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, November 16, 2008

Dear friends,

It seems that every time I write one of these, I start off by making apologies for the length of time it has been since I last wrote. I am undecided whether to start this newsletter in a similar fashion. Part of me just wants to sail in with all my guns blazing, secure in the knowledge that whilst I have not actually been very diligent in my writing, I have been doing enough other things to justify my existence. However, I am still the paranoid little fellow that you all know so well, and so - of course - I am going to apologise for having taken so long in writing this.....


A lot has happened since the last met in this corner of cyberspace, and it is difficult to know where to begin in trying to bring you all up-to-date with what has been happening both with me personally, and with the CFZ as a whole. I have not been well over the past few months, and therefore have not achieved as much as I would like to have done. However, I am proud to announce the second CFZ Press Book this year by Dr Karl Shuker.

This one is a total departure from form for both him and us. It is called Dinosaurs and Other Prehistoric Animals on Stamps - A Worldwide Catalogue.As Karl writes in the blurb on the back cover:

"There has never been a more popular time for dinosaurs and all things dinosaurian. From blockbuster films packed with breathtaking CGI effects, children's television and video cartoons, computer games, CD-ROMs, animatronic museum exhibitions, and theme parks, to countless books, magazines, toys large and small, ornaments, collectabilia, and even fun lines in confectionery and other edibles, prehistoric paraphernalia continues to scale new heights of desirability worldwide.

But nowhere is this more apparent than within the philatelic world - where the issuing in recent years by an ever-increasing number of countries around the globe of handsome, highly-prized stamp sets depicting a spectacular array of dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals is matched only by the corresponding increase of thematic collectors eager to amass an eyecatching, comprehensive menagerie of palaeontological monsters that the custodians of Jurassic Park could only dream about!Today, well over 500 sets of stamps portraying all manner of dinosaurs and also a multifarious assemblage of other prehistoric animals have been issued, with a substantial proportion of these having appeared within the last decade alone - confirming the escalating interest among collectors in this exciting thematic subject. And who can blame them?

After all, where else but in the pages of a stamp album could stegosaurs and plesiosaurs, tyrannosaurs and sabre-tooth tigers, brachiosaurs, mammoths, belemnites, ground sloths, giant birds, and ichthyosaurs jostle for attention with velociraptors and trilobites, dimetrodonts and diplodocuses, mosasaurs, woolly rhinoceroses, Archaeopteryx, titanosaurs, iguanodontids, ammonites, giant sea scorpions, and innumerable other spectacular denizens of our planet's distant past? Now, for the very first time, here is a philatelic catalogue devoted exclusively to these incredible animals. Compiled by zoologist Dr Karl P.N.Shuker, a lifelong, enthusiastic collector of wildlife stamps and with an especial interest in those that portray fossil species, it provides an exhaustive, definitive listing of stamps and miniature sheets depicting dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals issued by countries throughout the world. It also includes sections dealing with cryptozoological stamps, dinosaur stamp superlatives, and unofficial prehistoric animal stamps.

This invaluable book will undoubtedly encourage everyone with a passion for dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures to pursue it not only on screen, in books, or in museums but also via the ever-fascinating world of philately".

The Amazon.co.uk link for the book is here:



I am also happy to be able to announce that the long awaited Russian expedition report is practically completed. Richard and I did all that we had to do for the interior this weekend. I have already half designed the cover, and once Graham has done our final proof on it, I shall upload it, and it should be available from Amazon within the next fortnight.

The film, is taking longer than we had hoped, but 15 minutes is now completed, and once Richard and I have finished working on the 2009 Yearbook, and issue 45 of Animals & Men, we will make a concerted effort to finish the film.


I know that the Internet rumour machine has been working overtime recently. I would like to take this opportunity to stage once and for all, that I have not had a heart attack. Yes, it is true that I collapsed on the Saturday afternoon of the Weird Weekend. This was due to exhaustion, and complications to do with diabetes. This was not the sort of "exhaustion" in large quotation marks which I used to cite everytime one of my clients used to collapse back in my previous life as a music business PR person. In those days, exhaustion was a useful synonym for overdose or withdrawal symptoms. In my case it is neither. I was simply exhausted.


At the Unconvention in early November, we distributed the following leaflet:


We are the world’s largest cryptozoological organisation, and - or so we like to think - the best. We have been going since 1992, and in the intervening sixteen years we have published nearly fifty books, 45 editions of our journal, several other magazines, and have carried out over a dozen major foreign expeditions.

We have a free multimedia website, a museum, the world’s largest annual cryptozoological convention, and we produce a free monthly webTV show.We are active in community work; carrying out school visits and working with children and vulnerable members of the community at large, and in recent years, without meaning to, we have become synonymous with the spirit of adventure, and love of the natural world, which once defined entire generations of British children.

But in the last few years things have changed. Things have become far more serious.

Not only are we the only professional fortean zoological organisation in the world, but we are the only people consistently pushing back the boundaries of human knowledge in our particular field. But, perhaps most importantly, we are in many cases the only link that the children, with whom we work, have to an ethos that we feel is very important, and furthermore one that successive governments have done their best to suppress within the National Curriculum; the undeniable truth that the universe is a strange, mysterious and beautiful place with myriad mysteries still to explore, and that it is not just a human right, but a human duty to do so.

Come and join us.

Every community and online service that we provide is free, and from where we are sitting, it seems that what we do is valuable. But we are becoming increasingly beleaguered. We are under attack from all sides, and as our activities broaden we find our resources; financial, human, skill-set, and equipment, are increasingly overstretched. This is why we have taken a motto from an ancient Greek philosopher which has not been used in popular parlance for over thirty years, and it is why we are asking for your help. Will you help us?


I was quite upset at the response.

Across the Internet people who obviously had no idea what I was talking about, and who furthermore had not bothered to read our statement, accused us of trying to declare war on the rest of the fortean community worldwide.

The disturbing thing is that the leaflet we distributed which basically attacked nobody except for the idiots who wrote the National Curriculum, is pretty well the same as a campaign that we have been carrying out for months through our sister magazine "EXOTIC PETS: the Magazine of the Amateur Naturalist".

We launched this campaign in May at the Briotish Tarantula Society Show, and have carried it on ever since. It has been distributed through the zoo, at several insect shows, reptile shows, and at our own conference. It is only now that anyone has done anything other than pat me on the back and say "Yes, Jon. Modern standards of education and literacy are rubbish!"

I wonder why this is.

As far as I can see, these attacks come mostly from folk who believe that sniping at people on the Internet is actually preferable to be going out and doing research. Sadly there are too many people like this in the fortean community. We have put up with their ill-natured and mealy mouthed criticism for years. We have no intention of putting up with it any longer.

Another thing which for some reason that I find difficult to understand attracts criticism from various quarters is the involvement of my old friend Tim Matthews with the CFZ. It is undeniable that some people believe that Tim's past is a colourful one. Although most of what has been written about him is completely untrue, Tim has a few skeletons in his closet. But so what? Haven't we all? It is not what Tim did in his past that matters, but what he is doing now. He has been involved with us for ten years now, and has never put a foot wrong. He is a trusted friend and a much valued colleague. He actually turned his back upon the fortean community at large about six years ago, and only came back last summer as a personal favour to me.

We will soon be announcing a range of CFZ Outreach programs which will start next year. These will, we hope, be successful in bringing a comprehensive programme of education and consciousness raising to schools and institutions across the UK. Tim Matthews is very much involved in these programmes, and I believe that it is true to say that because of my failing health, we would not be able to carry these community programmes out without him.


As you all know, Tessie the CFZ dog since 2000 died in September. Being the people that we are, we couldn't exist without a CFZ Dog for very long, so I am overjoyed to announce that my darling wife is now the proud owner of Biggles - a three-month old border collie puppy who now has the entire household in his thrall. Pictures of him can be found on my wife's blog.


Well, that is just about all for this newsletter. The CFZ are not coping with the global recession very well. Sales of books are down, and we would be excessively grateful for any donations of time, money, or expertise. The next few years are going to be hard ones for us all. We believe that what we do is now more important than ever, so please help us in any way that you can.Until next time

God bless you all,
Jon Downes
Director, CFZ

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