiasts in particular against displacing rocks from their original setting.

As the study shows, sometimes the ideal habitat for species forms over geological time and can be destroyed in the matter of a second by an act as subtle as moving a rock a few centimeters out of place.

 by Rob Goldstein. This article was also writtern for EcoTone, a blog produced by the Ecological Society of America. EcoTone showcases ecology and ecologists, focusing on ecological science in the news and its use in policy and education.

Pike, D., Croak, B., Webb, J., & Shine, R. (2010). Subtle - but easily reversible - anthropogenic disturbance seriously degrades habitat quality for rock-dwelling reptiles Animal Conservation DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-1795.2010.00356.x