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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Sunday, May 10, 2009


These are two images from the CFZ Photo archives. They show a walrus that turned up - totally by chance - on the Suffolk coast one day.

The trouble is that my memory is failing, and although I know what we wrote the story up either for Animals & Men or for one of the yearbooks I cannot remember where.

This highlights the need for a general CFZ Index, but I won''t even attempt to start a project of that magnitude until the current indexing projects (bloggodex and archives) are completed, so it may be some time.

So in the meantime please forgive my fading memory, enjoy these rather special photographs and sit back with baited breath until somebody tells us the rest of the story..

NEIL ARNOLD: Wolf Struck

I have known Neil for fifteen years now since he was a schoolboy with ambitions for adventure and I was an earnest young hippie who merely wanted to start a club for people interested in unknown animals. Nothing much has changed over the years. We are just both a tad older...

P.T. Barnum, an American showman in the 1800s, obtained, or at least attempted to obtain a true cabinet of curiosities for his travelling exhibitions. I’ve recently seen sketches of his ‘sea serpent’, ‘giants’, ‘monster python’ and of course, been intrigued by his ‘cherry-coloured cat’ fiasco, Siamese twins and Albino family.

In Kent, George Sanger, who had a menagerie at Margate, in Kent, was often as eccentric in his plots and plans. In Seventy Years A Showman (1926) he writes of a strange tale which he was behind, involving twelve fully-grown wolves, which had been bred at the Hall-by-the-Sea. The wolves were due to perform at his London theatre, he writes, “…and in due course the large den containing them was placed by itself in a thirty-horse stable with plenty of centre room for my purpose. Then, I sent for my slaughterman from Margate. When he arrived I said, ‘Now, Jim, here’s a quid for you’, at the same time, to his gratified astonishment, handing him a sovereign. When he had done thanking me, I said, ‘Now Jim, I want you to go into the stable at eleven o’clock tonight, and you will see an old, worn-out cream horse, whose life has become a misery, tied up near the wolves’ cage. When the audience have left the theatre, kill him quickly, and leave him where he falls. Be sure you don’t say a word to anyone for six months, and I will then give you a tenner.”

Sanger had an associate at the time named Taylor, but whose professional name was Alpine Charlie. He would play a major part in Sanger’s strange plot and would become the hero at the end of the plan. And so, with only the secret known to Sanger, Jim the slaughterman, Sanger’s agent, Sanger’s son-in-law, and Mrs Sanger, George Sanger set about his fiendish scheme. After supper, he sneaked out into the theatre, bereft of any watchman etc, who were enjoying a drink. In the dark, Sanger slunk into the area, checked that the horse had been slaughtered by Jim, lit up two jets of gas, let free the wolves, which were in fact as tame as dogs but without food for two days, and casually returned to the bar. Once there he told all in his attendance, “Okay lads, time to lock up.”

Of course, when they arrived at the theatre, at Palace Road, imagine the shock when Mr Sanger screamed convincingly, “There! What’s this ? Call the fireman and tell him to turn off the gas, Why is it burning there to waste like that ?”

As soon as the fireman turned up, a Mr Wells, the shrieks of, “Oh my God, the wolves are loose! They’ve killed one of the horses”, rang out across the theatre. Scotland Yard were informed of the chaos and those who were already in attendance, and not in on the scam, his their eyes as the wolves tore at the carcass of the horse.

“Where is Alpine Charlie ?” asked Sanger. It didn’t take long for several searchers to locate the man, and as thousands circled the theatre, all seeking a quick glimpse of the escaped wolves, the local press soon buzzed the area, eager for a story.

Sanger wrote: ‘The excitement was intense. I had achieved my sensation. Next day the papers, not only in London and the provinces, but all over Europe were full of it. They were quite wolf-struck. The Lord Chamberlain and the wise men of Parliament swallowed the bait, and the Prime Minister was asked if he was aware that, “Wolves had broken loose in London, killed a horse, and jeopardized the Queen’s subjects ?”.

The wolves had been safely caged by a plucky performer named Alpine Charlie. What he did not know, and what he was not likely to learn, was that the terrible animals had slunk without protest into their den when Charlie, with a rattan cane, had appeared amongst them and said, “Get in there!”.

The following week the wolves appeared in conjunction with the circus and the pantomime and everybody came to see them and their marvellous tamer, Alpine Charlie.’


Another video short from CFZ Australia, this time on one of my favourite Antipodean cryptids. They write:

"The Night Parrot (Pezoporos occidentalis) is one of Australia's 'lost' species. It was first discovered in 1845, and named in 1861. But since that time numbers have dwindled and sightings have been so rare that the bird was at one stage thought to be extinct. We hope you enjoy this short presentation. CFZ Australia www.cfzaustralia.blogspot.com"

THE BIG THREE: Glen Vaudrey

Glen is one of the newer additions to the bloggo family. He wrote to me out of the blue last year to ask wherther we wanted a Western Isles volume in our Mystery Animals of Britain series. We argeed that we did indeed want one, and commissioned him. What we were not expecting was such a bloody good writer and all round nice guy, who - by the way - is writing several other volumes for us...
What a challenge it is to think of your favourite three cryptids (that are likely to be found), there are just so many to consider. Nevertheless I managed to whittle down my selection to three very different animals, the land is represented by a mystery sloth, the seas are championed by a big shark and the avian world is proudly represented by an elusive flightless bird.

The Mysterious Sloth

The jungles of South America undoubtedly hide many things from the great lost cities of gold that seemingly lured Colonel Percy Fawcett to his doom to the giant snakes that he so eagerly noted in his journals.

Today’s sloths are restricted to the trees but it has not always been the case for back in the late Pleistocene period there existed a number of ground dwelling sloths with the giant ground sloth Megatherium americanum coming in at a very impressive 20 feet, while the Patagonia cave dweller Mylodon darwinii was in possession of a coat of reddish brown hair that concealed a skin dotted with dermal ossicles, these tiny nodules of bone would give the sloth a hidden layer of body armour. This possibly bullet proof sloth is widely believed to have died out around 8,600 years ago. It walked with its clawed feet turned towards the centre of its body.

While the Mylodon may have vanished from the jungles of South America there appears to be a cryptid that has taken its place - the Mapinguari. Standing 5-6 feet tall, with long reddish fur and feet that appear to be turned backward, it reportedly twists palm trees to the ground so as to be able to get the palm hearts that would otherwise be out of reach. It is also famed for the foul smelling stench that it releases when threatened.

In 1930 a hunter going by the name of Inocêncio became separated from his friends while on an expedition up the Rio Uatumã, Pará State, Brazil. Unable to find his way back to his friends before nightfall Inocêncio settled down for the evening. His sleep was interrupted during the night by loud cries coming from a thickset, black man-like figure that was standing upright next to a fallen tree. It appeared to Inocêncio that the creature was heading towards him and, perhaps understandably, he started to shoot at the mystery animal. Shooting several times it is quite likely that Inocêncio hit the animal on more than one occasion, despite being shot the animal headed off back in to the jungle well away from the scared hunter. Was its ability to walk away from being shot a result of poor aiming or a bullet proof skin?

The big shark

If you thought the sharks in the Jaws films were big they were tiddlers compared to the ancient Carcharodon Megalodon. Today the largest known living shark is the whale shark known to reach a length of 50 feet closely followed by the basking shark at 40 feet, both these sharks unlike the Megalodon are harmless plankton eaters. The largest confirmed measurement of a carnivorous shark, a great white caught off Malta, was a still respectable 23 feet. The length of Megalodon varies greatly depending on the source starting at 45 feet up to a whopping 120 feet, with such a variation perhaps somewhere in the middle would be a fair estimate of the true size, even if it was at the small end it would still be twice the length of the largest great white. The Megalodon was first swimming the seas some 50 million years ago in the Tertiary period and is widely believed to have swum off this mortal coil some 1.5 million years ago but like all good extinction dates this is open to question. In 1875 the oceanographic vessel Challenger dredged up a pair of Megalodon teeth from the seabed at a depth of 14,000 feet. When these two teeth were dated in the late 1950s the Russian scientist D.Tschernezky declared the oldest tooth to be some 24,000 years old and the younger of the pair to be just 11,000 years old, still not immediately recent but enough to make this marine predator a contemporary of homo sapiens, is it little wonder early man stuck to the land.

But it isn’t just a few odd teeth that suggest a longer term survival of the Megalodon for in the last 100 years there have been plenty of sightings of very large sharks. In 1918 Australian fishermen reported a sighting off Broughton Island; they watched a giant shark swallowing 3 feet wide crayfish traps, pots and mooring lines. The fishermen gave measurements ranging from the 115 feet to a staggering 300 feet, while these figures may well be open to question the men were all sure that they had not seen a whale shark but rather a shark reminiscent of a very large great white.

In 1933 Loren Grey sailing 100 mile northwest of Rangiroa, reported sighting a shark some 40-50 feet in length with a head 10-12 feet wide, again this witness does not consider his sighting to be that of a whale shark.

Pacific island tradition talks of a mysterious Lord of the Deep, while the title may be Lovecraftian this undersea lord isn’t Cthulhu, it’s a great shark up to 100 feet in length, its upper surface grey with the rest of its body pale white. Does the Megalodon still swim unreported in the depth of the world’s oceans

Flightless bird

Long before New Zealand was home to hobbits it hosted a whole flock of flightless birds. The largest of these, the Moa, came in a variety of types, the largest reaching an impressive height of over 11 feet. All was going well for these flightless birds until humans finally made it to New Zealand around the 10th century (perhaps Megalodon had grown bored of a diet of Peloponnesians at that point and had decided to let the odd boat load past). Between hunting and a change to the habitat the moa officially became extinct in 1800. While the giant moa died out there have been sightings of one of its smaller mystery relatives the Roa-Roa.

Descriptions of the Roa-Roa reveal a kiwi-like bird around the size of a turkey sporting a grey, blue or spotted plumage, a small head on a long neck, sharp spurs on its feet and a middle toe measuring up to 14 inches and a call similar to the kiwi.

Reported to be found on both the North and South Islands, the majority of the sightings however have come from the South Island. In 1880 seven year old Alice Mckenzie claimed to have touched a big navy blue bird at Martins Bay, Milford Sound, South Island. The bird was described as being around three foot tall with scaly legs and three toes on each foot. Eventually the mystery bird had had enough of Alice’s attention and began to attack her, understandably not enjoying the experience she ran off back home and by the time her father returned the bird had vanished, luckily for the bird I suspect.

In the 1890s a sighting of a moa-like bird took place in Brunner range, again on the South Island, this sighting was made by a group of school boys who watched the bird as it crossed a road.

Racing forward to 1963 a scientist reported seeing a large moa-like bird in the brush in Northwest Nelson State Forest Park, South Island.

Reports go quiet again until the 1990s when a spate of sightings are reported however some of this recent wave of sightings have been acknowledge as hoaxes, which unfortunately muddy the waters as bit.

Is it possible for a bird the size of the Roa-Roa to go unnoticed in New Zealand? It could well be, after all a number of out of place moose are loose in the South Island and despite their size they are proving decidedly hard to spot, with that in mind what are the chances of finding this elusive turkey-sized mystery bird



Forests of Mystery gets better and better. I sat down last night with my nephew David, and Richard F, and we watched it from the beginning.

What is it? Well I don't rightly know. It purports to be a series of `Video Case Files` filmed by a dude called Dewey Lansing and his sidekick. They are investigating a series of strange happenings of the fortean kind in some ancient forests near Tillamook, Oregon. What makes this so good is the sheer attention to detail; each of the characters have websites, myspace pages, and facebook accounts, and there has been so much work put into this that one could really begin to believe that it was/is true.

I cannot recommend it highly enough, and strongly urge all bloggofolk to check it out. You will definitely NOT be disappointed.

Check out episode one below:

RICHARD FREEMAN: Mystery Animals of New Zealand

1. Delcourt’s Giant Gecko (Hopolodactylus delcourti)

Known from one type specimen that was languishing, unlabelled in a French Museum of Natural History in 1986, this was the largest known gecko that ever lived, at 3 feet long. It was native to the North Island of New Zealand. The Maori spoke of a large tree dwelling lizard in their folklore and called it Kawe Kaweau. The gecko is supposed to be extinct, but continued sightings suggest it still lurks in the forests of the North Island.

In 1986 rumor abounded of a population of giant geckos near Rotorua. More recent sightings have centred on Gisbourn, the Waipoua Forest and the Waoku Plateau.

2. Moehau

A sort of ape-man supposed to live in the Coromandel region of the North Island. Moehau is tall, hair covered with long arms and sharp talons. It is supposed to be highly aggressive. There are tales about humans of gigantic stature that are supposed to represent crossbreeding between Maori and maero. This trait is said to run in families, such as the Kaihai family of Waikato and the Haupapa family of Rotorua. Although these families produce big people today, it is said that these are nothing compared to the specimens they once produced - gigantic, muscular men who were said between 8 feet and 11 feet tall.

Two early murders were blamed on these creatures. In 1882 a headless and partially devoured cadaver of a prospector was found in the Martha Mine area. The Moehau was held responsible. Further into the foothills a body of a woman was found. She had been alone in a shack whilst her family were away. Something had broken in, dragged her out and broke her neck. No known animal in New Zealand is capable of doing this.

In 1903 a set of footprints larger than a man’s were found at the Karangahake Gorge in Cromandel. In 1971 another set were found in the snow by a park ranger. A third set was found in 1983 running along the Heaphy River. In 1991 a group of campers abandoned heir camp after finding huge tracks around it. This was in the Cameron Mountains on the South Island

In 1970 a group of campers were attacked by a 2 metre tall ape man who hurled rocks at them in the Cameron Mountains on the South Island.

In 1972 a hunter in the Coromandel ranges watched a hairy man beast, 2 metres tall, lumbering through bushes. He later found footprints.

3. Taniwah

The New Zealand dragon. A huge, savage, man-eating reptile. Taniwahs were supposed to dwell in caves, seas and lakes. Many were fought by Maori heroes and shamans. They were very hard to kill. They may be based on memories of the giant Indo-pacific crocodile or crocodiles that turn up outside of their range. Alternatively they might be an unknown species.

Creatures like the Taniwah have been encountered by the white man as well.

On August 1, 1889 Mr Alexander Lindsay Kerr, chief officer of the union steam shipping company ship Rotomahama, was shocked to witness a "huge conger eel, with the exception that it had two fins about 10ft long" rise out of the ocean almost 30ft, 9 metres, off the Portland Light between Gisbourne and Napier. He later described how when he saw pictures of eels in books later he thought the serpent he had seen had a far more crocodilian head.

Theo Hazelwood recalled the time he was on a fishing boat in 1926 near the entrance to Wellington harbor, when a 16 year old boy shouted out to him from the back of the boat. He rushed over, and saw a thin long thin neck drifting on the water surface, topped with a small head and a mouthful of vicious fangs. It circled the boat five times before swimming away.

In April 1971 the crew of the Kompira Maru saw a bug eyed monster about 30 km off Lyttleton. It was said to resemble a large crocodile, though they saw it had fins rather than legs when it leaped under the water.

In 1972 in Temuka, three women at the mouth of the Orari River watched a huge monster wallowing in the breakers barely 30 metres away. They described it as a dark gray lizard like creature, though it was around 5 metres long. At one point it opened a huge gaping mouth full of small, sharp, teeth.

An anonymous woman claimed that in 1983 she had witnessed a gigantic Mosasaur-like sea creature circling the small raft she was in far off the coast of Picton. She said the animal she saw was almost 7 metres in length and that its snout occasionally emerged from the water, showing some very grisly looking teeth.

In 1990 two young woman sun bathing by a lagoon near Taupo were amazed to see a 'Giant lizard' swimming around in the shallows. It emerged its upper body at one point and attempted to catch a bird in its jaws, but was unsuccessful. It then submerged again and swam into the depths. The girls said it was the most incredible experience they'd ever had, and their description was of a 4-5 metre long, green water lizard.

Three years after the incident in the lagoon a large sea monster was spotted by Earl Rigney of Canterbury via telescope. He claimed he saw what he thought was a whale in the distance, so he looked through his telescope at the animal and was surprised to see that it was a colossal crocodile, breaching on the surface of the water. He said it was roughly 30ft (9 metres) long.

During the summer of 2001 a group of teenagers boogey-boarding in Paekakariki were terrified when an enormous monster exploded out of the water in front of them.

In 2006 Ivan Levy was left shocked and boatless after a dramatic encounter with a vicious pair of reptilian animals, which rammed into and attacked his boat when he was out enjoying the sun on the deck. He claimed that they were "like lizards with fins" and were about 6 metres long, although he did say they may have been slightly shorter or longer. After over an hour of attacking the boat the pair of creatures swim away.

Ivan Levy returned to shore with a wrecked boat. Some said he had deliberately damaged the boat for insurance money, but unfortunately for him the boat was not insured and he gained very little other than a few local headlines for his story.

In the most recent account of sea monsters in New Zealand, a Raumati mother and infant daughter saw a sea monster the size of a small whale in 2007 splashing in the shallows.

New Zealand paleontologist Alan Marks founded the theory that a population of Mosasaurs, giant, flesh eating, marine lizards of the Cretaceous period, still exists, albeit a very small one, that live in the depths of the Pacific ocean, though occasionally areas such as the Atlantic and Indian oceans where they are sometimes spotted

4. Kumi Lizard

A large lizard reaching a length of around five to six feet. The Kumi Lizard was supposed to inhabit streams, and was proficient at burrowing. It had a serrated dorsal crest and large teeth, which caused the upper lip to protrude. Possibly a form of monitor lizard.

5. Lakey

The monster of Lake Coleridge near Canterbury on the South Island. The monster is supposed to drag away fishermen’s rods.

In 1972 the beast was blamed for the disappearance of a fisherman. His upturned boat was found but no body ever turned up. Many locals refused to fish on the lake after that.

In 1975 two women reported seeing the monster’s head rise up from the lake. It was described as wolf like but hairless. In the same year a teacher and his wife saw he creature grab and eat a large water bird.

In 1976 a farmer on the west side of the lake began losing considerable numbers of sheep when they went to drink by the waters edge. Investigating noticed a dark shadow just below the surface of the water where a lamb was moving to take a sip. He shouted, and the huge shape shot off.

In 1977 several witnesses see a large monster, 16 feet long, rolling around on the surface, snapping its jaws. News of the sighting spreads like wildfire. The creature is described as gray, with four visible flippers and no obvious dorsal fin. Overall it was quite "fish-like".

After this a hunter from Otago decided to finish off the monster once and for all. He set off at dawn on a boat rigged with radar, harpoons. He was out on the Lake for two weeks but failed to uncover anything but the occasional big blip on the radar.

Deciding to have one last shot at it, he put on his wetsuit and dived under. When beneath the water, he found his boat was directly above the wreck of a yacht, which was lying on the bottom of the lake. Curious, he investigated the yacht. As he turned back up to resurface, he was struck in the ribs by a huge force. Not staying around to see what it was, he got back to his boat and left.

In 1979 a group of fisherman on the lakes western most shore saw the creature. The animal was seen to stare at them with its head partially above water. For some time it swam in slow circles, not taking its eyes off the men, then left to beneath the water. The next morning a huge, snake like trail was found in the mud.

Overall the descriptions sound like a big leopard seal.

6. The moa

World famous, flightless birds. The last of them supposedly died out several hundred years ago. There have been reports of moas surviving even today in remote areas. Tracks have also been found and a blurry photo purporting to be a moa have been taken. January 20, 1993, in the Craigieburn Range. Three individuals sighted and one of them photographed what they insisted was a six-foot-tall bird. They swore it was a moa, not an emu, ostrich, red deer, or any of the other expert-proposed or media-suggested animal candidates.

Paddy Freaney, current hotel owner and former instructor with the SAS, and his companions Sam Waby and Rochelle Rafferly were walking in the Canterbury high country when they came upon a large bird. “The minute I saw it, I knew what it was,” Freaney said soon afterwards. “I believe it was a moa.”

It was about a metre off the ground, with a long, thin neck of another metre’s (three feet’s) length, ending in a small head and beak. It was covered in reddish-brown and gray feathers. The large, thick legs were covered with feathers almost to the knee joint, with bare legs below, and huge feet.

The large bird ran off across a stream when the witnesses disturbed it. Freaney dashed after the animal and took a photograph of it at a distance of 35 to 40 metres. He also snapped a picture a minute later of what he thought was the bird’s wet footprint on a rock. He also took photographs of similar prints in shingle by the river bed.

The out-of-focus view of the bird has a rock formation obscuring its legs. From what can be seen, the moa appears to be medium brown, with a horizontal body, a tall, erect neck, and a head which may have been looking toward the camera. An image-processing group at the University of Canterbury’s electrical and electronic engineering department spent three days analyzing the blurred photograph.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Kevin Taylor said the analysis had gone as far as it could go, but in his judgment it confirmed that the object was a large bird.

7. Waitoreke

Maoris and early colonists on the nation’s South Island frequently reported a small otter like animal known as the waitoreke. Captain Cook himself reports the sighting of one described as a cat sized, short legged animal with a bushy tail.

In the 1840s Walter Mantell - son of naturalist Gideon Mantell reported an animal known to the natives that was as big as a cat, short legged and bushy tailed. It laid eggs.

Around 1855 the Rev. Richard Taylor interviewed a man who claimed repeated observations of an animal in the Middle Island, near Dusky Bay, on the southwest coast. The witness called it a muskrat from the strong smell it emitted. He said its tail was thick and resembled a beaver’s tail.
Another witness, Tamihana te Rauparaha, judged it to be more than double the size of the Norway rat and to possess a large, flat tail. A man named Tom Crib said he himself had not seen the “beavers” but on several occasions had come upon their habitations. He had seen little streams dammed up as well as houses like beehives erected on one side, having two entrances, one from above and the other below the dam.

A decade or so later Ferdinand von Hochstetter wrote: “From certain terms occurring in the Maori language, and from the most recent observations we may infer beyond doubt, that New Zealand still harbors some few sporadic mammalia, which have thus far escaped the searching eye of science. Besides these names we find the name Waitoreke, which has been only lately clearly defined, having been hitherto applied sometimes to an otter-like, and sometimes to a seal-like animal. According to the reports of Dr. J. Haast, the existence of this animal has been recently established beyond a doubt; it lives in the rivers and lakes in the mountain ranges of the South Islands, is of the size of a large cony with glossy brown fur, and is probably to be classed with the otters.”

More recently the creature has been reported in the Steveburn Stram, near he Wakea River, Southland. It resembled an otter, this was in 1968. In 1971 an otter like beast was seen sliding down a river bank and scrambling back up again as if playing. This was on the Hollyford River. The witness observed the creature for a quarter of an hour.

The most recent sighting was in Gisbourne during the 1980s.The creature was 1.5 m long and displaying sea otter like behavior by smashing shells on its chest. The sighting lasted a good 20 minutes with the creature about 10 m away showing total disregard for the witness.
Maori words for this animal have a root meaning “bone spur”. This may be a reference to the poison spurs that monotremes have. Perhaps the waitoreke is one of these primitive egg laying mammals.

8. Huia

An exquisite bird found only in New Zealand with black glossy feathers and orange wattles. Their beaks were sexually dimorphic, the males having stout beaks and the females curved ones. The males used their beaks to chisel into wood in search of insects whilst the female used hers to winkle out prey.

The Maori hunted the huia for it’s feathers but white settlers hunted it on mass as well as introducing predators and cutting down the forests were he bird lived and fed. It is thought to have died out in the early 20th century. However throughout the 1920s there were continued sightings that suggests the bird may have survived.

On October 12th 1961 Margaret Hutchinson saw a huia at Lake Waikareti in the Urewera State Forest. More recently the CFZ’s Danish representative Dr Lars Thomas saw a huia in the Pureora Forest.

9. The New Zealand Big Cats

Just as in the UK there are many reports of big cats living wild in New Zealand.

Sightings began in 1996 when a large black cat, about the size of a Labrador was seen by a woman who was mountain biking in the Twizel area. The cat was seen at a distance of about 30 metres. In August 1998 another large cat resembling a Mountain Lion was observed in the Dunstan Ranges near Cromwell, once again the animal was described as the size of a Labrador and having a dark orange – mustard coloured pelt.

July 1999 and another sighting of a large black panther was reported, this time however in the Mackenzie Country.

A report also came in from a Pest Destruction Officer from Banks Peninsular.
Also in July, a Mountain Lion was photographed crossing a paddock near Omarama.

December of 1999 saw sightings of what has come to be known as the “Moeraki Mountain Lion”. This cat was seen by Canadian tourists as it sunned itself on rocks near Moeraki, South of Omaru. It was described as being distinctly Mountain Lion-like, which these tourists had themselves seen in their native habitat, about 3 metres long and golden coloured. The cat on being spotted sauntered from the rocks and disappeared from view. The tourists were met with some ridicule; the sighting was however given some serious consideration by a local restaurateur, who offered a reward for conclusive proof of the creature’s existence, none was ever forthcoming.

Another cat to gain fame and a name was a large Mountain Lion-like animal seen in the Lindis Pass area in 1999. It was hiding in the undergrowth and photographed by a pair of British tourists and came to be known as the “Lindis Lion”.

Early 2001 and the Ashford Black cat was once again seen in the Bushside area of Ashford Forest.

The winter of 2001 brought renewed sightings on a farm in the Winterslow area of the Ashford Forest, it was another sighting of the big black cat, this time it was seen in a deer enclosure at twilight.

A similar animal was also seen in the Anama area, and made this area its home for the next two years, creating sporadic sightings until 2003.

A Black cat was also sighted in the Mayfield area near Ashburton in October.
2001 also saw the Fairlington area become the home of a large Black Cat.

2003 and yet again another sighting of the mystery cat in the Ashford forest area, this time however the owners of the property where the cat was sighted had noted strange behavior among the stock on their property at the time the cat was sighted.

November once again saw a team of investigators and an Orana Wildlife Park cat expert descend on the area and look for signs of the big cat’s presence, but nothing conclusive was found.

October 2003 also brought renewed sightings of the Fairlington Cat, which was seen lurking behind a fence near the stockyards of the PPCS Meat works.

2005 and a new sighting of another large Black Panther and it was seen and photographed at Lake Clearwater, in the hills which overlook the Clearwater settlement.
May of 2005 produced yet another Mountain Lion sighting, this time in Queenstown, by an Australian Tourist, the cat was seen in some scrub near the Heritage Hotel, described as being the size of a Golden Retriever Dog, but it moved and walked like a cat.

On May 29th 2008 at 5 pm during a rescue exercise staged at a quarry a large cat described as possibly being a lion was seen at a quarry in Kaiwaka.

The cat was seen on the edge of the Parker Lime Quarry on Gibsons Rd, at a distance of about 30 metres standing on a ridge by Volunteer Fire fighter Carl Swanson (18) during a Search and Rescue exercise.

During the exercise Swanson played the part of a victim in a car in the quarry, as he was waiting to be rescued he look up the hill and saw the Cat.

He described the cat as being about the size of a Labrador and about two metres long.

He commented: " I told my colleague and it (the lion) was actually looking at us... like staring for a good one minute before it stood up and started walking on the edge of the quarry".

He also said "That was the walk of a lion.... really soft.

The cat was described as massive and kept walking around and eventually disappeared.

There have apparently been no reports of cattle or sheep maulings in the area.

John Bomar - Volunteer Fire Brigade chief began investigating the incident and came across a local man who is now a Minister.

Bowmar said, "He’s no idiot. (He) saw it years ago, he was out duck shooting. It was a huge cat. There was no point in me shooting it. I turned tail and ran".

Bomar had been told the fireman reported the incident to the police

Parker Lime Company Quarry Manager talked to staff about the incident and they felt it may be one of the extremely large cats that prowl the bush around the quarry site.

10. The Laughing owl

The Laughing Owl was a moderate sized Owl 14 – 15” in height and with a wingspan of 10.4”.
It had reddish brown plumage streaked with darker brown and a white face. It was so named because its call sounded like maniacal laughter.

The North and South Island birds were of different sub-species.

The birds only called while on the wing, calls were mainly heard on dark, drizzly nights or preceding rain.

The South Island birds were larger than the smaller North Island species; males were generally smaller than females.

Abundant until around 1845, within 40 years this charming little bird had disappeared.
However, the call of the Laughing Owl has been heard often since and there are those that believe it may not be so extinct as thought.

This species preferred open country for hunting, and rocky areas for shelter and the rocky areas of the Southern Alps were very much suited to its needs, as were areas of Canterbury and Otago. They showed a preference for low rainfall areas of the country.

Nelson and Fiordland were also areas favoured by these birds and remains were found on Stewart Island in 1881. In the North Island they were said to inhabit the Ureweras, inhabiting holes in the cliffs, in the upper reaches of the ranges. They also inhabited the Hakoke Cliffs.

It fed on Lizards, insects and small birds for the plentiful fossilised pellets that have been discovered give clear indication of their diet. It was a ground feeder with sturdy legs that preferred to run its prey down. Nesting was generally on bare ground and in rocky crevices. The nests were made of dry grass and two white eggs were laid.

This bird was known to the Tuhoi People in Te Ureweras in the North Island. Birds were said to be found in the Albany area near Timaru in pre-European times.

A North Island bird was collected from Mt Egmont in 1856 and Wairarapa in 1868; around this time birds were also reported from the Porirua area and Te Karaka.

Mr W.W Smith managed to breed some of these birds in captivity in February of 1882. Several fine specimens along with eggs were dispatched to Buller, along with letters describing the breeding behaviour and care.

July 1914 saw the last sighting of a Laughing Owl; a specimen was found dead at the Blue Cliffs Station in Canterbury.

The only physical proof of these birds that remained was 57 type specimens and 17 eggs in public collections (Worthy 1997).

It seemed however, the Laughing Owl was not totally through. Unconfirmed sightings of Laughing Owls came in from the North Island in 1925 and in 1927 one was supposedly heard at Lake Waikaremoana when it flew over giving a weird cry, almost maniacal in nature.

In the 1940’s a Laughing Owl was reported spotted in the Pakahi near Opotiki (Parkinson).

1950 saw a sighting at Manapouri.

In the South Island in February of 1956 eggshell fragments were found at Saddle Hill in Fiordland.

The most recent hope for this species came from the Canterbury region in 1960 when what appeared to be reasonably fresh eggshell fragments were found.

Various expeditions have been mounted to try and find the Laughing Owl and the results have often been inconclusive. There have been possible calls heard and occasional pellets and egg fragments, but never any glimpse of this elusive bird.

Why these birds became extinct is somewhat of a mystery. Their decline over 40 years has puzzled many. It is believed the invasion of weasels, stoats and feral cats may have spelt their doom. Rats were no problem to these species as they actually provided a new food source for this bird as evidenced from pellets that have been found.

Whatever the reason for their decline unconfirmed reports still continue to come from areas such as Fiordland and various areas of New Zealand. But still no photos or live birds. Perhaps in the remote areas of Fiordland the damp night sky still rings with the maniacal laugh of this enigma.

Hopefully perhaps the Laughing Owl may have not yet had the last laugh.


Dougal Dixon, author of the wonderful After Man and someone whom I very much want to have to the Weird Weekend at some point wrote to me this week:

"Did you know of an EU-funded competition to devise and design animals that will exist in Europe in 100 million years' time? Nor did I. I only found out about it when I was asked to travel to Vienna to be on the judging panel. I cannot find out anything about it on any of the logical web-sites.

So it is hardly surprising that the closing date for entries has been put back for want of sufficient response. The closing date is now 25th May, and I (along with everybody else involved) have been asked to spread the word".

For more details contact:

Tobias Wilhelm Marketing/ PR Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde Stuttgart Rosenstein 1 70191 Stuttgart T: +49 711/ 8936-104 F: +49 711/ 8936-100 wilhelm.smns@naturkundemuseum-bw.de

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


I know I often play a bit fast and loose with the days I recommend things along with updating you on the latest cryptozoology news from the CFZ daily news blog, but usually Sunday is the day upon which I recommend a good film to watch. Well today, my film of the week is ‘Downfall’. The trailer is here, and I assure you this film is every bit as good as the trailer makes it look: http://www.imdb.com/video/screenplay/vi277610777/
And now, the news:

Google hires goats to cut grass
Pet fanatic who kept 1,000 exotic animals in tiny Oldham home jailed
Puppy eats whole alphabet of fridge magnets
Mystery worms turn on northwest China herdsmen
Crikey, mate! A kangaroo is loose
Quarantine for lonely Afghan pig

What’s that? The opportunity for another pig joke? Don’t mind if I do…

What is a piglets favourite TV show?‘Ham’ah Montana