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, August 11, 2010

WEIRD WEEKEND 2010: The latest news

* They are dropping like flies. There has been another line-up change. Sadly, Sam Shearon has been forced to cancel. His shoes have been ably filled by Richard Freeman doing a talk based on his Japanese monster book.

With only 24 hrs left haven't done so already, now might be a good time to buy your tickets to the best crypto-fortean event of the year....

Buy Your Tickets here



The entrance to the Zoological Gardens

The Bristol Zoological Gardens are situated in the Clifton area of the city (close to the famous Suspension Bridge) and cover a 12-acre expanse. The grounds are home to a wide variety of animals from throughout the world, and such is the care and dedication shown by the staff towards their charges that the Good Britain Guide voted Bristol Zoo as 'Zoo of the Year 2004.' The secret of success here is that every inch of ground is utilised to full effect be it an amazing animal enclosure, a beautiful landscaped garden or simply a place to rest.

If you enter the zoo at the main entrance the first aquatic exhibits you will find are at ‘Twilight World’ (at the entrance look out for the New Zealand Mountain Parrots, who look as mean as their reputation for destruction suggests). Once your eyes have adjusted to the dark you are surrounded by a host of ground-living and flying mammals that literally live for the night. Fish exhibits are limited to a large aquarium that accommodates an equally large Marbled Clarias and a smaller aquarium - home to a community of Butterfly Goodeids.

The main aquatic exhibits are housed in the aquarium building, and here you find 18 aquaria that range greatly in size and dimensions. I enjoyed the new ‘loop film’ that tells you about the conservation work and day-to-day duties carried out by the zoo’s aquarist.

The Zoo Aquarium

The first four aquariums are used to highlight the plight of freshwater habitats and the need for greater conservation efforts to be made in order to protect the white clawed crayfish, Potosi pupfish, African crater lake cichlids and Central American livebearers that they house.

Now we are onto the first of several spectacular biotope aquaria and here we find a community of 'fossil fish' from several countries, which includes Sterlets, American Paddlefish, Barbel and various Gars.

Now we stand in front of what for me is always the highlight of the aquarium, in the form of an East-Asian biotope. What a fantastic array of fish we find here including a large shoal of clown loaches, two huge giant gouramis, silver sharks, Pangassius catfish, dragon fish (bred at the zoo) and the largest Myxcioprinus asciaticus on display in the U.K. I stood for ages just watching this community in awe.

Dragon Fish and Giant Gourami

The next large aquarium is a nicely set-out brackish display, the occupants of which include scats and fingerfish. A piranha community follows and leads us nicely into the Amazon flooded forest exhibit that takes you between 'mock trees', where you find black bacu, various loricarins, silver dollars and a large number of flier cichlids swimming on both sides of you and above your head.

We're not finished yet, as two more excellent biotopes follow! The first of these is an Amazon black water habitat whose occupants include some of the largest Motoro stingrays I have seen. The final biotope takes us to Lake Malawi and here we find a huge range of mbuna who have a giraffe catfish and a huge lungfish for company. On our second look around of the day Sue and I were fortunate enough to see feeding time here and this was a sight to remember.

As you will see from the photograph that follows the final exhibits are beautifully arranged tropical marine aquariums.

One of the tropical marine displays

Very close to the aquarium is the equally spectacular reptile house. Here a waterfall runs down into a large pool that is split into three sections. The first section had me spellbound as it houses some of the largest Thai carp I have seen for many years. Watch for the large clown knifefish as it is so well camouflaged that it is easy to miss. The other two sections are home to various colour forms of African zebra cichlids. Some wonderful crocodilians and other water living reptiles and amphibians are also on display.

In ‘Bug World’ a new section of aquaria dedicated to tropical and native marine coral habitats have been created. The highlight for me was an amazing blue lobster and the condensation on the glass showed the cold conditions in which this creature has to be maintained. A ‘loop film’ highlights the peril many of our marine habitats are under as climate change etc. tightens its grip.

Each visit sees the zoo’s shoal of huge carp in a different animal enclosure moat so suspect that they are moved around to munch away at excess Elodea etc? As you read this report you will find them in the moat that surrounds the gibbon enclosure. Their moving around is probably the reason why, of all of the fish on display, these are the only ones without excellent information boards?

Finally, what you need to enjoy Bristol Zoological Gardens is plenty of time and good walking shoes. So many visitors rush around and miss the little touches, such as the iris pond, that make these gardens so special. When each visit ends, Sue and I long to return.


JON: OOOOh it does get exciting here at CFZ Mansions. Yesterday, whilst Max and I went to Tiverton to collect Ronan Coghlan, we left the rest of the assembled gang (David, Greg, Graham, Richard, Matthew and Emma) to put up the marquees.

We were only gone about three hours but in the meantime David managed to banjax his ankle and went to A&E with Matthew. In the meantime the rest of the gang managed to put the marquee up inside out!!!

I was greeted with the sight of the marquee swaying unsteadily in the wind like a drunken yurt, and my young godson telling me excitedly that David had "broken his foot jumping off a wall." Luckily it was nowhere near as severe as that and David returned from A&E with some painkillers and the news that although it was badly swollen it was only sprained.

He and Matthew then mocked the pathetic attempts at tent construction performed by the others and did it properly!

NAOMI WEST: Identify this bug


I was interested to read Michael Newton's take on Bigfoot or more specifically, the dirty politics that have clouded the search for it for more years than I care to remember.

I believe in Bigfoot and think I might have caught a glimpse of him once near the Dorcheat Bayou in Louisiana. It was approaching dusk, though, and I can't be sure. I'd like to think so.

I don't wish to get involved in all the claims and counter-claims over the Patterson-Gimlin footage. My opinion has wavered over the years, and each researcher has to make up their own mind as to whether they think it's genuine or not.

But I would like to say a word about Cliff Crook.

Many years ago, when I was first cutting my teeth as a columnist, I decided to write up a piece on that enigmatic Man O' the Woods for perhaps more than any other cryptid, he fascinates me. I cannot explain why this is so; he just does. I contacted a number of researchers in the field. Some were moderately helpful, others less so. One, in fact, was downright abusive and accused me of being a "subversive." Wow, what a compliment.

But Cliff Crook was different. He sent me reams of material through the post, including copies of his newsletter, and a number of photographs. He told me in no uncertain terms that he did not believe the Patterson-Gimlin footage was genuine and I respected his opinion although at the time I did not share it. I was fascinated by his research and just knew I had to interview him. In my conversations with Cliff I found him to be unassuming, considerate and humble. He was, in fact, the sort of chap you just couldn't help but warm to.

I've interviewed Cliff several times over the years and was particularly fascinated by his account of his own first encounter with Bigfoot. In quiet, almost sedate tones he calmly related how, with some friends during a camping trip, he saw the creature and quite understandably, ran home – a distance of several miles.

I know that Cliff has courted controversy over the years – as readers of this blog know, I'm certainly no stranger to it myself – but after talking to the man I quickly formed the opinion that many of the ad hominem attacks directed towards him were launched from a platform of personal dislike. I don't have a problem with people who engage with others in the cut-and-thrust of intellectual debate; if we publicly make our opinions known then it is reasonable to expect that others may take issue with them. However, I have a real problem with those who engage in witch-hunts and carry out personal vendettas against those who have the temerity to disagree with their own pet theories. Sadly, I'm of the opinion that some of the flack that has been aimed at Cliff over the years falls into that very category.

I'm simply not in a position to say whether some of the criticisms and accusations launched at Cliff Crook are true or not. All I can do is relate my own experiences with the man and state quite publicly that my instincts have never led me to believe that he was a charlatan. He is, I think, a ruggedly individualistic and somewhat unconventional researcher who goes about things in his own way. It is a way that works for him. Some of his beliefs and theories may not be popular with other researchers but he is perfectly entitled to hold them without being subjected to intimidation.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of this whole affair is that such shenanigans distract us from the real goal of determining whether Bigfoot really exists or not. When researchers spend more time investigating the background and activities of their 'rivals' than they do looking for one of the world's most enigmatic cryptids, then they've allowed themselves to be lured from the track that leads to Sasquatch and into a proverbial blind alley.

There are, I know, a few close colleagues of mine at the CFZ who have been subjected to quite execrable abuse by a number of keyboard warriors recently (5th Battalion, Cowardy Custard Division of the Pseudo-Fortean Fusiliers), and it isn't pleasant. I really don't know what possesses such individuals, although it could very well be Beelzebub or one of his minions, I suppose.

Personally, I think that Cliff Crook is a far better researcher than some give him credit for. During my interviews with him I asked him about a number of investigations he's carried out. I was impressed by the methodical and systematic way he approached things. His techniques may not satisfy the meticulous standards of academia, but we can't all be paragons in the lofty pantheon of intellectual godhood. He struck me as a competent, thorough and quite creative researcher who has much to offer the world of Bigfoot research. When it comes to the instinctive, practical side of looking for the Big Fellah – actually getting out in the woods and doing it – I honestly think he'd be the first one I'd call.

Cliff Crook doesn't have the swishest website in the world but he does call a spade a spade. He may not possess a cerebral dictionary of academic terminology but he speaks in a manner that ordinary folk who have had encounters with Bigfoot understand and feel comfortable with. I have had correspondence with several experients who speak in glowing terms of Cliff Crook and the assistance he subsequently provided to them.

There is an old maxim in journalism that we should only write about what we know. Of course, in the world of Forteana we mostly have to write about what we don't know. There are, of course, many things about Cliff Crook that I do not know and therefore cannot comment upon. I'm sure he wouldn't expect me to. All I can say is that what I do know impresses me.

I haven't written this blog to take issue with anything said about Cliff by his critics, or to affirm or deny a single word that has found its way into print about the man. I simply want to show that there's another side to the story – another perspective on this vignette of Fortean history – that needs to be told.

Is there, I wonder, just the faintest chance that we could all put down our swords and/or bury our hatchets, pull on our hiking boots and head for them thar hills so we can get back to business and finally meet up with that Old Man O' the Woods?

Just a thought. If you disagree, you can pull me up about it at the Weird Weekend over a pint (your round – I bought the last one) and let rip – in a caring, sharing sort of way, of course.…

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1883 the last true quagga died in the Artis zoo in Amsterdam.
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What’s a pig’s favourite sitcom?
‘Pork’ and Mindy.