Half a century ago, Belgian Zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans first codified cryptozoology in his book On the Track of Unknown Animals.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ) are still on the track, and have been since 1992. But as if chasing unknown animals wasn't enough, we are involved in education, conservation, and good old-fashioned natural history! We already have three journals, the largest cryptozoological publishing house in the world, CFZtv, and the largest cryptozoological conference in the English-speaking world, but in January 2009 someone suggested that we started a daily online magazine! The CFZ bloggo is a collaborative effort by a coalition of members, friends, and supporters of the CFZ, and covers all the subjects with which we deal, with a smattering of music, high strangeness and surreal humour to make up the mix.

It is edited by CFZ Director Jon Downes, and subbed by the lovely Lizzy Bitakara'mire (formerly Clancy), scourge of improper syntax. The daily newsblog is edited by Corinna Downes, head administratrix of the CFZ, and the indexing is done by Lee Canty and Kathy Imbriani. There is regular news from the CFZ Mystery Cat study group, and regular fortean bird news from 'The Watcher of the Skies'. Regular bloggers include Dr Karl Shuker, Dale Drinnon, Richard Muirhead and Richard Freeman.The CFZ bloggo is updated daily, and there's nothing quite like it anywhere else. Come and join us...

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

DALE DRINNON: Looking at the Mapinguari

Dale started at IUPUI hoping for a degree in Biology before changing to Anthropology and as a result, has a very diverse background in Geology, Zoology, Paleontology, Anatomy, Archaeology, Psychology, Sociology, Literature, Latin, Popular Culture, Film criticism, Mythology and Folklore, and various individual human cultures especially mentioning those of the Pacific and the Americas. He has a working knowledge of every human fossil find up until his graduation and every important Cryptozoological sighting up to that point. He has been an amateur along on archaeological excavations in Indiana as well as doing some local tracking of Bigfoot there. Now he is on the CFZ bloggo....

My personal contributions to the matter stem from a 1971 letter sent to SAGA magazine after a cover story on the discovery of tracks attributed to the orang dalam. The letter described a creature seen in parts of Brazil and called Capelobo [= Pelobo], basically a version of the Mapinguari and describing it as looking like an upright tailless howler monkey the size of a man (height of a short man, but weighing about 250 pounds). I immediately recognised this as a version of the Mapinguari or Pe-de-Garrafa as described in Bernard Heuvelmans's book On the Track of Unknown Animals. Heuvelmans mentions that it is said to leave a track like the bottom of a bottle and later on mentions this is something like the shape of an orangutan's track [this begins from the oldest editions of the book, from 1955]

The same description is mentioned as the characteristic description of the mono rei or king monkey in the 2001 book The Monster of the Madidi by Simon Chapman. From this it seems the mono rei and the mono grande (big monkey) are two distinctly different things. That would seem to correspond to the reported footprints since the mono grande's 'Hand-like' tracks do not agree with the 'Bottle foot.' Something like the 'Bottle foot' tracks were also reported from Honduras and British Honduras at least as far back as the 1930s, and Eberhart mentions this.

There has been much discussion of the theory that the Mapinguari represents a surviving ground sloth in more recent years. The giant ground sloth does seem to correspond to a cryptid reported in those same areas, but the key difference is that the Mapinguari types are described as being tailless monkeys or apes, often walking upright. The part about them being tailless probably invalidates the suspected ground sloth candidacy. On the other hand, the clawed yehos or yahos ('Devils') of the West Indies could possibly be smallish surviving ground sloths, about chimp-sized.

Going back to the theory that the Mapinguaris are usually arboreal apes that leave ring-shaped (orangutan-like) footprints on the ground, it is noteworthy to look at some traditional depictions of them as posted on the internet (the photos come from internet sources and no attempt to defraud the owners is intended. The reproduction of the photos as educational materials is protected under international copyright law).

It seems that the Mapinguari is regularly depicted as a cyclops and furthermore that the head is barely distinct from the body. Furthermore, the mouth is large and fanged but does not seem to bear any direct placement on the head. It arises from below the level of the shoulders. Some acounts also say that the mouth is protruberant, like the nose end of a horse's snout and shows round nostrils pointing forwards. This does not say that the face is horse-like, the mouth part is described as being distinct from the indistinct head. Furthermore, the entire body is covered with a long and coarse coat of hair. The hair is usually reddish but may be darker.

Looking at an orangutan's head it is possible to see how some of these descriptions might come about. First of all the head of an orangutan is rather bizzare and in some cases barely presents any aspect that would normally register as a face. The mouth area is distinct from the rest of the face and a beard sometimes accentuates the distinction. The eyes are set very close together and the eyelids can be lighter than the rest of the face. In several higher primates this is a warning sign; the mouth is opened and the eyelids dropped as a threat. Looking at the close-set eyes with pale lids and the darker strip between them, it is possible to see how that might look like a single eye from a distance. And the stances and limb proportions are shown as being pretty much like an orangutan as well.

I also include Ivan Sanderson's reproduction of the orangutan foot extended and the track, and the adjoining footprint by contrast would be more like the 'Hand-like' track of the mono grande (as opposed to the mono rei).

So this brings us to the map that explains the hypothesis. Most apes do not have much of an identifiable fossil ancestry. Orangutans are an exception, 'pongo' (orangutan) fossils are well known from mainland Asia, especially in China. But this brings up another problem. The fossils clearly belong to larger ground-living apes and modern orangutans of the proper genus pongo have a large number of very specific and very peculiar adaptations to life in the trees. They cannot be the same. Therefore I had proposed the name 'protopongo' for the fossil ground-living ancestors to the modern tree-living pongo. There follows the suggestion (including by Heuvelmans) that the classical abominable snowman or yeti represents a survival of these fossil apes, and a further suggestion implied by Coleman and others that the apes crossed the Behring land bridge and remnants had been reported in modern times (the name 'Hesperopithecus' [?] is on the map because there remains the possibility that some alleged dental fossils and alleged associated 'cultural' bone-cracking remains unaccounted for by the decision that all of the later fossils ascribed to this genus were pig's teeth).

And so there remains the possibility as indicated on the chart that the South American forms described as Mapinguari are parallel-evolved arboreal apes descended from the same generalised ground-living ancestors. At the time in question there was very much demonstrable faunal exchange between East Asia, North America and then South America in turn. And in order to indicate the possibility that the South American apes are separate parallel-evolved arboreal forms out of the same ground-living ancestors, I have given them the tenative name 'parapongo' ('Like an orangutan'). I do not insist that this name necessarily become official if this is proven to be the case; what I am doing is simply showing how these forms must be related to while also being distinct from one another. The actual honour of naming the creatures should go to their official discoverers, whomever they turn out to be.

And of course any professional anthropologists or primatologists can feel free to say that the whole idea is daft up until such a time that actually happens.

In part this material was submitted to the SITU for publication in 1990-91, together with several other articles of a similar nature. Unfortunately, the journal PURSUIT folded shortly after that point.

MUIRHEAD'S MYSTERIES: Interesting Invertebrates Part Three

Hello again,

Today I am going to look at some cases involving insects and spiders from various parts of the world, mainly clustered around the late 1980s and early 1990s. There is no particular reason for this; it is just that I happen to have quite a large collection of cuttings from this time period.

This extract is from BBC Wildlife Magazine July 1984.:

'BUZZ: The world`s biggest bee has been rediscovered in the rainforests of Indonesia. The species, Chalicodoma pluto, was presumed extinct, having not been seen since it was discovered in 1859 by Alfred Russel Wallace. He collected the only specimens known to science (two females) on the North Molluccan island of Bucan, and that was the extent of our knowledge until an American biologist, working on the neighbouring island of Halmahera in 1981, heard an ominous buzzing….” The bees built communal nests, which 'were always built inside those of tree-dwelling termites, though the resin and wood-fibre galleries constructed by the female bees were tough enough to resist termite invasions. The huge mandibles of the female, reminiscent of a male stag beetle, were found to be tools for scraping resin, which was then bulldozed by the central labrum into a 10mm diameter ball….' The article then goes on to describe how the male of the species are much smaller. (1)

'Locust retribution for Washington`s sins Guardian May 5th 1987: After biding their time for 17 years buried deep below ground in the luxuriant spring gardens of Washington, a plague of locusts is preparing to descend upon the capital. The curious creatures, which have sent Washingtonians to the hardware stores to block up their windows and doors with defensive screens, have been quietly awaiting their moment to attack…Many millions of creatures have already tunnelled their way to the surface and are waiting the right moment to take part in one of nature`s most unusual dramas. Those people who have lived through it before – in 1902, 1919, 1953 and most recently, in 1970 – say it is an experience they will never forget. Local garden stores warn there is nothing you can do. (2)

So if this number 17 was consistent, then 2004 should have been another significant year. But I have no records from 2004. The next plague year is 2021. Michael Oliver wrote to The Guardian on May 9th 1987:

'A plague on their houses: Sir,- The article by Alex Brummer (May 5th) is quite intriguing. It seems that this plague of locusts in Sodom recurs in 17 year cycles – 1902, 1919…1953, 1970, 1987. The interval between 1919 and 1953 is 34 years, i.e. 2 x 17, and it seems therefore that 1936 was for some reason 'spared.' However, this multiple factor of 17 would appear to be too much of a coincidence, and I am wondering if there is a scientific explanation for it.' (3)

A letter dated May 13th 1987 from L. E. Mack stated that [Richard] 'Dawkins claims that the only suggested explanation of this so far offered is that the numbers 13 and 17 are prime numbers. The advantage of regular 'plague' eruptions is that the insects can alternately “swamp” their predators: if these eruptions are timed so that they occur at intervals a prime number of years apart, predators do not get the chance to 'syncronise' their own cycles. So when the food is there, they are not. (4)

Now, the strange case of the spiders webs in the Croatia-Serbia war of 1991. On November 8th 1991 'Zagreb radio claimed “large quantities” of live, yellow-backed spiders were dropped on the east Croatian town of Daruvar. “The spiders are being used by the aggressor army as a biological agent. On television, an unnamed doctor said there was no trace of poison among the samples he had seen. “But the next generation could be the killer strain,” he cheerily confided. In fact, the tale of Serb-trained killer arachnids ranks as one of the sillier fabrications in an alarmist propaganda war, fit to stand alongside earlier claims that Croats in the town of Osijek had freed tigers from the local zoo which then roamed the countryside lunching on Chetnik guerrillas.' (5)

Finally, a headline from the Cork Examiner September 26th 1994: `Extinct` insects discovered near Thurles: “Very rare insects thought to have been extinct in Britain and Ireland have been discovered near Thurles. Now zoologists and entomologists from both sides of the Irish Sea are putting the insects under the microscope. “The discovery is very exciting and a big breakthrough said Tom Grace, Chairman of Cabragh Wetlands Trust near where the insects were found. The rarest insect is called Limnephilus pati, a caddisfly resembling a moth. Two males and two females of the species were found.' (6)

1. Anon. Buzz. BBC Wildlife Magazine. July 1984.
2. A.Brummer. Locust retribution for Washington`s sins. The Guardian May 5th 1987.
3. M.Oliver. A plague on their houses. Letter in The Guardian. May 9th 1987
4. L.E. Mack `Nymphs and shepherds of Sodom-on-Potomac` Letter in The Guardian. May 13th 1987
5. I.Traynor. Croatian media at battle stations for attack by eight-legged yellow peril. The Guardian November 12th 1991.
6. Anon. `Extinct` insects discovered near Thurles`. Cork Examiner September 26th 1994

Sorry, I forgot to look up a song lyric again. But try listening to Batchelor`s Hall by Steeleye Span.


Center for Biological Diversity

Center for Biological Diversity

Dear reader.

Stop the NRA's
assault on condors.

The National Rifle Association is gunning for America's largest and most endangered bird -- the condor.

Calling us "extremists" for trying to stop the poisoning of condors by lead bullets -- inside a federal national monument, no less -- the NRA is pitting its multimillion-dollar legal team against our lawyers in a showdown that will determine whether condors survive or disappear forever.

Please help us win this critical battle to save the condor -- give to our Condor Legal Defense Fund today. We need to raise $50,000 by November 20 to defeat the NRA.

Twenty-five condors have already died a slow, painful death from feeding on deer and other animals killed with lead bullets. The lead enters their bloodstream, causing the digestive system to shut down until the great birds starve to death. Those that survive have to go through painful blood transfusions…many only to be poisoned again as soon as they return to the wild.

The situation is so bad that top condor scientists just issued a warning:

"The condor recovery program has reached a crossroads…Lead poisoning resulting from ingestion of spent ammunition in carcasses is so severe and chronic...that condor recovery cannot be achieved so long as such lead exposure continues."

To stop the killing, the Center for Biological Diversity's legal team has filed a lawsuit to ban hunting with lead bullets on federal lands surrounding the Grand Canyon. With steel and copper bullets readily available, there is simply no reason to poison endangered species -- or any animal -- with lead.

The NRA, however, has marshaled its vast resources to keep the lead bullets flying, no matter how many condors are killed.

With your generous donation to the Condor Legal Defense Fund, we'll beat back the NRA, ban lead bullets, and give condors a fighting chance.

$50,000 isn't much compared to the NRA's millions, but if we raise it by November 20, it will put us over the top and ensure the end of lead poisoning and a new lease on life for condors.

Thanks so much,

KierĂ¡n Suckling
Executive Director
Center for Biological Diversity

P.S. Our legal team is also preparing a motion to stop the largest development in California's history in order to save the condor. The TAREX Corporation plans to destroy 19,000 acres of a federally designated condor preserve on Tejon Ranch to build luxury homes and golf courses. Please help us stop the country's most horrific example of sprawl by donating to the Condor Legal Defense Fund today.

Condor photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Chuck Szmurlo under the GNU free documentation license.

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Hi Jon,

Just wanted to express my sympathy for Mike's condition. He and I spoke at WW 2008. I too suffer from sleep paralysis, once every couple of months on average and it's no fun. SP is quite hard to imagine and fortunately I don't suffer from the hypnopompic hallucinations that sometimes accompany it, but your own body is as remote from you as another person's while your mind is fully conscious and alert. It's never less than scary and until you're used to it is utterly terrifying. Getting a finger to move can be an epic battle of will that takes minutes.

Sleep paralysis often takes place during shallow breathing; fine when you're unconscious but like being suffocated when you are awake. Combined with Mike's other symptoms, he has my sympathy and prayers.

I was interested in Lindsay Selby's big eel report. Even known anguilla in New Zealand are much larger than our specimens and it isn't stretching credibility too far to imagine the Aussie trout farm monster. With the decimation of eel stocks in recent decades for reasons unknown, if large, sterile individuals are behind lake monster phenomena those sightings may be fewer in future.

My bait tip for the hunters? Rabbit, or perhaps whole chicken. Large eels have often been reported round food processing plants with offal being a favourite meal. Australia is heading towards those dark, thundery, mild nights when predatory eels are most active. Maybe this time they'll nab the evidence?

Best Wishes,


LANETTE BAKER: The Legend and the Names

I was looking through a few sites at paranormal and cryptozoology stuff and was kinda hit by how many 'names' there are for bigfoot, which descriptions do vary depending on the area and habitat, which would be the assumed reason for the variants in size and colouring.

Of course the the US here he is normally called bigfoot, but in Florida he can be referred to as the swamp ape, in Missouri he would go by the name of momo (which is supposed to stand for Missouri monster), and of course we have the Fouke Monster who was in the Fouke, Arkansas area called Boggy Creek and of who the movie was made about (and yes, this is on my camping list; hoping for next summer). Also, the Fouke Monster seems to have been the most aggressive of these creatures, though there are hunters in the northern states who have made claims about aggressive bigfoots.

We have the yowie in Australia, the yeti of the Himalayans, the yeren of China who is also supposed to have cases of albinism, which is interesting in itself. Then you can move onto the orang pendek of Sumatra and the orang mawas of Malaysia. Vietnam is not to be left out; they have the nguoi rung, and then Japan has the hibagon. Then there is the barmanou of Afganistan and Pakistan.

I find it interesting that in some areas the government takes these creatures very seriously and then in some areas people do not want to mention seeing anything because the are scrutinised and made fun of. Another thing I have found out among my friends in the paranormal field is that while many have doubts on Nessie and other lake monsters and several other cryptid creatures, most all believe in bigfoot by any name. When I have asked why I am normally told it is just something they are positive about.

The nguoi rung, hibagon and the barmanou were unknown to me and I hope to find more information upon further research, or if anyone else has some information to share please do so!

I was hoping to write something a bit longer with more information, but half a dozen high school football players have descended upon my home, we are in play-offs for state and that is taking precedence over most everything else.

OLL LEWIS: Yesterday’s News Today


Did you know, that on this day in 1675 Gottfried Leibniz demonstrated integral calculus for the first time?

And now for the news:

We’ll breed polar bears in Scotland, says zoological society

The bizarre lives of bone-eating worms

Work On Facility That Where Students Could Learn The Care Of Large Animals Could Begin Soon

Talk to the animals

Villagers worship rare turtle in Orissa

The residents are ‘turtle’-y devoted to their new deity.