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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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

CRYPTOZOOLOGY ONLINE: On The Track (Of Unknown Animals) Episode 33

The latest edition of a monthly webTV show from the CFZ and CFZtv, bringing you the latest cryptozoological, and monster hunting news from around the world. This episode brings you:

CFZ in summertime
CFZ amphiumas
The orchids of Fairy Cross
Black chinned livebearer
Crypto Cassowaries
The beast of Dartmoor
Proper diets for dogs
Japanese monsters
Corinna looks at out of place birds
New and Rediscovered: Gray Whale in Israeli waters
New and Rediscovered: Arizona ocelot

RICHARD FREEMAN: Sea Shepherd captain goes on trial in Tokyo

With the International Whaling Commission poised to return to this sick, cowardly activity, conservation hero Captain Pete Bethune is on trial in Tokyo and is being held in a maximum-security detention centre. The charges are trespassing and property damage. Pete boarded the Japanese whaling vessel Shonan Maru 2 in February to protest the sinking of the Sea Shepard's vessel Andy Gil as well as Japan's illegal whaling operations.

His actions did cause the Shonan Maru 2 to prematurely withdraw from the illegal whaling operation in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Sea Shepherd's Seattle-based law firm, Harris & Moure, will have two of its lawyers in Tokyo during the trial both to assist Bethune's Japanese defence team and to explain Sea Shepherd's position regarding the trial and Japan's illegal whaling operations.

Once again we applaud this man's brave stand against the perverse horror of whaling.


1) Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons
Biological Invasions (Link Below to Full paper)
Michael L. Avery1 Contact Information, Richard M. Engeman2, Kandy L. Keacher1, John S. Humphrey1, William E. Bruce1, Tom C. Mathies2 and Richard E. Mauldin2
(1) USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Florida Field Station, 2820 East University Avenue, Gainesville, FL, USA
(2) USDA, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, 4101 LaPorte Avenue, Fort Collins, CO, USA

Received: 19 February 2010 Accepted: 06 April 2010 Published online: 22 April 2010

The Burmese python (Python molurus bivittatus) is established in Everglades National Park and neighboring areas in south Florida. Beyond its substantial ecological impacts to native fauna in south Florida, concerns have been raised as to its potential to occupy other parts of the USA, even as far north as Washington, DC. During a recent period of cold weather, seven of nine captive Burmese pythons held in outdoor pens at our facility in north-central Florida died, or would have died absent our intervention. This cold-induced mortality occurred despite the presence of refugia with heat sources. Our findings cast doubt on the ability of free-ranging Burmese pythons to establish and persist beyond the subtropical environment of south Florida.

Link to full paper


Contact Information Michael L. Avery
Email: michael.l.avery@aphis.usda.gov

2) Cold weather limits potential range of Burmese python invasion
May 19 2010, Conservation Maven Blog

American alligator and a Burmese python locked in a struggle to prevail in Everglades National Park. Credit, Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service.The well-publicized invasion of Burmese pythons in the United States is unlikely to spread farther north than south Florida according to a new study by scientists from the National Wildlife Research Center.

The infamous invasion of the giant snake to the Everglades and neighboring areas likely occurred from illegally released pets and perhaps accidental escapes during Hurricane Andrew.

The growing population of Burmese pythons (Python molurus bivittatus) in the region has sparked serious concerns about potential ecological and public safety issues and has played a role in spurring new legislation to control the reptile trade.

However, controversy has emerged about whether or not the snake could actually establish farther north than the portion of southern Florida it currently inhabits. Habitat models developed by scientists tell conflicting stories.

One model based on mean temperatures predicts potential expansion of the python range to as far north as Delaware while another model based on temperature extremes shows possible snake habitat confined to south Florida and the southern tip of Texas.

This past year, an unseasonably cold winter provided an ideal experimental setting for Michael Avery and fellow scientists to gather sorely needed empirical data on this question.

A year earlier, nine Burmese pythons had been caught in the wild in Everglades National Park and transferred to pens in Gainseville located in the northern part of the state. The snakes had access to the outside as well as heated refugia inside their pens.

Temperatures during this past winter were particularly cold frequently falling below freezing. During the course of the study 3 snakes died, 2 snakes developed infections and were euthanized, and 2 snakes developed potentially fatal respiratory illnesses and were removed from the study.

Only 2 male snakes survived unscathed. Interestingly, the researchers observed that some snakes would sit outside during periods of very cold weather despite the heated refuge in the pen.

The authors hypothesize that a lack of genetic variation among the south Florida python population has perhaps led to a reduced behavioral and ecological flexibility to adapt to climatic changes. Given the overall study findings the authors write,

"Our empirical observations cast doubt that Burmese pythons can become established and persist beyond the southern portion of the Florida peninsula."
--by Rob Goldstein

Avery, M., Engeman, R., Keacher, K., Humphrey, J., Bruce, W., Mathies, T., & Mauldin, R. (2010). Cold weather and the potential range of invasive Burmese pythons Biological Invasions DOI: 10.1007/s10530-010-9761-4



The following text should have accompanied Richard Muirhead's article about a spotted otter but was inadvertantly left out..

"Dr Andrew Kitchener of the National Museum of Scotland wrote to me on 29thApril 1996 on the otter: The otter looks most odd.I think there are twoexplanations.Either it is a hoax, or it could be a simple single genemutation causing white spotting.This white spot gene is known in cats and there is no reason to suppose it does not occur in otters, although as inmost wild mammals, these gene mutations are rare. Anyway, thank you forsending me the photocopy-it is a most unusual otter indeed."

Sorry Richard.

ANDREAS TROTTMANN: A week at Loch Morar

Dear Colleagues,

From May 3rd till May 12th, 2010 I continued my researches at unique Loch Morar. I stayed at a most cosy B&B at Bracara, enjoying an excellent view over a substantial portion of the water.

Besides my limited researches at the loch, I went to the Isle of Eigg and up Loch Nevis to secluded Knoydart. Douglas Macfarlane kindly visited me and stayed for one night. We spent a few perfect hours boating on Loch Morar and undertook some hydrophone trials.

I came across several sighting reports unknown to me and had the chance to speak several times to one very objective witness, Alistair MacKellaig, in particular.
· On August 18th, 1990 he had – together with a friend and one of his sons – a sighting of three humps overtaking slowly his boat. It occurred in the early afternoon between Swordland and Meoble near the deepest part of the loch. Each hump was the size of a lorry tyre and 2 to 2.5 feet above the surface, colour slightly darker than the water. Overall size between 6 to 7 metres. The three humps submerged simultaneously. Water calm.
· Also the father of my landlady reported having observed a large spout – similar to one from a whale – in the loch.
· One Sunday morning in the 1970s the whole congregation standing outside the church after mass, observed the creature in the loch – unfortunately no further details on this report.

Herewith some more data on the sighting of Donald Simpson of November 27th, 1975. Unfortunately he died a few years ago. Nevertheless I managed to get hold of a sketch of the creature observed in the outflow of the loch into the river Morar. The details are: A powerful, 20 foot long animal which roused out of the river less than 40 feet from the car his brother was driving. It lurched across a gravel bar and sank into the deeper waters of the loch. The episode lasted only a few seconds. Smooth, brown skin and powerful muscles in the hindquarters. No ears or eyes were seen but a thing that looked like a trunk trailing alongside the body. The creature turned on the spot like a huge crocodile.

Some locals are highly reluctant to speak about their knowledge and the observations made. One local woman in particular refuses categorically to speak on her experience, as the sighting has probably triggered a traumatic effect. I only know that she observed – standing on a small jetty (presumably the one near Morar Lodge) – a “horrific black thing” in the water. As you are aware, similar reactions were reported from Loch Ness.

Having now gained some better knowledge of the loch and its particularities, I would be most interested to organize a party of zoological and cryptozoological experts and well-trained observers for a one-week expedition to the loch. Further details will follow.

With my best wishes from Switzerland (still extremely fresh for the season).

Andreas Trottmann
Route de la Crausa 16
1566 St-Aubin FR
Tel. 0041 (0)26 6773659


It is a day late, but I write the blogs 24 hours in advance and I forgot the date. Ten years ago today (as I write this) and ten years ago yesterday (as you read it) at 12:45, Toby, the CFZ Dog Mk 1, had a lethal injection in his neck.

From Monster Hunter:

'Against her better judgment, Alison gave in to my pleadings and agreed that I could get a dog. In those days I was particularly lonely. For some reason, the NHS - at least in the Exeter Health Authority - operated a working shift of two and a half 12 and a hour days on, followed by two and a half days off, and working every other weekend. Despite my pleas that we were newlyweds and that it was causing us a considerable amount of unhappiness, the Paras be insisted on making Alison and me work as it shifts. This meant, that essentially, that although we had only been married a few months, we hardly ever saw each other. During the important parts of our marriage - the time when most couples are bonding with each other - we were essentially strangers. We only ever saw each other for a few hours in the evenings, by which time the person who had been at home all day was stir crazy, and the person who'd been at work was tired, and irritable and just wanted to go to bed. Alison had always said - with some justification - that one should not keep a dog in a small house without a garden. However, I maintained that as one or other of us were going to be at home pretty well all the time that it wouldn`t make any difference. And she eventually gave in.

During the days when I was off sick and existed in a haze of opiates, we scoured the newspapers, and the adverts in the windows of the pet shops for puppies. Eventually, we found one. We drove to a rather dishevelled housing estate on the outskirts of Dawlish, knocked on the door of the house described in the advert and would greeted by a hail of barking and scrabbling. A harassed looking man in late middle-age and so the door. He was accompanied by a 12 puppies who were rushing about his feet, tripping each other up, and all doing their best to make more noise than the others.

The harassed man explained that Toby's mother Gladys - a pedigree Black Labrador bitch - had been in his family for years, and had never evinced any interest in the opposite sex. For this reason, and also because of some unspecified medical complications he had never had her spayed. Much to everybody's surprise in ( including one suspects Gladys's), at the venerable age of eight she had escaped from the house and succumbed to the charms a dishevelled and rather disreputable male dog of uncertain antecedents which was kept by a seedy looking bloke about four doors up. The 12 puppies - who by this time were doing their best to eat my right foot - were the result.

I would like to be able to say that Toby`s eyes met mine, it and that an immediate bond was forged between us. However, it wouldn't be true. We chose him almost by default. Of the litter of 12 there were only three left that had not already been adopted. Two were bitches, and having heard course the cautionary tale of Toby's mother, and both of us having had experience of bitches in heat, howling, scratch and the paintwork, and doing it their best to escape in order to fulfill the sexual desires with any available canid, Alison and I had already decided that we wanted a male dog. Handing over a fiver in payment for the only boy puppy left we drove back to Exeter, with Toby - at that time even smaller than one of my shoes - killed up asleep on my lap.

That night, we committed what many people consider to have been a cardinal sin in dog ownership. We made to be up a bed in the kitchen and retired up to ou for room. Toby howled, cried and whined. The book that we had bought on the subject of dog ownership had warned us that this would happen, and had advised us to steel our hearts and ignore the pitiful vocalisations of the frightened young puppy. I couldn't do this. Toby's cries were breaking my heart, so in the middle of the night I walked down the stairs to the kitchen, picked him up and took him up to our bedroom. That night he slept in bed with us - a position he was to occupy for the next 15 years.'

And from a later chapter:

'The year 2000 had been a particularly horrible one anyway. Toby, the CFZ Dog and probably the best friend that I have ever had died of cancer in June at the age of sixteen. With his death a large part of my life was over. He had been my constant companion since he was six weeks old, and had been the one constant in a life of turmoil. The night before he died he was too weak to walk and we had to carry him to my bedroom, where he slept on my bed has he had done all his life. I knew that he would have to be put to sleep on the following day, and as Toby and I lay in bed together, I was crying like a grief stricken baby. Summoning reserves of strength that neither he or I knew he had, he pulled himself up to the top of my bed to lick my face and comfort me, as he had done every time I had been upset for the previous sixteen years. The following day I watched helplessly as the vet administered the lethal injection and I knew that my life would never be the same again.'

Not a day goes by that I don't think of him. I always swore that I would never (to quote Kipling "give my heart to another dog to tear", and it took eight years before Biggles came along and spoilt that resolution. Rest in Peace old friend.

CORINNA DOWNES: Yesterday's News Today

Babysitting was going so well, but this little list has proved difficult. I am stumped on lyrics - can only think of Pearl’s a Singer and that would be pushing it. Oh well; there is always tomorrow.

Spawning Habitat of Bluefin Tuna in Gulf of Mexico: Critical Area Intersects Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
Media Watch caught out by its fossil morality tale
Solenodon hunt: On the trail of a 'living fossil'
Blue ribbon eel snapped in photo contest
ARAV Conservation Support for the Palmarito Turtle Camp (Via Herpnet)
Animals Most Threatened By The Gulf Oil Spill (Via Herpnet)
Uncle Sam Wants You to Bid on This Fine Weasel Fur Coat (Via Herpnet)
Oldest living creature is back in safe waters after road fears



I have an old illustration in my archives of a brown otter almost completely covered in white spots. It is in the Irish Naturalist vol.18 but I am not clear of the page numbers - quite near 1907 I think. The story accompanying the photo is as follows:

'The National Museum of Ireland recently acquired from Mr. W. J. Williams, of Dublin, a full-grown Otter, which differs from ordinary otters, in that its rich brown fur is dotted all over with white spots, as shown in the accompanying illustration. It was trapped in Lough Sheelin, which lies partly in the County Cavan and partly in Westmeath.

The fur, as a rule, is of a rich chestnut brown in Irish Otters. …Mr Williams informs me that,occasionally, amounting to about 1 per cent of the skins prepared by him for the fur trade, the skins are speckled in this manner. The whiteness, however, in these cases, is still hidden to some extent, in the unprepared skin, by the brown colour of the long hairs. It is only after removal of the hairs by the furrier that the white spots become plainly visible.

In the specimen here figured, not only has the under-fur white patches of variable size, but the whiteness extends even to the long hairs, giving the Otter a most peculiar specked appearance. Mr Williams tells me that, among several thousands of skins that have passed through his hands, this is the only specimen of that kind he has seen.

From the Royal Irish Academy Fauna and Flora Committee`s records, I find that perfectly white Otters have been observed in the River Shannon, being, presumably, true albinos,, and recorded in the Field (vol. xci., 1898,pp 141-142). We know that an albino Otter from Scotland is preserved in the Belfast Museum…In connection with this very abnormal skin of the Otter, I re-examined the ordinary ones with a view to verifying Mr Ogilby`s statement that Irish Otters differ so much from English ones as to deserve a special name. He proposed to call the Irish Otter Lutra roensis instead of Lutra vulgaris (1)

1.Anon Irish Naturalist vol 18 pp?