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, January 08, 2013


Last year during preparation for the Weird Weekend I came across an article in The Society of Malawi Journal vol 37 (1) 1984 pp 40-52 (but pages 41-42 are now missing) titled `Mythical and Real Snakes of Chitipa District` by Bruce J. Hargreaves of the National University of Lesotho. Today`s blog is a highlight of the most interesting points of this article.


The Lambia name uchura applies not to a snake , but is a general term for frogs. I have heard it specifically applied to the genus Xenopus. Charles Nicholas Kayuni said that uchura kills snakes. Chiwura is a frog which, according to Luxun C.Mlenga, sits in a hole with its mouth open and eats any snake which enters. He added that it eats any snake, no matter what the size, but that flying snakes cannot be caught this way. (1)


Luxun Mlenga described  a “big black and white-spotted snake which is 1 ½ feet wide and twenty yards long” . He said that if it crosses a stick of nyongampembe (Steganotaenia araleacea, the carrot tree) it dies. He also added that it puts its head  down if it sees twins. (2)


Itawa is a snake which looks like a tortoise according to Luxun Mlenga. He did not say that it flies nor did he associate it with the tortoise which is used for flying in witchcraft. Happy Ngosi added that itiwa is found in the Mafinga Ridge and has two heads protruding from the coils of its body. The Mafinga Ridge is noted for its snakes…When I wished to take to the Chitipa Secondary School Exploring Club there in 1968 I had great difficulty. Fortunately one of the students had a father who worked in the Forestry Department and had been up the ridge…When I asked to borrow the District Council lorry however I was told that we should not go because of the “snake” which lives in the “lake” on top of the ridge. (There is a marsh above Chisenga which feeds into a river which becomes a waterfall above Mulembe but there is no true lake.)  (3)


When I was skinning the python (mentioned previously in the text-R) , Dalia Nachilima warned her son Nicholas Kayuni not to touch it. I was told that touching a python leads to stunting of growth and wasting away Since Nicholas was one of shortest children in his class he could hardly afford to take chances…Happy Ngosi referred to the python as isato and said that there are two types: forest residents and those which live outside the forest. The forest residents are darker in colour, less aggressive and feed on small animals such as goats and calves. Those outside the forest sometimes live in streams but come to land for food. They are lighter in colour and are aggressive.

I was shown caves and prayer groves in Chitipa District where pythons were said to dwell. It is almost certain that in the past prayers for rain and fertility involved offerings to such pythons…Ngosi told me orally that there is one kind of python that bleats like  a goat. (4)


…P.Malanga recorded the belief that to meet “ a snake which seemed to have no head” was bad luck or an indication that one`s relative had died. He added that to remove the bad luck you had to meet an animal known as tumbatumba (Tumbuka) (5)


Godfrey Mwanja said that manimani is like leaves (mani in Chiŵandia) and stays in them. He added that it is fast, small and long.  Happy Ngosi said there are two types of these snakes, a forest resident which is big and deep green in colour and a resident outside the forest which is small and light green in colour . (6)


  1. J. Bruce  Mythical and Real Snakes of Chitipa District p. 40
  2. Ibid p. 40
  3. Ibid p. 40
  4. Ibid p. 44-45
  5. Ibid p.45
  6. Ibid p. 48

African Herp News issue 58

African Herp News issue 58
Tarrant, J. 2012. Tapping into frog conservation: A new programme for the Endangered Wildlife Trust. African Herp News(58): 1-3. [ jeannet@ewt.org.za]
Broadley, D. G. 2012. Book review: The Amphibians and Reptiles of Ethiopia and Eritrea. African Herp News(58): 4-7. [ broadley@gatorzw.com]
Broadley, D. G. 2012. Book review: Amphibians of Malawi: An analysis of their richness and community diversity in a chaning landscape. African Herp News(58): 7-9. [ broadley@gatorzw.com]
Broadley, D. G. 2012. Obituary: Vivian John Wilson. African Herp News(58): 10-12. [ broadley@gatorzw.com]
Parusnath, S. 2012. Smaug giganteus (A. Smith, 1844) Sungazer. Predation. African Herp News(58): 13-14. [ shivan.parusnath@gmail.com]
Conradie, W. 2012. Varanus albigularis (Daudin, 1802) Rock Monitor. Diet. African Herp News(58): 15-16. [ werner@bayworld.co.za]
Jacobsen, N. H. G. and C. Ralston 2012. Geographic Distributions: Afrixalus knysnae (Loveridge, 1954) Knysna Leaf-folding Frog). African Herp News(58): 17-18. [ nielsj@lantic.net]
Conradie, W., J. Venter, et al. 2012. Geographic Distributions: Macrelaps microlepidotus (Günther, 1860) Natal Black Snake. African Herp News(58): 19-21. [ werner@bayworld.co.za]
Conradie, W. 2012. Geographic Distributions: Nucras taeniolata (Smith, 1838) Albany Sandveld Lizard. African Herp News(58): 21-22. [ werner@bayworld.co.za]
Bates, M. F. 2012. The Seventh World Congress of Herpetology: An African Perspective. African Herp News(58): 23-86. Includes abstracts of the African talks presented at the congress. 
PDF copies of African Herp News are available in the PDF Library to HAA members who subscribe through ZenScientist

Courtesy of HerpDigest and of course Zen Scientist

CRYPTOLINK: A non-news story

Is this the

Two walkers thought they had stumbled across the “beast of Hampstead Heath” after a short stroll on the beauty spot.

Read on...

CFZ PEOPLE: Dale Drinnon

 Dale has health problems, and will not be blogging until he is better. Our thoughts and prayers go out to him at this time.


In an article for the first edition of Cryptozoology Bernard Heuvelmans wrote that cryptozoology is the study of 'unexpected animals' and following on from that perfectly reasonable assertion, it seems to us that - whereas the study of out of place birds may not have the glamour of the hunt for bigfoot, or lake monsters - it is still a perfectly valid area for the Fortean Zoologist to be interested in. So, after about six months of regular postings on the main bloggo, Corinna has taken the plunge and started a 'Watcher of the Skies' blog of her own as part of the CFZ Bloggo Network.

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There are good days, there are bad days, and there are days like today when I wish that I could have stayed in bed. I had a Doctor's appointment with a fasting blood test early, and things went downhill from there. Hopefully this afternoon will be better.
Jefferson Starship guitarist Slick Aguilar needs a liver transplant
Yes are still undecided about whether there will be a new studio album or not

*  The Gonzo Daily is a two way process. If you have any news or want to write for us, please contact me at jon@eclipse.co.uk. If you are an artist and want to showcase your work, or even just say hello please write to me at gonzo@cfz.org.uk. Please copy, paste and spread the word about this magazine as widely as possible. We need people to read us in order to grow, and as soon as it is viable we shall be invading more traditional magaziney areas. Join in the fun, spread the word, and maybe if we all chant loud enough we CAN stop it raining. See you tomorrow...

*  The Gonzo Daily is - as the name implies - a daily online magazine (mostly) about artists connected to the Gonzo Multimedia group of companies. But it also has other stuff as and when the editor feels like it. The same team also do a weekly newsletter called - imaginatively - The Gonzo Weekly. Find out about it at this link:

*  Jon Downes, the Editor of all these ventures is an old hippy of 53 who - together with his orange cat - puts it all together from a converted potato shed in a tumbledown cottage deep in rural Devon which he shares with various fish and batrachians. He is ably assisted by his lovely wife Corinna, his bulldog/boxer Prudence, his mother-in-law, and a motley collection of social malcontents. Plus.. did we mention the orange cat?

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