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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Monday, August 17, 2009

RICHARD FREEMAN: Whatever happened to the Nandi Bear?

Time for Richard Freeman again. It almost seems silly introducing Richard to you all once again when he makes an appearance as guest blogger several times a week. However, our viewing audience/ readers (whatever you like to call yourselves) is growing so fast that it is certain that some of you missed the last time I introduced him.

The chemosit or Nandi bear was the terror of east Africa in the early part of the 20th century. Much feared by even the bravest hunter it was said to feed on the brains of its victims and be able to tear through the toughest barriers to get at livestock. Some tribespeople even took to wearing protective headgear in case of a nandi bear attack.

As the name suggests the creature was bear-like in appearance, though there are no known bears in Africa since the extinction of the Atlas Mountains bear. It has been postulated that the nandi bear is a giant hyena, a monster baboon, an out of place chimpanzee or an outsized ratel. Indeed it may be a composite bogeyman based on all of these animals and more. Bernard Heuvalmans referred to it as the African proteus.

But no one reports seeing it, being attacked by it, or losing livestock to it anymore. Another east African cryptid that seems to have vanished off the map is the mngwa or 'strange one'; a lion-sized, tabby-coloured cat. It is widespread in east African legend but beginning in the 1920s these legends became very real for the folks living in coastal villages around Lake Tanganyika when one of these ‘mythical’ beasts began to kill and eat people. From the descriptions by both western hunters and natives it seems that the mngwa may have been a melonotic leopard. This very rare colour mutation leads to a tabby like coat. Then again a leopard is not nearly so large as a lion.

Once more the beast seems to have vanished, with no recent sightings.

There could be several reasons for these African cryptids' disappearance. Perhaps as the century progressed the old tribal stories and beliefs died out. If the Nandi bear was nothing but a composite of various creatures then the people may have begun to see it for what it was and not blame attacks on people and livestock by rouge hyenas on the Nandi bear. Maybe the mngwa attacks in the 1920s were just one abnormally large melonotic leopard. Once the beast died the mngwa switch back to just being a creature from folktales. The lack of consistent reports for both these beasts argues against them being an unknown species and supports the idea of unusual individuals of a known species.

But then again maybe the Nandi bear and the mngwa do still prowl the night, but the reports never leave the remote African villagers.

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