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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Unlike some of our competitors we are not going to try and blackmail you into donating by saying that we won't continue if you don't. That would just be vulgar, but our lives, and those of the animals which we look after, would be a damn sight easier if we receive more donations to our fighting fund. Donate via Paypal today...

Friday, September 30, 2011


ANDREW MAY: Words from the Wild Frontier

News and stories from the remoter fringes of the CFZ blogosphere...

From Nick Redfern's "There's Something in the Woods...":
From CFZ Australia:
From CFZ New Zealand:


The latest episode is finished, but will not be uploaded until later today...

HAUNTED SKIES: Letter from the MOD in 1968


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1930 the actor, singer and director Richard Harris was born. Although he had a long, varied and accomplished career, he is best known these days for playing Professor Dumbledore in the first two Harry Potter films.
And now the news:

Beached whale found 800 metres ashore in Yorkshire...
South African and Vietnamese officials meet to dis...
How to minimize extinctions due to climate change ...
'Once in a lifetime' rare white whale calf spotted...
Tool use by marine fish caught on video
25 new species discovered in UAE's Wadi Wurayah
The fish making offshore oil platforms their home

Richard Harris also had problems with non-re-creatable wet cakes:

NEWS: Beached whale found 800 metres ashore in Yorkshire

Thanks to our old friend Simon Reames for sending this. It has to be the strangest headline of the year: a 33ft Sei Whale has been found stranded in a field.

Read all about it...

DALE DRINNON: Little People of Sumatra

Dale analyses new information brought back from Sumatra by Richard..


CFZ NEW ZEALAND: A vintage Orang Pendek cutting


Thursday, September 29, 2011


Something weird has been going on in our back-garden (or, back-yard, as it's called in the US!) for some time now. And, it's probably a good idea to bring it to people's attention, as it's still on-going.About three weeks ago, I found a decapitated mole in the grass, which I thought was kind of odd, and which Ken Gerhard saw when he came to visit shortly afterwards. Then, about two weeks ago, I found a large, skinned bone on the lawn - yep, picked entirely clean of meat.



Today I found the following item in the Dundee Courier & Argus & N.Warder for 18-9-1874 and I present a (sadly) equally rare lyrics selection. From a Scottish band, or at least faux Scottish. Hurrah! I apologise if this extract is familiar to you, ( the shark I mean) I don`t have one of those rare minds that can remember everything I`ve read, I have one of those minds tormented by anxiety and jinglebollocks, but that`s another story. Read on:


Yesterday, about low water, a strange looking animal was observed from the shore at Kirkaldy to have run aground on a bank a little out from the east pier. A boat was at once procured and set out for the bank, where they found what they supposed was a shark, measuring about 7 feet in length, with two horns on the top of its head. One of the men in the boat took a graip(?) and stabbed it in the belly. The monster had four rows of teeth, set closely, and very sharp. The men tried to get it up into the boat, but after pulling at it for some time they allowed it to get away; but it is thought from the nature of the wounds it received, that it will die, and therefore there is every likelihood of its being cast ashore. One of a like nature was observed by a bather at Portobello a few weeks ago, and which bit him on the leg. A great number of people were on the harbour at the time of the onslaught, and were greatly disappointed when they saw that the men had let it off. (1)

1. Dundee Courier & Argus & N. Warder 18-9-1874.


Alone among the hills and stone
Through summer sun and the winter snow
The eagle he was lord above
And Rob was lord below

240 we lived
Without hope and without pride
So who will know where they come from
Who raised a torch for those who died

I will be with them
In the summer sun
And the winter snow
They will come and clouds will go
And show that we are proud again

REQUEST: If anyone has any mystery animal stories including ABCs, BHMs and dragons from around Manchester please can they let me know at flyingsnakepress@hotmail.co.uk

HAUNTED SKIES: Cleveland Plain Dealer 22.3.53


OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


On this day in 1888 the serial killer known as Jack the Ripper claimed his third and fourth victims Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddows.
And now the news:

Canada geese, an invasive species soon to be culle...
Endangered dolphins near extinction
Suit: Dairy cows systematically slaughtered to dri...
Fossil beetles show true colours
Test-tube spiders raised at Chessington200 babies ...
Rat eradication success in New Caledonia
Dog rescues elderly NC woman who fell
Mauritius: Mass Monkey Slaughter "Discussed" by Vi...

This is the best Jack the Ripper movie ever made (it’s complete hogswash but well made hogswatsh, mind you). Make it your mission to seek this film out:


Here's a very chilling article of mine newly posted on my Eclectarium blog, all about true-life cases of dolls and puppets with a sinister life of their own:



Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Butterfly-watching Holidays

Butterfly-watching Holidays

  • small groups, relaxed pace, perfect for butterfly photographers
  • learnaboutbutterflies.com is a constantly expanding website, recognised internationally as the most complete and authoritative on-line resource dealing with Lepidoptera worldwide.
  • It aims to promote the conservation of butterflies, moths and their habitats; to illustrate a representative selection of the world's 18,000 butterfly species, and to provide detailed, accurate information about all aspects of the lives of these beautiful and fascinating creatures.

    Dear friends

    learnaboutbutterflies has just published our butterfly-watching tour programme for 2012.

    Full details of available tours can be found on the website http://www.learnaboutbutterflies.com/

    We are offering 3 tours for 2012 :

    departing 8th July 2012 - ground cost £1595
    Central Peru
    departing 31st July 2012 - ground cost £2795

    Peru Manu
    departing 15th August - ground cost £3135

    If you would like further details of any of these tours please don't hesitate to ask.

    Tours tend to fill very quickly, so if you want to be sure of a place please reserve as soon as possible.

    I look forward to meeting you and showing you some of the worlds best butterfly-watching regions in 2012.

    Best wishes

    Adrian Hoskins

    Sadly, there were no images of the orang pendek on the CFZ trailcams. We did, however, get some stunning views of the Sumatran jungle.

    The trailcams will be redeployed locally in a day or so. Initially to try and get some pictures of the deer in Walland Farm home woods, and then to a wood in Hartland where there have been recent sightings of a black big cat.

    RETURN OF THE WHITE HART (Courtesy of Richard Muirhead)

    HAUNTED SKIES: Cleveland Ohio 8.12.53


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 2010 Tony Curtis died.
    And now the news:

    Thumper the giant bunny taken into care after she'...
    Political party enters a donkey to run for mayor i...
    Back from the brink: endangered species successes
    Shrike 'could recolonise' UK after Dartmoor breedi...
    Multi-hook lines ‘kill 300,000 birds a year’
    Cheetah to be reintroduced into India
    White possum in California
    Meet the world's oldest two-faced cat

    And Curtis' best film was:

    KARL SHUKER: Janus cats on Shukernature

    Here's an updated version of my ShukerNature blog post on Frank & Louie and other Janus cats:


    TERATOLOGY: Karl Shuker's Janus Cat

    Karl Shuker hits the news headlines with Frank & Louie - the record-breaking, longest-surviving Janus cat:


    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    ANDREW MAY: Words from the Wild Frontier

    No less than ten new posts from the Wild Frontier in the last 24 hours, so I thought I'd better clear the backlog:

    From Nick Redfern's "There's Something in the Woods...":
    From CFZ Australia:

    27th Midwest Herpetological Symposium

    27th Midwest Herpetological Symposium - October 21-23, 2011 -Sponsored By

    The event will be held at: Best Western Kelly Inn-2705 Annapolis Ln N.
Plymouth, Minnesota, 55441-Phone: 763.553.1600

    Friday Night Ice-breaker
    Dav Kaufman (Minneapolis, Minnesota) - "The making of Herpers and Herpers II."
    Keynote Presentation
    Barney Oldfield, DVM (Hesperus, Colorado)
"Crotaphytid Odyssey

    Saturday Speakers
    Jeff LeClere (St. Paul, Minnesota) -
Minnesota DNR "Herps of Minnesota"
    Jeff Ettling, Ph.D. Candidate (St. Louis,
Missouri)- Curator of Herpetology, St. Louis Zoo
"The Spatial Ecology and Habitat Usage of Armenian Vipers, Montivipera raddei, in Two Different Landscapes."
    Tony Gamble, Ph.D. (Minneapolis, Minnesota) -
University of Minnesota
"Describing South America's Lizard Diversity: From
the Field to the Lab Bench"
    Salvatore Santelli (Annville, Pennsylvania) -
Trustee, World Chelonian
" The North American Wood Turtle: Personal Experiences with Them in
the Wild and Captivity"
    Chris Tabaka, DVM (Battle Creek, Michigan) -
Staff Veterinarian, Binder Park Zoo
"Role of the Veterinarian in Field Conservation Research


    Prudence went to the vet yesterday, and was told (actually it was Corinna and Graham that were told) that she is now allowed to climb stairs (under supervision) and climb on and off furniture. It will still be some weeks before she can run about outside again but she can - at least - do most of the things that she enjoys, and which have been denied her ever since her operation...

    HAUNTED SKIES: A collection of clippings from May 1968


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 2008 Falcon 1, the first ever privately owned spaceship, was launched into orbit by SpaceX.
    And now the news:

    Shark takes kayak man for a ride
    'Heat-Proof' Eggs Help Turtles Cope With Hot Beach...
    Frog killer immune genes revealed
    Wolf caught on camera trap in Belgium - Video
    Not one – but two rare species found at Kent reser...
    Lock of hair pins down early migration of Aborigin...
    New study says birds learn how to build nests
    Deadly bird disease trichomonosis 'spreads to Euro...
    Endangered Species Act Protection (Via HerpDigest)...

    Graham should like today's vid:

    DALE DRINNON: Chupacabras solved!


    Monday, September 26, 2011

    REDDERS REVIEWS GLEN - with impressive results

    Several years ago the British-based Centre for Fortean Zoology – one of the very few groups in the world dedicated to investigating strange creatures on a full-time basis – embarked upon an ambitious project. The idea was to publish a series of books on unusual and unknown animals reported throughout the length and breadth of Britain, on a county-by-county basis. And given that the nation has a lot of counties that means a lot of books!

    Fortunately, the CFZ has proved to be fully up for the challenge and the group has now published a number of titles under the banner of The Mystery Animals of the British Isles, including books that cover the counties of Kent, the Western Isles, Northumberland and Tyneside. And I’m pleased to announce the CFZ has just released the latest in this on-going series. Written by Glen Vaudrey, it covers the Northern Isles, which can be found north of mainland Scotland.

    Read on...


    I am always unreasonably shocked when I find out how far divorced most people are from the realities of the natural world. But this takes the proverbial biscuit...

    Most holiday makers taking a stroll around a working harbour might expect to see the odd fish. But when David Copp came across a fishing trawler moored in Ilfracombe Harbour he took great offence and complained about the “disgusting” smell.

    The 46-year-old was outraged that his children, aged seven and nine, had been forced to endure the sight of 12 crates of dead fish and crabs, piled up on the quayside. He said the ordeal had left them “quite distressed” and demanded to know why the harbourmaster was not more considerate to tourists.

    Read on...

    GERALD SMITH WRITES: Mystery plant

    Any of you guys know what this is? It appeared in the garden - only one.

    ANDREW MAY: Words from the Wild Frontier

     News and stories from the remoter fringes of the CFZ blogosphere...

    From Nick Redfern's "There's Something in the Woods...":
    From CFZ Australia:
    From CFZ New Zealand:
    From CFZ Canada:

    HAUNTED SKIES: Another giant leap...


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 1947 the American singer Meat Loaf was born. Honestly; if your surname is Loaf what sort of parent names their son Meat? Sometimes parents just don't think when naming their kids! I used to know somebody called Wayne who shared his last name with famous Irish music group, for example (if you're trying to work it out, it isn't B*witched).
    And now the news:

    Pig Abduction
    Hanoi village conserves snake business (Via Herp ...
    Rare snail found after 110 years in Fife
    Bullfighting in Barcelona to end with Catalonia ba...
    Highs and lows for British mammals
    Red squirrel and hedgehog under threat, study says...
    'First Irish case' of death by spontaneous combust...

    One from the vaults:

    DARREN NAISH: A baby sea-serpent no more: re-interpreting Hagelund’s juvenile Cadborosaurus

    Our efforts to get analyses of cryptozoological data into the technical, peer-reviewed literature continue, with the ‘our’ being myself, Michael Woodley and Cameron McCormick (a.k.a. Lord Geekington). I’m referring here to our new paper, titled ‘A baby sea-serpent no more: reinterpreting Hagelund’s juvenile “cadborosaur” report’, published within recent weeks in Journal of Scientific Exploration (Woodley et al. 2011).

    What’s the point of this paper? We show, via an analysis of morphological character states, that the ‘baby Cadborosaurus’ encountered by Captain William Hagelund in 1968 was most likely…. a pipefish, not a baby sea serpent. Cadborosaurus, if you’re not familiar with it, is a long-bodied, horse-headed sea monster thought by some to exist in the waters of the north-east Pacific.

    Read on...

    CFZ PEOPLE: Dr Darren Naish

    A very happy birthday, my dear boy....

    CFZ CANADA: Do those that believe in Cryptids really suffer from psychological disorders?


    Sunday, September 25, 2011


    The expedition concentrated its searches around Lake Kerinci and the “gardens” area in the lower elevation rainforest, both areas of previous sightings and secondary evidence. Whereas the “gardens” team returned with three partial footprints, the possible hand print was found in the jungle surrounding Lake Kerinci.

    The print is to be sent for independent analysis but furthers the body of evidence for Orang Pendek. Unidentifiable hairs also found in the immediate vicinity are to undergo similar independent testing.

    Upon completion, expedition leader Adam Davies stated “This was a really successful expedition. I am fortunate to have had such a determined and dedicated team and feel confident that the findings, once analysed, will help further verify the existence of Orang Pendek, whose habitat is under great ecological pressure.”

    Saturday, September 24, 2011


    If orthodox zoology is to be believed the Pine Marten is supposed to have been extinct in the New Forest for about 100 years ( please correct me if I`m wrong). In February 2009 there was a conversation on the Wild About Britain Forum (which I featured in my recent blogs about a very large fox in Surrey) about the Pine Marten in Southern England.

    The post immediately before the one that broke the news about Pine Martens in the New Forest was as follows:

    Re: Pine Martens in southern England?

    James,like you, I`d love to think that pine martens could thrive in the New Forest or in Breckland. I don`t have the knowledge to form my own opinion. But you have not addressed the VWT`s [Vincent Wildlife Trust`s-R] main issue – the surviving populations in England and Wales. You need to answer questions 1,2 & 3 on page 6 [probably a VWT document-R] and not least meet international guidelines……….What makes the New Forest any better than the current relict areas like Kielder or Shropshire where the martens are struggling?

    The VWT seems negative, but all they are saying is that we need to answer these questions first. Those who proposed the re-introduction (PTES) prefer to pretend the relict populations don`t exist. Isn`t that shameful? Surely we must not refuse to help or study the rarest native mammal in England or Wales just because it suits our aims for a high profile re-introduction.

    Then more than 2 years later:

    Deepest blue
    Re: Pine Martens in southern England?

    Pine martens alive and well in the New Forest, sighted march 2011 got a good view of one along side of a ride in the forest,( isolated spot) I have found scent marking pooh in the middle of a track unsure if its PM or Badger but from the info I can find its PM

    Re: Pine Martens in southern England?

    How about Thetford Forest? It’s the largest lowland Pine forest in Britain. Which is the best area to find Red Squirrels in Thetford Forest?

    Re: Pine Martens in southern England?

    Welcome deepest_blue and congrats on the sighting. If you haven`t already , you might want to contact the VWT to report your sighting. It seems very hard to ID PM scats accurately. Most common seems to be confusing Fox for PM……………….According to their reports there were 5 good quality PM sightings in the S Hants area between 2000-2005 , so perhaps there`s little doubt there are some present in the New Forest. The question is how did they get there? The report shows a captive collection near to the New Forest. DNA research will give evidence about the origins of the different groups around the British Isles, but it seems the picture is still emerging. At least its good news that one was confirmed in Grizedale.

    So there we are, the New Forest Pine Martens.

    HAUNTED SKIES: Press cuttings from April 1968


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 2008 Swiss inventor Yves Rossy successfully flew across the English Channel using a jetpack of his own design. The flight took 9 minutes and 7 seconds and reached speeds of 186 miles per hour.
    And now the news:

    Maldives government complains of spoof atlas omiss...
    "Frog Crossing" Signs Leave Taxpayers Hopping Mad ...
    Online Dating Saves Endangered Frogs (Via HerpDige...
    As Diamondback Terrapin nesting declines, center e...
    How Todd Bairstow survived a crocodile attack (Via...
    San Mateo Woman pleads not guilty in lizard stabbi...
    UF study names new ancient crocodile relative from...

    Footage of Rossy flying his stunning winged jetpack set to some quite apt music:

    CFZ NEW ZEALAND: Its a funny old world we live in...



    From The Canadian Sea Turtle Network We have a chance to win part of $100,000 to support our sea turtle work in Canada. The Canadian Sea Turtle Network is currently in second place in a voting competition sponsored by Jamieson Vitamins. We need your help for sea turtles to win. There are only a few days left, and we're the smallest group in the contest by far.But . . . although the other organizations may have bigger staffs and budgets, they don't have the folks on the HerpDigest list. We are hoping you will prove to be our winning card.

    The link to vote is: www.facebook.com/jamiesonvitamins

    (You don't need Facebook to vote, and you will not receive emails from Jamieson Vitamins afterward.)

    You can vote once a day. Please also ask your colleagues, friends and family to vote for the Canadian Sea Turtle Network. Tweets, RTs and Facebook posts welcome, too.

    The contest ends Sunday.

    Thank you for your help. We really appreciate it.

    Kathleen Martin
    Executive Director
    Canadian Sea Turtle Network

    Invasive Amphibians, Reptiles in Florida Outnumber World, Study Finds

    (Paper available For a copy of the paper contact:Kenney Krysko at FLMNH, Univ. Florida http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/directory/cvs/kenneyk_cv.htm. Chief Author of Paper or Louis Somma )

    ScienceDaily (Sep. 17, 2011) - Florida has the world's worst invasive amphibian and reptile problem, and a new 20-year study led by a University of Florida researcher verifies the pet trade as the No. 1 cause of the species' introductions.

    From 1863 through 2010, 137 non-native amphibian and reptile species were introduced to Florida, with about 25 percent of those traced to one animal importer. The findings appear online September 15 in Zootaxa.

    "Most people in Florida don't realize when they see an animal if it's native or non-native and unfortunately, quite a few of them don't belong here and can cause harm," said lead author Kenneth Krysko, herpetology collection manager at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus. "No other area in the world has a problem like we do, and today's laws simply cannot be enforced to stop current trends."

    Florida law prohibits the release of non-native species without a state permit, but offenders cannot be prosecuted unless they are caught in the act. To date, no one in Florida has been prosecuted for the establishment of a non-indigenous animal. Researchers urge lawmakers to create enforceable policies before more species reproduce and become established. The study names 56 established species: 43 lizards, five snakes, four turtles, three frogs and a caiman, a close relative of the American alligator.

    "The invasion of lizards is pretty drastic considering we only have 16 native species," Krysko said. "Lizards can cause just as much damage as a python. They are quicker than snakes, can travel far, and are always moving around looking for the next meal."

    Defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as organisms "whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health," invasive species are a growing concern for residents and policymakers. Only three species were intercepted before reaching the wild and researchers documented 137 introductions. The study also shows no established, non-native amphibian or reptile species has been eradicated.

    Floridians have experienced some of the damage these animals can cause, from iguanas that destroy cement walls to Burmese pythons released in the Everglades that eat protected species. While the impact of many of the introduced species has not been determined, the study provides new information about how, why and when they entered the state.

    The first introduction in 1863 was of the greenhouse frog, native to the West Indies. One of the most easily recognized species is the brown anole, the first introduced lizard, which reached Florida from Cuba via cargo ships in 1887. Until about 1940, nearly all non-native species arrived through this accidental cargo pathway, but the boom in popularity of exotic terrarium animals in the 1970s and 1980s led to the pet trade being accountable for 84 percent of the introductions, Krysko said.

    "It's like some mad scientist has thrown these species together from all around the world and said, 'hey let's put them all together and see what happens,' " Krysko said. "It could take decades before we actually know the long-term effects these species will have."

    Other pathways include biological control, in which an animal is intentionally released to control a pest species, and accidental introduction through the zoo or plant trade. The study will serve as a baseline for establishing effective policies for control or eradication, said Fred Kraus, a vertebrate biologist at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu who helped establish policies for invasive amphibians and reptiles in Hawaii.

    "This paper by Kenney and company I think is a good example of the approach that needs to be taken, providing the detail and being rather cautious in making immediate claims that things are established until there is evidence for it," Kraus said. "There is a lot more work going on now, but for years it was just ignored. For years, climate change was ignored, too. You know, humans just tend to ignore bad news until you can't ignore it anymore."

    One of the greatest obstacles pet owners face is how to feed and house an exotic animal that has become too large or difficult to handle, Krysko said.

    "The biggest example is the Burmese python," Krysko said. "It's a large constrictor and has definitely shown impact on native species, some you just can't even find anymore."

    The study uses fieldwork data from 12 co-authors throughout the state and research primarily using specimens in the Florida Museum of Natural History collections.

    "This is a global problem and to think Florida is an exception to the rule is silly," Krysko said. "The Fish and Wildlife Commission can't do it alone -- they need help and we have to have partners in this with every agency and the general public. Everyone has to be on board; it's a very serious issue."

    Story Source:
    The above story is reprinted from materials provided by University of Florida.

    Journal Reference:
    Kenneth L. Krysko, Joseph P. Burgess, Michael R. Rochford, Christopher R. Gillette, Daniel Cueva, Kevin M. Enge, Louis A. Somma, Jennifer L. Stabile, Dustin C. Smith, Joseph A. Wasilewski, Guy N. Kieckhefer Iii, Michael C. Granatosky & Stuart V. Nielsen. Verified non-indigenous amphibians and reptiles in Florida from 1863 through 2010: Outlining the invasion process and identifying invasion pathways and stages. Zootaxa, 2011; 3028: 1-64 [link]

    Need to cite this story in your essay, paper, or report? Use one of the following formats:

    University of Florida (2011, September 17). Invasive amphibians, reptiles in Florida outnumber world, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2011, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2011/09/110915131604.htm

    Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

    LINDSAY SELBY: Frank Searle in colour

    For those who have never seen Frank Searle or his display ,there was a programme on BBC2 at 7pm tonight showing old films of the highlands. About 5 minutes before the end Frank appears and you see his set up as it was. It looks very clean in the film, cleaner than I remember it, but then memory is fallible lol.

    The episode is on BBCi player, link below:http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b012znnw/On_Film_Highlands_on_Film/


    HAUNTED SKIES: UFO REPORT 18.4.1968 Birmingham


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 1951 the Actor Mark Hamill was born. You might remember him from such films as Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. You won't remember him from Star Wars: The Holiday Special because that was PAINFULLY bad, so bad George Lucas spent vast swathes of his personal fortune buying up all the copies of it he could to limit the amount of people who would get to see it.
    And now the news:

    Accidental Sea Turtle Deaths Drop 90 Percent in U....
    Monkeys Also Reason Through Analogy
    Scientists might have explained promiscuous behavi...
    Philippines eats, sells biodiversity riches
    Hebrides' successful mink project gets three-year ...
    American Sandhill crane st RSPB Strathbeg

    Oh George, you missed one (this is so bad it's good):

    Friday, September 23, 2011

    ANDREW MAY: Words from the Wild Frontier

    News and stories from the remoter fringes of the CFZ blogosphere...

    From Nick Redfern's "There's Something in the Woods...": From CFZ Australia:


    I wonder whether the results from our camera traps are going to be this impressive!

    AT LAST...


    Expanded editorial, including:
    - Mystery deer
    - Disappointing results
    - Breeding caecilians
    - Mystery cichlid
    - All change

    Faculty of the CFZ
    Obituary - William Corliss
    Nick Redfern's Letter from America - Werewolves and dogmen
    Aquatic Monsters Logbook by Oll Lewis
    Mystery Cats Diary -
    Connecticut puma by Will de Rocco
    UK Big Cat Report by Neil Arnold

    Watcher of the Skies by Corinna Downes
    India expedition report by Richard Freeman
    Mystery fish from 1677
    Pygmy elephants by Matt Salusbury
    Letters to the Editor
    The Sycophant
    About the CFZ
    About CFZ Press

    LINDSAY SELBY: Bogus bigfoot

    new video of bigfoot?
    There’s a new video on Youtube said to be of a bigfoot

    However, I couldn’t help noticing this item of news too. Hmmmm...

    Missing: Sasquatch Costume From Vacant Home
    Burglar Takes Copper Pipe, Bigfoot Costume Posted by Kim Nguyen, Web Editor
    The person also stole a full-size, adult Bigfoot costume.

    Erie police Lt. Lee Mathis said the total value of the stolen property has yet to be determined. The Bigfoot costume was worth about $120, but there's no estimated value on the pipe, yet, Mathis told the newspaper. It's not clear what the homeowner was doing with the Bigfoot costume.

    Read rest here :

    OLL LEWIS: There and Back Again

    The British members of the team return to the UK on Sunday, and we are agog to find out more about what they have done. In the meantime here's Oll....

    In 2003 a team of archaeologists from Australia and Indonesia made what is the most ground-breaking discovery in human evolutionary history in the lifetimes of most people alive today. On the island of Flores to the southeast of Sumatra and Borneo, when looking for evidence to support timings of human migrations in our evolutionary history, they investigated Liang Bua cave in the hope of finding evidence of ancient human habitation. What they found surpassed their wildest expectations when they happened upon stone tools, evidence of animal butchery and hunting, evidence of use of fire and an almost complete small skeleton on the floor of the cave along with more bones, from other individuals, that looked like they may be human.

    The bones were not human, however; rather than Homo sapiens they had discovered the bones of a previously unknown hominid species, which became known as Homo floresiensis or more colloquially, ‘hobbits.’ The bones of their first near-complete specimen (LB1) were very fragile and moist all the way through, and the archaeologists compared their constituency with that of wet blotting paper. It was clear that without drying out they would be too fragile to properly examine, so they did this before digging them up. It was on inspection that they noticed just how unusual the bones were. At first glance the archaeologists might have assumed from the small size of the cranium and skeleton of LB1, which would have been about 1.06 metres (3ft6ins) in height, that they were looking at the body of a child, but the bones were all fully formed, indicating that LB1 was an adult. LB1 is now thought to be the skeleton of a 30-year-old female. Another, less complete, specimen from the cave (LB8) had its height estimated based on the size of its tibia and is thought to have stood at 1.09 metres (3ft7ins). These heights are significantly shorter than the average heights of any extant adult race or tribe of H. sapiens, the smallest of which, the Twa, Semang and Andamanese peoples all have an average height of 1.37 metres (4ft6ins) for adult females.

    Another identifying factor of H. floresiensis was the cranial capacity: only 380 cubic centimetres, which is comparable to that of a chimpanzee, about half the capacity of Homo erectus and a quarter of the size of H. sapiens. H. floresiensis was - according to associated finds in the cave such as stone tools, evidence of fire and the butchered remains of stegodon - certainly quite intelligent despite its small brain, this is borne out by the comparably large overall proportion of the brain that seems to be given over to Brodmann area 10 in H. floresiensis, which is as big as that of H. sapiens despite the small size of the rest of the brain. The functions of Brodmann area 10 is little understood but it is thought that it may be involved in multitasking and cognitive branching.

    Other morphological differences between H. floresiensis and other hominids include their relatively large feet in relation to body size (which would also result in larger hands), apparent lack of chin, less twisting of limb bones and a shorter big toe in relation to the other toe bones.

    What makes H. floresiensis so remarkable, though, is its survival as a species so near to the present day. The species is only thought to have become extinct following the eruption of a nearby volcano some 12,000 years ago, which is about 12,000 years after the approximate time Homo neanderthalensis became extinct. The final extinction of H. floresiensis may have occurred in much more modern times if the folklore of Nage people, Flores’s modern indigenous people, is to be believed.

    The Nage people’s folktales speak of a race of short hairy men they call the Ebu Gogo. The Nage people claim to have wiped out the Ebu Gogo in the 18th century, apart from one pair who fled into the forest, by burning them alive in their cave. The Nage people claim to have done this in retaliation for regular theft of food and kidnapping of their children by the Ebu Gogo. If it was the case that the Ebu Gogo were a remnant population of H. floresiensis, which is by no means certain even if the Ebu Gogo did exist, then it could go down in history as the most tragic extinction perpetrated by human hands in history: to lose the only other known extant species of our genus to a natural disaster 12,000 years ago is one thing, but to loose it only 200 years ago in an act of genocide because it was stealing berries is another thing entirely.

    HAUNTED SKIES: Suffolk UFOs 1968


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 1991 Theodor Seuss Geisel died. He was best known for his children's books, which he wrote as Dr Seuss. His book Green Eggs and Ham was the result of a bet he had with his publisher who thought he couldn't write a book using a vocabulary of 50 words. Geisel proved him wrong.
    And now the news:

    Tortoise home owner defies order
    Very small male zebrafish use sneaky sex strategy
    Aquarium Fishes Are More Aggressive in Reduced Env...
    Tarpans returned to the wilds of Bulgaria
    Shieldbug spotted in UK for first time
    Caterpillars released in their thousands to save r...
    Smells May Help Birds Find Their Homes, Avoid Inbr...
    It’s All in the Head: Songbirds With Bigger Brains...

    SPOILERS: He eats them eventually:

    Thursday, September 22, 2011


    An article and photos on Kermode white black bears: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/08/kermode-bear/barcott-text


    Dear Mr. Downes,
    I was re-reading "The Singing Mouse of Devonport" in Fortean Studies Vol. 3 last night and was reminded of an article I recently ran across in an online newspaper archive although it seems to be quoting a letter to Nature about a singing mouse in 1870s France. Just in case you haven't already got this in your files, here it is.

    Portsmouth Times 12-15-1877 p. 1 Portsmouth, Ohio

    Singing Mice.

    The subject of singing mice is receiving considerable attention among the subscribers to Nature, and letters describing the musical habits of these little creatures are contributed by various observers. One, writing from Menton, France, says: “Last winter we occupied the rooms we now do at Menton. Early in February we heard, as we thought, the song of a canary, and fancied it was outside our balcony; however, we soon discovered that the singer was in our salon, and that the songster was a mouse. At that time the weather was rather cold, and we had a little fire, and the mouse spent most of the day under the fender, where we kept it supplied with bits of biscuit. In a few days it became quite tame, and would come on the hearth in an evening and sing for several hours. Sometimes it would climb up the chiffonier and ascend a vase of flowers to drink at the water, and then sit and sing on the edge of the table, and allow us to go quite near to it without ceasing its warble. One of its favourite haunts was the wood-basket, and it would often sit and sing on the edge of it. On February 12th, the last night of the carnival, we had a number of friends in our salon, and the little mouse sang most vigorously, much to their delight and astonishment, and was not in the least disturbed by their talking. In the evening the mouse would often run about the room and under the door, and into the corridor and adjoining rooms, and then return to its own hearth. After amusing us for nearly a month, it disappeared, and we suspect that it was caught in a trap set in one of the rooms beyond. The mouse was small and had very large ears, which it moved about much while singing. The song was not unlike that of the canary in many of its trills, and it sang quite as beautifully as any canary; but it had more variety, and some of its notes were much lower, like those of the bullfinch. One great peculiarity was a sort of double song which we had now and then, an air with an accompaniment; the air was loud and full, the notes being low and, the accompaniment quite subdued.”

    Chris Woodyard


    I have just met John Hanson and Dawn Holloway at our recent conference and this was a great pleasure to meet the team who have been putting in such a huge amount of effort into not just one book, but a series of several extensive volume chronicles of the UFO subject in the British Isles.

    We have corresponded frequently with regards to certain cases John had been researching, sometimes for case information or just to check some small details. Before I acquired these first two volumes, I became aware of books in the making when Lionel Beer had mentioned a retired police officer who was looking extensively into UFO files. I then observed our long time BUFORA member, David Sankey, preparing images for this project. Have a look at the standard of the artwork that is has gone into these first two volumes at www.davidsankey.com

    In general UFO literature, there are many cases that have their own books on specific events. The last extensive work that covered UFOs in decades of case summaries and a rolling overview of the subject would be by our very own John Spencer.

    Here is an author that is prepared to go further back in time than the benchmark Kenneth Arnold sighting in detail and reminds us that the modern UFO story did not start here.

    The first two books in the series are already published and they have taken a selection of prominent cases, complete with interviews and press cuttings from pilot and civilian sightings from the Second World War right through to cases that mark a heightening awareness of the public towards UFOs in the later 1960’s.

    For a historical and thorough account of the best of the sightings, John Hanson and Dawn Holloway largest task has been in the editing down of so many important cases, still coming in from research and investigations from a multitude of sources, including UFO groups and independent investigators.

    The first two volumes have attracted glowing reviews from all sales points and also specialist magazines such as UFO Matrix. This is growing into the definitive summary of UFO cases from all around the U.K. and lead by authors with a keen eye to separate fact from fiction.

    You should also seek out John and Dawn at various UFO conferences, as there is such an abundance of material, some of which did not make it into the book (live interviews and additional case photographs) that you’ll get a different set of cases discussed and explored at any appearance.

    John and Dawn appeared at the recent BUFORA conference in Newcastle and will be joining us for the 50th anniversary in London on the 22nd September 2012.

    In terms of a definitive selection of prominent cases and development of the UFO phenomenon, from witnesses, type of sightings and reports from 1940 to 1965, these first two volumes are the best for the interested newcomer and established reader, researcher and serious investigator in this broad subject.

    You can find further material being added constantly at John and Dawns site at:


    In addition to personal thoughts and meetings with other UFO investigators and researchers, it’s almost an appendix to many items the first two and forthcoming third volume simply does not have room to include.

    This should indicate to you the wealth of material you will be accessing by purchasing all of the progressive volumes in this large project. Volume three is due very soon and the purchasing of the Haunted Skies books will ensure regenerated resources to continue the series, which intends to go the complete timeline right up to more recent UFO incidents.

    BUFORA highly recommends the Haunted Skies volumes and if you want an extensive and thorough window on the fascinating cases that have occurred in the U.K. in the last fifty years, the first two books will leave you wanting more, with volume three (at the time of writing) due for release very soon, with later publications in the series already collating material and already underway.

    Purchase sources can be Amazon or your local bookseller will be able to supply this or directly from the Haunted Skies website.

    NEIL ARNOLD: The Warrington Man-Beast

    The town of Warrington, which sits on the banks of the River Mersey, is also a borough and unitary authority area of Cheshire. According to an obscure story from the 18th century, later repeated in Wally Barnes’s 1990 book Ghosts, Mysteries & Legends of Old Warrington, a terrifying man-beast once stalked a farm in Warrington. One such farm, once known as Peggy Gronachs Chicken Farm, harboured a bizarre story, which Wally Barnes was told of in the 1940s. According to Barnes, Peggy Gronach was ‘…the most evil, ugly and haggard old wretch ever seen in the vicinity.’

    According to legend, Peggy Gronach was a witch who escaped the original 17th century witch hunts that took place in Norwich. When Peggy moved to Warrington, she was the dread of the local community, her rundown shack would spook many a passer by and no-one was ever brave enough to venture through the undergrowth. However, one day a group of young children were playing near the old farm and decided that, for a dare, they would approach the cottage. When they were within a few metres a terrifying roar emanated from the building and staring through the grime-laced window pane was a hideous face. Then, Peggy emerged from the farmhouse and began screaming at the children who, of course, fled the area.

    When the terrified children returned home to their parents, they spoke of the great roar, to which their parents responded that the crone must have owned a ferocious dog. However, the children were adamant that what they saw peering from the house was a hair covered man with burning eyes, pointed ears and horns on his head.

    However bizarre the report may have seemed, the following month, according to Barnes, ‘…a farmhand was driving a horse and trap about a mile from the cottage when without warning the horse reared up. The farmhand then saw a hideous ghoul-like creature under a tree ready to pounce.’

    Local villagers began to spread rumour that Peggy Gronach had supernatural powers and that to explain the man-beast, they believed she could transform herself into the terrifying man-beast which had been reported around the area. Shortly after the farmhand’s encounter, a local farmer reported that one of his cows had been attacked. He found it dead and its head was hanging on my thread – only a very powerful creature could have committed such a crime. So, the local vicar, accompanied by ‘a gang of religious zealots’ visited Peggy’s remote cottage in the hope of driving her away from the village. However, upon arrival they found no trace of the old hag nor the hairy monster, the only sign that some ‘thing’ had been around was the carcass of a half-eaten goat.

    There were no further sightings of the terrible monster, or Peggy Gronach, and the building was knocked down. Barnes however, ends the tale with a chilling climax, stating that, ‘Many years later workmen dug up the remains of a giant bullock – or was it a bullock ? Bullocks do not have human skulls. Think about it.’

    This intriguing tale may sound far-fetched, but maybe, just maybe, out there in the sticks of old Warrington, there still lurks a frightful, hairy monster, a creature which, during the day either retires deep into the woods, or transforms itself into the shrivelled form of Peggy Gronach.

    DALE DRINNON: Rhinos in Sumatra

    The British members of the team return to the UK on sunday, and we are agog to find out more about what they have done. In the meantime Dale Drinnon presents evidence that what most of us believed about rhinos in Sumatra is simply wrong...



    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 1909 'The Phantom of the Opera' was first published.
    And now the news:

    Salmon and Other Fish Predators Rely On 'No Guts, ...
    Warning against freeing pet fish
    Whales take Northwest Passage as Arctic sea-ice me...
    Deadly bird disease trichomonosis 'spreads to Euro...
    Eel swims up man's penis
    The world's smallest aquarium
    Tracking equipment could be harming wild birds, ex...
    Baby red squirrels saved from Hurricane Katia

    And there goes any streetcred I might have had:

    NEWSFLASH: Sumatra Expedition cast handprint

    We have just heard from Richard Freeman:

    Hi Jon,

    Great news, we have a cast of the very first orang-pendek hand print ever recorded. Found by John Didmus, casted by Andy Sanderson. We all are getting copies. We also have hair found close by.

    NEWSFLASH - First news from Sumatra

    There is a little tantalising news on the expedition through the magic of Facebook. The Extreme Expeditions facebook page announces that 'Team all safe and sound, exciting news to be posted soon...' and Rebecca's FB announces that she 'asked for a mission, and for her sins they gave her one...the horror, the horror...' and does a little good-natured whingeing about noodles.

    Adam writes: 'I am alive and well ish...and just out of the jungle. More updates on a great expedition. soon....'

    So I would not be surprised if there was some news later today. In the meantime, however, you guys know as much as we do.


    This coming weekend (Saturday-Monday) is likely to see some disruption to the blog. Corinna is away on family business (golly, that makes me sound like Charles Manson) and will be returning on Monday along with Richard who should be returning from Sumatra and coming up to the CFZ sometime Monday afternoon.

    So it is only me and Oll. We will do our best to keep things together....

    Wednesday, September 21, 2011


    Graham is currently removing what is left of my stuff from the loft of my erstwhile home in Exeter. Amongst piles of rubbish he found a very tatty and coverless guide book to London Zoo from sometime in the 1930s. It includes this: a reference to the third species of Asian giant salamander that was at that time believed to exist, although these days it is usually considered to be a synonym for the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus).

    The type specimen was found in Hong Kong during the 1920s when a drain in the Royal Botanic Gardens burst....

    ROBERT SCHNECK: The Mark of Cane Toad

    Dear Jon,

    I have mixed feelings about items made from animals. Scorpions shouldn't be encased in lucite keychains reading "Greetings from Scottsdale, Arizona!" on principle. Nevertheless, they fascinate me, and on rare occasions can be enjoyed without guilt. Toadshop.com, for example, has novelties made from cane toads which are grotesque and awful and I want them. Shown here is the change purse (available with or without forelegs), a belt buckle, and a shoulder purse.

    OLL LEWIS: Folklore of the Jungle - Weretigers

    Whilst there is still no news from Sumatra, Oll is hard at work looking at the forteana of that strange island...

    All across the world there are tales of men and women who can use the power of animals in battle and the pursuit of knowledge. In the Americas there are stories of shamans that can inhabit the minds or take on the spirit of an animal for religious purposes and in Europe there are tales of people who would physically change their shape into that of wolves going into an insane bloodlust in the process. The European folklore for the most part tends to see animal shape shifting as a negative thing where people loose control of their inhibitions and often go on to kill their friends and neighbours in a vicious manner, where as the folklore of the Americas tends on the whole to see animal shape shifting as a positive thing often resulting in benefits for a community. This difference is not only due to the differing cultural relationship between humans and the animal kingdom but how the legends evolved. The European legends became tied into those of elite and bloodthirsty warriors like the berserkers which took on the perceived traits of wolves in battle and wore their skins.

    In Asia things are a bit different, it is not a case of, to misquote Orwell, four legs bad two legs good or vice-versa. In Asian folklore shape shifters are not wholly bad or good their actions can depend on how they are treated by people. In the folklore of Asia the werewolf is often replaced by the Weretiger, although some cultures have regional variations like the Werecrocodiles. In China one tradition has it that ghosts of men killed by tigers will possess people and turn them into Weretigers that will act in a similar way to European werewolves and rampage around the area killing people in vengeance for their own death. In other cultures powerful sorcerers are said to be able to become Weretigers and after killing and eating many people a tiger may become a Weretiger.

    In Indonesia, and Sumatra in particular, there are many stories found in folklore about Weretigers. It is generally believed there that the ability to become a Weretiger will be often be inherited and that a Weretiger is a powerful sorcerer, wise man or shaman and benevolent towards his fellow men unless he has just cause to take revenge for something. According to Sumatran tradition a Weretiger will only change at night and often will do this in order to protect crops and plantations. Tradition also has it that once a man has taken on the form of the tiger he will not recognise anybody, even close friends and family members unless they call out to him by name. Another tradition states that sometimes Weretigers will disguise themselves as beggars and then transform themselves into tigers to exact revenge on those cruel enough to refuse them a donation. This tale was quite possibly originally spread by beggars themselves however and may have little to do with the shamans that claim to be Weretigers (be on your guard in your local city centre for chuggers that may be Weretigers though).

    On a previous CFZ expedition to Sumatra John Hare investigated local folk beliefs on Weretigers and found that they are still very much alive and well. He found out that rather than making a biological change of shape a Weretiger will take on the soul and mannerisms of the tiger through a martial art whereby they enter a trance like state and channel it’s spirit. One of the expeditions guides was in-fact a Weretiger in this sense and quite proficient in the art.

    A Weretiger, in the Sumatran sense of the word, could not be described as a cryptid as there is no doubt they definitely exist, but the question is where do real Weretigers end and where do the legends begin. Certainly if a person believes they are and trains their body to be able to act in a similar manner to a tiger, or how a human perceives a tiger to act, then they can be said to be Weretigers in the same way that the Bererkers were seen as wolves or other animals on the battlefield.

    HAUNTED SKIES: 12.3.1968 - UFO Sighting (Glasgow)


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 1979 the Vela incident occurred (nothing to do with Paul ).
    And now the news:

    Crows use mirrors to find food
    Coquis Frog May be Leveling off in Hawaii
    Old fossils solve mystery of earliest bird extinct...
    Light shed on bisexual and promiscuous deep-sea sq...
    Featherless penguin back with parents
    Captive Breeding Could Transform the Saltwater Aqu...
    ‘Brave’ Maltese hunters slaughtering Bee-eaters an...
    Wild cattle and tigers in Cambodia

    Restoring the 'churning of the sea of milk' gallery in Angkor Wat:

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    OLL LEWIS: The Habitat and Ecology of the Sumatran Rhinoceros

    Whilst there is still no news from Sumatra, Oll is hard at work looking at the forteana of that strange island...

    As I mentioned in my previous blog about the conservation state of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis) there are, or were, three subspecies of the rhinoceros found on the mainland, Sumatra and in Borneo. Of these three species the Western Sumatran rhinoceros (D.s. sumatrensi) found on Sumarta and the Malasian peninsular is the most common with an estimated 220 individules left and the Eastern Sumatran rinoceros (D. s. harrissoni) from Borneo is the seccond most common with only aroud 50 known individules. The third subspecies, the Northern Sumatran rhinoceros (D. s. lasiotis) which was to be found in Berma, Bangledesh and India, is thought to be almost certinly extinct. There was once considered to be a fourth subspecies found on the malasian peninsular which was known as D. s. niger but these were found to be no different to the Western Sumatran rhinoceros.

    Sumatran rhinos main habitat is montaine moss forest and although it prefers deep forest it will ocasionally be seen on the outskirts of the forests.During the dry season it tends to inhabit more lowland forest but retreats to higher ground during the rainy season and flooding. It will tend to stay within a very short distance of water with a females home range being around 500-1500 ha and a males home range is larger, often overlapping the home range of several females. A Sumartran rhinoceros will not travel far in a day, usually not more than 1 or 2 km between feeding and wallowing sites, unless it is looking a new sourse of water or a salt lick. In order to reach a salt lick a rhino can travel up distances between 5 to 10 km.

    The Rhinos are mainly solitary animals, with pairs only being seen when maiting and when mothers are looking after young. Gestation will take around 62 weeks with offspring reaching maturity at around 6 to 7 years of age. The offspring will disperse while still sub aduls leaving their mother when they are about 4 years old.


    If werewolves, hairy shape-shifting monsters, and silver-bullets are your thing, then you’re in for a big, big treat! The good folk at Visible Ink Press have just published an excellent, fully updated, and massively expanded, edition of Brad Steiger’s near-legendary title, The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings. Originally published in 1999, this is a book that, beyond any shadow of doubt whatsoever, is undeniably essential reading for devotees of all-things beastly, vicious, and full-moon-based.

    Read on...


    Some weeks ago, Olivia my darling younger step-daughter telephoned in great excitement. She had discovered an episode of a TV cartoon called The Secret Saturdays which dealt with The Owlman of Mawnan. Now things get even weirder. Richard Freeman sends this episode which includes a story about the so-called Cameroon flashlight frog.

    A website called The Cryptodominion reports:

    Cameroon "flashlight frog" (Northern Cameroon AFRICA): A frog with a luminous nose has been reported from the northern areas of Cameroon. A luminescent area on it's nose would probably serve to attract insect prey; a very useful adaptation for an insect eater like a frog. Probably a tree frog of some kind, although perhaps related to the big Pyxicephalus frogs of the savannah.

    The entire story is based upon something that I wrote for Uri Geller's Encounters in 1997, following en encounter with a reptile dealer who had two of these frogs for sale at the Creepy Crawly Show on Newton Abbot Racecourse. They were remarkably dull greyish green treefrogs with bluish spots on the tips of their snouts. The dealer swore blind that they were bioluminescent...

    And here is the video:


    Did you know that tawny owls fished? This amazing footage from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Tawny_Owl#p007hrnn


    We received this eyewitness statement a few days after Max was in the Western Morning News (20/8/2011)

    In 1997 we rented a caravan for a week at Challaburgh near Bigbury in south Devon. It was the first week in September. At 8.30 in the evening I decided to try to find a rubbish bin. The holiday camp is in a valley surrounded by farmland, with an outlet to the sea at the bottom. On the left hand side there are bungalows built up the side and on the right hand side is field and a few bushes and trees.

    Looking at some birds flying at the top, my gaze travelled downward. I then saw what at first appeared to be a large black dog travelling across the field on a rough path and then realised that it would be difficult to get any closer to it. I then became aware that the tail was large and curved like a cat and the shoulders’ movements also. Puma or leopard came to mind!

    It then broke away from the track and came further down the field, and I lost sight of it because of bushes obstructing the view. All this lasted about five minutes. I then saw an elderly couple and I asked if they had seen it. They said that they were aware that others had spotted it and a gent who lived in the bungalows had taken photos of it. Over the next few days I mentioned it to the staff at the camp, but there was not much interest or feedback. However, I did meet a man who helped out a local farmer and who, in the past, had put down sheep that had been savaged by dogs. He related that they had found dead sheep before with wounds that didn’t resemble anything like the damage done by dogs. He also surmised that it might have been a big cat that could have escaped from Sparkwell Wildlife Park. They had reported one had died there a couple of years ago. Had they covered the escape? After that first day there the week went by and we came home to Plymouth and we never did see anything in the press. Anyway, it looks like I’ve found the right people to tell. Thanks. PETER.

    HAUNTED SKIES: London Evening Standard 6.3.68


    OLL LEWIS: Yesterday's News Today


    On this day in 1990 Allison Scagliotti was born. Scagliotti plays Claudia Donovan in the brilliant Warehouse 13.
    And now the news:

    Biodiversity Loss May Be Contributing to Amphibian...
    Unidentified lark spotted in Ethiopia -
    A dozen new nightfrog species found in India - 3 '...
    Beaver teeth found are 7m years old
    t came with my online shopping': Mystery shopper h...
    Briton catches 18ft anaconda in South America
    20-million-year-old skull discovery

    Something vaguely related from They Might Be Giants:

    OLL LEWIS: The Sumatran Tiger

    Whilst there is still no news from Sumatra, Oll is hard at work looking at the Forteana of that strange island...

    Sumatra’s land animals have been genetically isolated since sea levels rose between 12,000 and 6,000 years ago. As a result of this the fauna of the island is quite unique with many distinct and rare subspecies being found on the island. Some species and subspecies like the Sumatran rhinoceros are, although critically endangered and very rare indeed, found on the mainland as well as Sumatra itself, but others are found just on the island, having evolved there after the island became cut off from the mainland. One of those endemic subspecies is the Sumatran tiger, Panthera tigris sumatrae.

    The Sumatran tiger is the smallest subspecies of tiger in the world, with males measuring an average of 2.4 metres in length compared to the 3.5-metre-length reported in some Siberian tigers (Panthera tigris altaica). There are a number of reasons why a comparatively small size has proved an evolutionary advantage for the Sumatran tiger; their smaller size makes movement and hunting easier in the dense forests that formed their habitat, for one. Another reason the Sumatran tiger is smaller than that of their Siberian counterparts is that, according to Bergman’s rule, when a species is widely distributed, larger sizes will tend to be present in colder climates and smaller sizes will be seen in warmer climates. This is certainly true of tigers, which show smaller average size and weight the closer one gets to the equator. A smaller size will tend to mean a higher surface area to volume ration facilitating heat loss through the skin, which is useful in warmer climates.

    The advantages to being smaller in dense forest outweigh the disadvantages but the small size of the Sumatran tiger also presents problems that they might not have to deal with were they larger like the Siberian tiger. One of these problems is, being smaller they might seem more attractive as prey themselves but due to markings mimicking the look of eyes on the back of their ears, predators approaching the tigers from behind are often fooled into thinking it is facing towards them and larger.

    Another adaptation to their habitat exhibited by the Sumatran tiger subspecies is webbing between their toes, which makes them fast swimmers in comparison to most of their prey. This is particularly useful if hunting in or near water as the tigers, with their webbed feet, will easily be able to out-swim most other mammals, especially those with hooves; should their prey enter the water they will be able to catch up with it or get to the bank quicker. Should the prey be of a manageable size they may even kill it while still in the water.

    Despite being very well adapted to their environment the numbers of Sumatran tigers are very low and they are a critically endangered species. Estimates of their numbers range from 500 according to a 1998 survey and 300 according to a 2008 survey. If both surveys are accurate this means that the tiger’s population has crashed by almost 50% in only 10 years, giving a very bleak outlook for the continued survival of the species. Even if the species were to recover its numbers almost half of its genetic diversity has been wiped out; that can include resistance to various diseases and amplify the instance of various genetic disorders amongst the surviving population. On the other hand, other species of big cat like cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus) show a very low genetic diversity thought to have been caused by similar potentially catastrophic population crashes, but their species have survived to the present day. The Sumatran tiger’s current problems have similar causes to the problems that have also caused the near extinction of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis): habitat destruction and poaching. Habitat destruction caused by deforestation (often by the palm oil industry) has meant that there is less food available for the tigers' regular prey and therefore in turn less prey and that there are less places to hunt or raise cubs in safety. Deforestation and human encroachment has also made it easier and more likely for humans to encounter the tigers. This can have advantages, such as when the shy animal was caught on film in the wild for the first time a few years ago, but these pale into insignificance when compared to the disadvantages.

    The worst of these is that the creature becomes easier for poachers to catch. Tiger body parts are popular in Chinese medicine and fetch a high price on the black market, often being turned into other products like wine or powders, which idiots who put the rest of their countrymen to shame actually believe increase virility, prolong life or can be cures for syphilis or other STDs. Because they are harder to locate than Sumatran rhinos and have a much larger range tigers are harder to protect in nature reserves and the fact that often the whole body will be taken when a poacher murders a tiger makes it difficult to be sure of the impact of poachers on this shy animal without regular population surveys, so poaching can go unchecked.