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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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Wednesday, June 26, 2019

NOT GLOATING AT ALL

I started the Centre for Fortean Zoology over twenty five years ago, and one of the first investigations that I did was into the possibility of relict populations of several species of small carnivore in the South West of England. These researches carried on for many years, and in 1996, I published the first edition of my book, The Smaller Mystery Carnivores of the West Country. In the book, I postulated that the claims made by P. J. W. Langley and D. W. Yalden in a paper published in the Mammal Review in 1977, whilst broadly correct in that they charted the decline of three species of small carnivore – the wildcat, the pine marten, and the polecat – they had missed the very real possibility that members of all three of these species had survived far longer than anyone had suspected, and that both pine martens and polecats were still to be found in various parts of England over a century after Langley and Yalden had declared them to be extinct.

I cited a number of eyewitness accounts, particular of pine martens, from Devon, Cornwell, Dorset and Hampshire up to and including the mid-1990s, and was confident that my findings would cause a mild storm in British mammalogy.

It didn’t. When I tried to discuss the matter with representatives from the Mammal Society and the British Museum (Natural History), I was given a short shrift and basically told that I was a delusional idiot.

I have it on good order from a friend who shall remain nameless, but who is far more entrenched within the sacred groves of Academe than am I, that he even tried to discuss the matter with one of the authors of the 1977 paper, with which I had disagreed, but that the author wasn’t in the slightest bit interested. He apparently said that my research “didn’t matter”.

Well, over the years I have been told that I am not taken seriously within the culture of academic research because I have long hair, because I have been known to don a guitar and sing, and because my monthly WebTV show about cryptozoology and allied disciplines is peppered with silly jokes and features a character wearing a rubber rhinoceros head.

I have also been made somewhat of a pariah from certain subsectors of the Fortean establishment for much the same reason, and I have been rejected by yet more sections of the cryptozoological community because I truly do not believe that sightings of bigfoot-like creatures in the United Kingdom and western Europe can be explained purely using zoological frames of reference.

Oh yes, there was also the time that, after a few drinks, I argued publicly with one of the more eminent yet hidebound luminaries of the cryptozoological world. And yes, I did make a stupid art film featuring gratuitous nudity and violence and a pre-op transsexual Nazi.

But it appears that I was right about the pine martens.

Some years ago, a shame faced Natural England admitted that there were relict populations of pine martens in many locations in the midlands and southern England. Unfortunately, none of them turned up in the locations that I said they would. Until now.

The following story appeared on Devon Live:

“A shepherd has spoken of his amazement at finding a rare nocturnal animal in Devon which is usually only seen in the north of the UK. Ash Symons found a European pine marten on land he lives and works near Christow yesterday morning. Sadly the discovery was made because the animal had died. The 29-year-old said: “My girlfriend and I were moving sheep and passed it several times on road. I thought it must be an otter so I stopped to have a look and I saw it was a pine marten.

"I’m fairly good with wildlife so I knew what it was although my girlfriend didn't. I have done some research and spoken to some people and no one has ever heard of any down here or of any being quietly released in the area.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news

Reintroduction programmes, both official and unofficial, have been taking place for many years, but the fact that this dead specimen was found within a very few miles of one of the places that I cited as a hotspot for marten sightings would suggest that my original hypothesis was correct.

Many years ago, I also hypothised that a population of the European green lizard (now the western green lizard) would be found on the hills that are the hinterland of Bournemouth, and when – not at all to my surprise – a colony of these spectacular reptiles was found pretty well exactly where I said that it would be, I indulged in some slightly unseemly crowing. But I was younger then.

I have only made three major predictions as regards the cryptozoology of Britain and, to date, two of them have proved to be true.

The lesson here is not whether I, the CFZ, or other researchers who have reached the same conclusions as I have been vindicated. In the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these are the sorts of things with which cryptozoology should be concerning itself.

If more people showed an interest in and – indeed – investigated the very real zoological mysteries that are all around us if we look hard enough, rather than arguing the nuances of pseudo-scientific nonsense; if more people looked for mystery small carnivores rather than arguing whether bigfoot has a ‘cloaking device’ similar to one of the civilisations in Star Trek, then perhaps cryptozoology would be taken far more seriously than it is today.

After all, as Bernard Heuvelmans said:

“There are Lost Worlds everywhere.”

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