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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In between each episode of OTT, we now present OTTXtra. Here are three episodes pretty much at random:


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Wednesday, January 12, 2011



The Avicultural Weekend

May I draw your attention to the booking form and programme for the CBAGweekend:

The Cotswold Wildlife Park, Nr Burford, Oxfordshire OX18 4JP,5–6February2011Further information can be found at:


Barbara Ingman
World Pheasant Association,
Registered Charity 271203

Newcastle University Biology Field Station,
Close House Estate,
Heddon on the Wall,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
NE15 0HT, UK

Lo-call number for UK: 0845 2410929
Tel: +44(0)1661 853397




RAHEEL MUGHAL: The Trinity Alps Giant Salamander

The Trinity Alps wilderness is the second largest designated wilderness area in California, spanning three national forests and covering 517,000 acres. Moreover, the Trinity Alps are home to an abundance of wildlife including reports of a giant salamander, which have trickled in for more than seven decades.

The first modern documented sighting came during the 1920s when Frank L. Griffith, while hunting deer near the head of the New River, reported that he spotted about five giant salamanders at the bottom of the lake ranging from 2-3 metres (5 to 9 feet in length). Moreover, Griffith further reported that he was able to catch one of these giant salamanders on a hook, but was unable to pull it out of the water, forcing him to let the creature go.

In 1948, after hearing of the New River encounter, biologist Thomas L. Rodgers made four different yet equally unsuccessful trips to the Trinity Alps in search of the giant salamander. Rodgers speculated that these giant salamanders may be an abnormally large group of Dicamptodon, or Pacific giant salamander, that had been isolated from the more common version, which only reaches approximately 1 foot in length. He also hinted at the possibility that there could be a relict population of Megalobatrachus, (a form of giant salamander that inhabits the fast-moving mountain streams of Japan and China and can grow to lengths of 5 or 6 feet).

That being said, in 1951 Herpetologist George S. Myers wrote a piece in the Scientific Journal stating that he thought the link between the Trinity Alps giant salamander and the Asian Megalobatrachus made sense. Myers went on to recall his encounter with a giant salamander captured in the Sacramento River in 1939. Myers was contacted by a commercial fisherman who found the creature entangled in one of his catfish nets. Myers was able to carefully study the specimen for nearly 30 minutes and noted that it was a different colour than the Japanese and Chinese species. It was dark brown colouration, not a slate-grey colour (as found in the Asian giant salamander); it also had dull yellow spots, which is unusual because the Chinese and Japanese species have no spots.
Myers wrote:
'The animal was a fine Megalobatrachus, in perfect condition… It was between 25 and 30 inches in length…The source of the specimen is, of course, unknown. Its strange coloration even suggested the possibility of a native Californian Megalobatrachus, which would not be surprising, but no other captures have been reported.'

Several years after Myers's report was published animal handler Vern Harden of Pioneer, California, claimed to have seen a dozen giant salamanders in a remote lake in the Trinity Alps region. The lake known to locals as Hubbard Lake. The animal handler claims to have managed to hook one of the creatures by his fishing rod but was unable to pull it up, having to release it due to an oncoming snowstorm. Vern Harden estimated the creature to be about 8 feet long; this was before he turned it loose. Harden’s claims made it to the ears of explorer and naturalist Father Hubbard, a Jesuit scholar to which Hubbard Lake was named after. Father Hubbard noted, based on his examination of the growing body of eyewitness reports, that there may be something more to the reports of giant salamanders reported from the area.

So much so that during the period 1958 to 1959 it is believed that both Father Hubbard and his brother Captain John D. Hubbard were associated with expeditions in search of the giant salamanders. In 1960 Father Hubbard stated that he had established the existence of huge amphibians in the Trinity region; unfortunately for us and the rest of the cryptozoological world no record of the Hubbard expeditions can be located to this day and some speculate that they may have never even taken place.

Following Father Hubbard’s testimony, legendary monster hunter and Texas oil magnate Tom Slick accompanied the entourage of giant salamander trackers in 1960. Slick told the members of his Pacific Northwest Expedition (who were primarily focused on bigfoot research) to seek out a live specimen of giant salamander. These instructions did not bode well with some of Slick’s hired bigfoot hunters who felt searching for the giant salamander was a waste of time that took them away from their more important academic pursuits.

Nevertheless, after Slick’s exhaustive search for the creature, in the end Slick and his team returned empty-handed.

That same year, on the 1st September, three zoology professors, Robert C. Stebbins of the University of California Berkeley, Tom Rodgers of Chico State College and Nathan Cohen of Modesto Junior College formed their own giant salamander expedition. Tom Rogers returned this time even more optimistic that his team would find the beast even though he led several unsuccessful expeditions in 1948. The team often mistook sunken or half-submerged logs for giant salamanders.

Nevertheless, the team was successful in that it was able to collect almost a dozen Pacific giant salamanders or Dicamptodons, but the largest was only 11 ½ inches long, a far cry from the reported 8-foot length associated with the mysterious Trinity Alps giant salamander. Rogers, who was deeply sceptical about the giant salamander from the beginning, hoped that this evidence, or lack of evidence, would put to rest any rumours circulating around about giant salamanders in the Trinity Mountains of California.

Rogers’s official 1962 debunking of the giant salamander seemed to end most cryptozoological interest in the creature that was until 1997 when Kyle Mizokami’s Trinity Alps giant salamanders expedition was established. Mizokami, a Japanese-American writer, put aside his research on American Indian legends, which included bigfoot, to hunt for the Trinity Alps Giant Salamander. Sadly, as with many similar ventures including that of Tom Slick, Mizokami returned with no evidence to support the existence of giant salamanders living in the Trinity Mountains.

Mizokami’s expedition was the last mainstream project to research and seek out proof of the Trinity Alps giant salamander and to this day no physical evidence has been found to support the existence of such a creature. It has been noted by researchers that the Trinity Alps giant salamanders may be related to the Megalobatrachus of Japan and China, which belongs to the family Cryptobrachus. The largest known North American salamander belongs to this same family and is known as the Hellbender. The Hellbender can grow to 22 inches long; this is much smaller than the reported size of the Trinity Alps giant salamander, but it gives an appreciation of the size difference attributed to the Trinity Alps salamanders, which would likely dwarf other species of salamander found across the world.


The global bird asnd fish die-offs on Google Maps

Jan writes: I don’t know who did this, but I thought you’d find it interesting.

MATTHEW WILLIAMS SENT THIS: Wikileaks and the bee conspiracy

While the WikiLeaks media frenzy may have been focused on the release of tens of thousands of classified military and U.S. State Department documents, it's a leaked Environmental Protection Agency document that has conservationists, environmentalists and beekeepers abuzz.

The November 2nd memo, leaked to a Colorado beekeeper, indicates that the EPA was well-aware that the pesticide Clothianidin posed some serious risks to honey bees. There have been concerns about this chemical from as far back as 2003, and it's already been banned in Germany, France, Italy and Slovenia because of its toxicity. But the EPA chose to sweep all that under the rug to keep the pesticide on the market.

Clothianidin, marketed as 'Poncho' by Bayer, is widely used on corn, as well as canola, soy, sugar beets, sunflowers and wheat. As if the $262 million cash crop from last year wasn't enough, Bayer wants to keep expanding the pesticide's use. And the company's original registration was based on some seriously flawed science: they evaluated the wrong crop, with the wrong controls to assess the impact on bees.

This all adds up to some serious questions about the government contributing to Colony Collapse Disorder as they knowingly allowed Bayer to poison bees. And this is about a lot more than honey production ... native habitats and as much as one third of America's food supply rely on the pollination provided by bees.

In light of the leaked memo the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, American Beekeeping Federation, American Honey Producers Association, Beyond Pesticides, Pesticide Action Network North America, and Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the EPA requesting that the agency 'take urgent action to stop the use of this toxic chemical.'

The letter goes on to point out that this new information indicates an overuse of the Office of Pesticide Program's conditional registration programme. This bee boondoggle 'represents a failure that could and should have been avoided.' As a result the coalition is calling for an immediate moratorium on these types of registration until the programme is evaluated.

There's still a lot we don't know about Colony Collapse Disorder and the massive bee die-offs it's been causing. One thing we do know is that bees are in trouble, and that's not good news for all the animals (and humans) who rely on the plants these important insects sustain.

Join the call for the EPA to stop the sale of Poncho and conduct a thorough study into the pesticide's impact on wildlife.


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1938 William B. Davis was born. Davis is best known as the Cigarette Smoking Man (aka C.G.B. Spender aka Cancer Man) in the long-running paranormal drama series The X-Files. What you might not know, or probably did if you were a complete obsessive over that series like I was, is that Davis is also a champion water-skier.
And now, the news:

Welcome to Wildwood's New Year baby – cute baby bo...
Do giant paw prints mean big cat is on the prowl i...
Residents in Edinburgh spot big cat footprints
First humpback sighting of 2011
Big cat spotted in Derbyshire by pensioner

Cats and boxes hours of fun:


This news is several months old but I read it in Mojo last night for the first time. TG have always been one of the most important CFZ bands because they were always the ones Richard and I played to annoy people, and even at the end of the 2009 WW cocktail party when the garden was full of drunken chavs who turned up from somewhere, we played Hamburger Lady and We hate you little girls and cleared the garden in minutes. Richard and I always had a fantasy of having TG appear at a WW event. Now they never shall.