LATE SURVIVAL OF THE LOST AUK? GAREFOWL, GREAT AUKS, AND A PARADOX OF PENGUINS

by on Mar.22, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Tom the water-baby meeting the last of the great auks or garefowl – an exquisite painting by Warwick Goble for an illustrated 1909 edition of Charles Kingsley’s The Water-Babies, which is one of my all-time favourite children’s novels (public domain)

And there he saw the last of the Gairfowl, standing up on the Allalonestone, all alone. And a very grand old lady she was, full three feet high, and bolt upright, like some old Highland chieftainess. She had on a black velvet gown, and a white pinner and apron, and a very high bridge to her nose (which is a sure mark of high breeding), and a large pair of white spectacles on it, which made her look rather odd: but it was the ancient fashion of her house.
   Charles Kingsley – The Water-Babies: A Fairy-Tale For a Land-Baby

As fondly commemorated above in Charles Kingsley’s classic children’s novel The Water-Babies: A Fairy-Tale For a Land-Baby (1863), one of the most famous extinct species of modern-day bird is the great auk Pinguinus impennis, also known as the garefowl, gairfowl, or geirfugl. Almost 3 ft tall (the only taller auk was the prehistoric Howard’s Lucas auk Miomancalla howardi), this sturdy flightless black-and-white seabird from the northern hemisphere was superficially reminiscent of the southern hemisphere’s familiar penguins, but its link with them does not end there – because the great auk was the original penguin, the latter name having been initially bestowed upon this puffin-allied species. Only later was it applied by those European sailors first penetrating Antarctic waters to the wholly-unrelated birds that they encountered there and which retain it today, long after the original northern penguin’s extermination.
The great auk once existed in tens of millions, nesting on the rocky coastal areas of islands on both sides of the North Atlantic, but it was in America that it first met its end. Its feathers were prized for use in eider-downs and feather beds, its flesh was tasty and therefore much sought-after by sailing vessels, and collectors coveted its eggs, and so this imposing but helpless bird was massacred in countless numbers. On Funk Island off Newfoundland, for example, its precious nesting grounds were frequently raided and mercilessly desecrated. Thousands of auks were captured alive and cooped together in great enclosures like domestic fowl until it was their time to be slaughtered en masse by being clubbed to death and then thrown into furnaces, enabling their feathers to be more readily removed from their bodies. By the second decade of the 19th Century, the great auk was merely a memory in North America.
In Europe, its major stronghold was the Icelandic coast, but great auks even existed around the more northerly islands of Scotland, most notably St Kilda but also visiting the Orkneys, with one particularly famous Orcadian pair being nicknamed the King and Queen. Sadly, however, they were no safer from hunting here than they had been in the New World. Moreover, it was especially ironic that as this species became rarer, it became ever more persecuted by museum collectors – anxious to add specimens and eggs to their collections before it died out! The last known pair of great auks constituted a couple that were clubbed to death (and their egg smashed) on the Icelandic island of Eldey on 3 June 1844, since when the species has long been deemed extinct (but see below). A particularly moving novel reconstructing this terrible, shameful event, entitled The Last Great Auk and first published in 1964, was written by Allan Eckert, and was reviewed by me herein an earlier ShukerNature post.
The Last Great Auk by Allan Eckert – Collins hardback 1stedition, 1964 (© Allan Eckert/HarperCollins, reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
For some decades thereafter, however, various quite convincing reports of lone living specimens emerged from various remote far-northern European localities, and it is with these little-mentioned, ‘post-extinction’ reports of great auks that this present ShukerNature article is concerned.
Perhaps the most (in)famous of these is also the most recent one. On 19 April 1986, London’s Daily Telegraph carried the remarkable news that an expedition was to set sail for Papa Westray, a tiny islet in Scotland’s Orkney group, in response to reputed sightings of a living great auk there. Unhappily for cryptozoology as well as for mainstream zoology, however, it proved to be more of a canard than an auk! For as documented in the International Society of Cryptozoology’s ISC Newsletter for spring 1987, it turned out to be nothing more than an imaginative advertising promotion for a certain brand of whisky, using a robotic auk!
This is not the first false alarm for this long-lost species. Reports of great auks in the Lofoten Islands, an archipelago off Norway‘s northwestern coast, emerged every so often during the late 1930s. When finally investigated, however, the birds proved to be genuine penguins – namely, nine king penguins Aptenodytes patagonicus, which had been brought from sub-Antarctica as pets by whalers and had been released on the Lofotens in August 1936 when no longer wanted. The last two died there in 1944.
King penguins in a delightful illustration from 1910 (public domain)
Nevertheless there are a number of more promising reports of post-1844 survival too. Indeed, a sighting of a single living specimen on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland in December 1852, made by eminent field naturalist and ornithologist Colonel Henry Maurice Drummond-Hay with the aid of binoculars, and at a distance of only 30 yards or so away while he was traveling aboard a steamer, has lately been formally accepted by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). It was first brought to mainstream attention in 1979 by T.R. Halliday in a paper on the great auk published by the periodical Oceans. Moreover, in 1853 a dead great auk was supposedly found on the shore of Trinity Bay on Newfoundland’s eastern side, and three years later another one was reputedly caught on its western shore, but neither specimen was submitted to scientists for confirmation (or otherwise).
Most of the others report, conversely, are buried in Norwegian journals and newspapers of the 1800s, but a good example from a 19th-Century English publication was contained in Dr Isaac J. Hayes’s The Land of Desolation (1871), which describes his adventures in Greenland during summer 1869. The auk-related account concerns a conversation that Hayes had with a naturalist called Hansen:

The great auk, long since supposed to be entirely extinct, he told me had been recently seen on one of the Whale-fish Islands. Two years before [in 1867] one had been actually captured by a native, who, being very hungry, and wholly ignorant of the great value of the prize he had secured, proceeded at once to eat it, much to the disgust of Mr. Hansen, who did not learn of it until too late to come to the rescue. How little the poor savage thought of the great fortune he had just missed by hastily indulging his appetite!
The great auk – when did it really die out? (public domain)
On 10 November 2004, Dr Alan Gauld of Nottingham, England, kindly brought to my attention the following account. Published in the autumn 1929 issue of Bird Notes and News, it was reported by H.A.A. Dombrain, a manager for an English concern in Norway’s Lofoten Islands. Dombrain noted that one of his boatmen, a Finn called Jodas, who was an experienced hunter and amateur naturalist, had told him that earlier that day (presumably the same day that Gauld wrote his account to Bird Notes and News) he and Dombrain’s shipwright, a man called Evenson, had seen a bird under the wharf that, in spite of their experience, they were wholly unable to identify.
Intrigued, Dombrain showed them separately a series of bird illustrations, including all of the likely (and unlikely) species that it could be. To his great surprise, both of them, independently of each other, selected an image of the great auk as the species that matched their mystery bird.
Prior to its extinction almost a century earlier, the great auk had indeed inhabited the wild, sparsely-inhabited coasts of these islands. Moreover, the earlier-noted release there of sub-Antarctic king penguins was several years after the sighting of Evenson, so these birds could not explain it. Consequently, is it possible that he had truly seen a lone, elusive great auk from some small colony that had somehow persisted beyond their species’ official extinction date in this remote locality?
A great northern diver, from Cassell’s Book of Birds, 1875 (public domain)
Equally enigmatic is the taxonomic identity of the mysterious Arran auk – the name given by the elderly pilot of a boat carrying the Reverend G.C. Green around Scotland’s western coast to a strange seabird as large as a goose or turkey and with a large sharp beak, but with such short wings that it never flew, only paddled, and was black in colour dorsally, white ventrally. As the Rev. Green noted in an article by him that was published on 27 March 1880 in The Field magazine, when he showed the pilot an illustrated book of birds the latter readily identified the picture of a great auk as portraying the Arran auk. He also stated that it only appeared on the coast of western Scotland’s Isle of Arran in March each year, that he had shot three specimens, and that he would obtain one for Green the following March.
Tragically, however, the pilot, who was an old man, passed away not long after taking Green in the boat, but his sons vowed that they would obtain a specimen of this bird in his stead. Sure enough, they did subsequently present Green with what they claimed to be an Arran auk, but it proved to be merely a great northern diver Gavia immer (aka the common loon in North America). However, Green pointed out that their father the pilot had readily distinguished between divers and the Arran auk when talking with him during their boat journey, so Green suspected that if he had been alive the pilot would not have sent him a diver.
A few additional cases of putative post-1844 survival for the great auk can be found within a short chapter entitled ‘Late Records, Anomalous Sightings and Cryptozoology’ in Errol Fuller’s definitive book The Great Auk (1999).
Errol Fuller’s authoritative tome The Great Auk (© Errol Fuller – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
For example, he notes that in 1971 the famous English nature-writer and broadcaster J. Wentworth Day recalled how back in 1927 he was informed by an acquaintance from his youth named Edward Valpy, whom he deemed to be a first-rate naturalist and explorer of unimpeachable truth, that while spending some time on one of the Lofotens he had spied a great auk slipping off a rock near the local boat-builder’s yard and quay. Day also stated that when Valpy had informed the boat-builder of what he had seen, the builder confirmed that it had been around for some time, that his sons had often seen it, and that once it had even dived beneath the boat on which he had been sailing. Note again that this was several years before the king penguins had been released here, so they cannot explain this report of multiple sightings.
Also of interest is the much-disputed claim by a Norwegian named Brodtkorb that he had shot a great auk, one of four supposedly encountered by him one day in April 1848 while he was rowing with some companions in a little strait constituting an arm of the sea separating Vardö from the islets of Hornö and Renö in Norway. The four birds were paddling in the water, and continued to do so, not flying away, even after he had shot one of them. As far as he could remember, its back, head, and neck were all completely black, except for a white spot at the eye on the side of the neck. Its wings were extremely small, and in shape it resembled those familiar auks the razorbills and guillemots.
Sadly, Brodtkorb threw the dead bird’s carcase on the beach when he landed, then later regretted doing so, but when he returned to the beach the following day to retrieve it, it had gone, carried away by the tide. Brodtkorb’s mystery bird has since been discounted by various sceptical naturalists as having merely been a diver or some familiar auk species, but those who knew him personally vouched for his knowledge of wildlife, stating that if this is really all that it had been, as an experienced sportsman he would have readily recognised it as such.
John Gould’s exquisite 19th-Century great auk painting (public domain)
Problematically, as Errol pointed out in his book, Vardö is much further north than any currently-known locality for great auk occurrence in historical times, but its remains in prehistoric middens from this region confirm that in earlier ages it did indeed occur there. Errol’s book also contains other post-1844 claimed sightings of this species in Norwegian and Greenland localities further north than would be expected, based at least upon its confirmed historical distribution and irrespective of the sightings’ dates.
Might it just be possible, however, that in such far-north localities, out of the ready reach of hunters, some few great auks did indeed survive beyond, possibly even well beyond, their species’ official extinction dates (1844/1852) – and might some even be lingering there today?
It would be a very bold person indeed to state with any degree of confidence that the great auk is not a lost auk after all. Then again, it would be a very bold person indeed to attempt spending the extensive period of time that would be required to seek with any degree of proficiency this iconic bird in such inhospitable, inaccessible Arctic terrain. So who can truly say for certain?
Two famous taxidermy specimens of the great auk: (left) the Leipzig Museum great auk; and (right) the great auk and replica egg at Kelvingrove, Glasgow (© Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence / © Mike Pennington/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)
Finally: Here is my review of Errol’s superb great auk book that was published in the autumn 2000 issue (#21) of the late Mark Chorvinsky’s Strange Magazine:


And here is a scraperboard illustration – the very first scraperboard picture that I ever attempted – of a great auk that I prepared more than 30 years ago, its black and white plumage making it an ideal subject to depict via this very striking medium:
My scraperboard illustration of a great auk (© Dr Karl Shuker)

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SEEKING NEODINOSAURS IN NEW GUINEA

by on Mar.13, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Life-sized statue representing the postulated appearance in life of Therizinosaurus(© Dr Karl Shuker)
North of Australia is the extremely large island of New Guinea, still plentifully supplied with little-explored expanses of rainforest and mountainland. Might it be hiding some modern-day non-avian dinosaurs, living neodinosaurs, no less? Over the years, a number of searches for such creatures have been made there, inspired by local testimony of elusive cryptids bearing varying degrees of resemblance to dinosaurian reptiles, as will now be revealed.
Having said that, we begin our quest for surviving prehistoric Papuans with what must surely be one of the most bizarre episodes in the entire history of cryptozoology.
Political map of New Guinea, showing its division into Indonesia-owned Papua (left) and the independent sovereign state Papua New Guinea (right) (Wikipedia)
During the late 1930s, Java-born explorer/camera-man Charles C. Miller and his newly-married wife, former American society girl Leona Jay, spent their honeymoon visiting the Sterren Mountains in what was then Dutch New Guinea (the western half of New Guinea, now known variously, and confusingly, as Western New Guinea, Papua, Western Papua, Irian Jaya, or Indonesian New Guinea). Here they allegedly encountered not only a hitherto-unknown tribe of cannibals called the Kirrirri but also what Miller believed to be a living dinosaur. Their introduction to this latter beast came about in a somewhat unusual manner – courtesy of a coconut de-husker used by one of the native women.
Leona noticed that the tool in question, roughly 18 in long and 20 lb in weight, resembled the distal portion of an elephant tusk or rhino horn, but as there are no elephants or rhinos in New Guinea she was very perplexed as to its true identity and origin. When she told her husband, he made some enquiries and was shown several of these curious objects, which were made of a horn-like substance present in cone-shaped layers – i.e. resembling a stacked pile of paper drinking cups, one cup inside another. When pressed for more details, some of the natives drew a strange lizard-like creature in the sand, whose tail terminated in one of these horns. They called this beast the row (after its loud cry), and said that it was 40 ft long,
Although Miller was initially sceptical of their claims, he could not deny the evidence of the horns and could offer no alternative explanation for their origin, and so when he learned that the hills to the northwest of the Kirrirri camp reputedly harboured these gigantic beasts, he set out with his wife and a native party in the hope of filming them. After a couple of days’ journey, they reached a triangular swamp situated between two plateaux and occupying an area of roughly 40 acres. As Miller sat there, looking at a bed of tall reeds a quarter of a mile away, the reeds suddenly moved. Something was behind them. Hardly daring to breathe, Miller waited for them to move again, camera in hand – and when they did, the result was so shocking that Leona collapsed to the ground, almost fainting with fear.
A long thin neck bearing a small head fringed with a flaring bony hood had risen up through the reeds, followed by a sturdy elephantine body bearing a series of huge triangular plates running along its backbone, and a lengthy tapering tail bearing at its tip one of the mysterious horns that Miller had come to know so well. Its front limbs were shorter than its hind limbs, and while Miller was filming it, the row unexpectedly paused, raised itself up onto its hind limbs, and peered in the party’s direction, almost as if it sensed the presence of these human interlopers within its private, prehistoric domain. In colour, it was precisely the same shade of light yellow-brown as the surrounding reeds, no doubt affording it excellent camouflage should it seek anonymity, but it was presently intent upon more extrovert behaviour – rearing up on two further occasions before disappearing from sight behind a clump of dwarf eucalyptus trees, just as Miller’s film ran out.
My copy of the 1951 Travel Book Club reprint of Cannibal Caravan (© Travel Book Club, reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
In 1939, his extraordinary adventure was first published in book form – Cannibal Caravan. Yet despite containing many interesting pictures, there was none of his most spectacular discovery, the row. There was not even a photograph of one of the tail horns. Similarly, although Miller claimed to have shown the film to various (unnamed) authorities, nothing more has ever emerged regarding it, or the Kirrirri either, for that matter, as this tribe has apparently never been encountered again by any other explorer.
Equally odd was that in Cannibals and Orchids (1941), Leona Miller’s own book recalling their ostensibly highly eventful New Guinea honeymoon, she relegated the row episode to just a few short paragraphs (of which only a single half-paragraph directly documented their actual supposed sighting of it), and which contained none of the descriptive details given by her husband in his book (indeed, her entire description of it was confined to a single sentence, concerning its length). Needless to say, this is hardly what one might expect from someone who had supposedly encountered (and been thoroughly unnerved by) a living dinosaur!
Nevertheless, because I am unaware of any previous cryptozoological document ever having quoted her account of the row (as opposed to his), I am doing so now for its historical (if not its descriptive) value:
In the village we found the horny tail-tip of the row. It looked like a rhinoceros horn, except that one side had been worn flat and smooth from dragging across the ground. The Kirrirri women, undaunted by the battleship proportions of the creature that supplied it, used the point for husking coconuts.
Having seen the tip of the tail, Charles had to see the row. The Kirrirris, mightily impressed by Charles’s guns, were agreeable. They were just crazy enough to see what would happen when Charles popped at a monster with a gun, and Charles was just crazy enough to show them. I went along because I wouldn’t have been any better off if I stayed behind, and I also had an idea that if there really was such a thing as the creature described – I didn’t believe it for a minute – I wanted to be where I could yank Charles out before he did something he wouldn’t have time to regret.
We went, we saw the darn thing, and we came back. Charles got motion pictures of it, but it was his reflexes, trained in Hollywood, that started the camera. His brain was just as frozen as mine. In fact of the two of us, he was more scared than I. I was just scared blank and couldn’t get any more frightened. Charles had been in so many tight spots before, he could appreciate the various shadings of danger. This was the blackest shade he had ever encountered, so he hit a new high in fright. He says it really takes an expert to be as scared as he was, though I later encountered moments when I came awfully close to it.
Artistic representation of the row found online (identity of artist/© holder currently unknown to me, illustration reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
The rowwas the real thing. In a radio broadcast on a nation-wide hook-up I ventured to describe it over the air. The resulting fan-mail indicated the public was still interested in prehistoric monsters. It has long been known to science that Dutch New Guinea harbors some sort of monster on the order of, but much larger, than the Varanus Komodoensis. Other explores have found additional evidence, but Charles and I believe we are the first white people actually to see one alive and to have found its lair.
The giant reptile we saw was somewhere between thirty and forty feet long, which is not big considering that some of the crocodiles grow thirty feet long in the Merauke River. It was its bulk that made it so tremendous. But every tiny detail was impressed upon my mind, to be recalled bit by bit as the first shock wore off. Many a night after that I lay awake staring through the clouds of mosquitoes humming around my net and seeing only this monster smashing its casual way through what should have been an impenetrable quagmire of thorn brush and barbed wire marsh grass.
Charles took no shots at it. He recalled suddenly that he owed it to civilization to photograph in full the various details of the lost tribe. We hastened back to resume our travelogue where we left off. It was strangely restful to get in back of a tripod again, with nothing more alarming in front of the lens than a few dozen cannibals.
Perhaps the most paradoxical aspect of this entire episode, however, concerns the row itself. For although palaeontologists currently recognise the former existence of many hundreds of different dinosaur species, collectively yielding a myriad of shapes, sizes, and forms, not one compares even superficially with the row – and for very good reason. As Dr Bernard Heuvelmans pointed out in On the Track of Unknown Animals (1958), the row’s morphology is truly surrealistic – because it combines the characteristics of several wholly unrelated dinosaur groups.
Little wonder, then, why cryptozoologists are reluctant to countenance any likelihood of this morphologically composite creature’s reality. Of course, their denunciation could be premature – but as long as Miller’s film remains as elusive as the beast that it allegedly depicts, how can we blame them for remaining unconvinced?
Intriguingly, however, as documented in Rex and Heather Gilroy’s fascinating Australian cryptozoology tome Out of the Dreamtime (2006), reports of a neodinosaurian cryptid with the similar-sounding local name of rahruh have apparently been emerging elsewhere in New Guinea, but especially Papua New Guinea, for at least a century.
Out of the Dreamtime (© Rex and Heather Gilroy/URU Publications – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
The reports describe an extremely large bipedal reptile with a very long neck, long tail, and predominantly frugivorous diet, but one that will also readily encompass the consumption of any Highland tribespeople who attempt to confront it. There have been many reports and sightings here of gigantic monitor lizards or varanids known as the artrellia, far longer than the accepted maximum length of 15 ft accorded to this island’s native Salvadori’s monitor Varanus salvadorii, and monitors can walk bipedally for a short time or distance, but the rahruh is supposedly very distinct from any such lizard.
Over the years, moreover, alleged sightings of sauropod-like mystery beasts have been reported from various tiny islets off the southwestern coast of the much larger island of New Britain (and also from New Britain itself), situated in the Bismarck Archipelago to the east of New Guinea, but little information concerning their precise appearance has been recorded. Conversely, I know of at least one reputed encounter with a very different type of supposed living dinosaur on one of these specks of land for which a detailed description is indeed on file, and which has been likened to a highly distinctive if decidedly surprising fossil form.
Brian Irwin on West New Britain‘s Ursula River(© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
In January 2008, Australian cryptozoologist Brian Irwin visited the island of Ambungi (aka Umbungi), and while there he interviewed one of two eyewitnesses who claim to have seen an extraordinary animal in 2005/2006, and which has apparently been sighted here and on a neighbouring isle called Alage at least nine times since the early 1990s. Robert, whom Brian interviewed (the absent eyewitness was named Tony Avil), stated that the creature was approximately 30-45 ft long, possessed smooth brown shiny skin, a long tail, and also a long neck, but was bipedal, and resembled a huge wallaby in overall appearance, except for its head, which was turtle-like.
When walking slowly on its hind legs, the top of this creature’s head was estimated to be “as high as a house”, and the vertical distance from its underbelly to the ground was estimated to be equal to the height of an adult man. It was observed from a distance of around 150 ft in the late afternoon, and for some considerable time, while it ate vegetation before eventually walking away, entering into some water, followed cautiously at a distance by its eyewitnesses.
Another view of a life-sized statue representing the postulated appearance in life of Therizinosaurus(© Dr Karl Shuker)
When shown pictures of creatures, Robert selected a restoration of the possible appearance in life of the theropod dinosaur Therizinosaurus as most closely resembling what he and Avil had seen that day – except for the head, which was depicted as horse-like in the illustration. As Brian has commented, however, the head’s morphology in that picture was entirely speculative, because no skull identified as being from a Therizinosaurus has ever been documented, so the appearance of its head is currently unknown. Indeed, the only portions of this very large theropod from the late Cretaceous that areknown from fossil evidence are its limbs and some ribs, so much of its likely appearance is merely deduced from related forms.
Ironically, however, its most famous confirmed attributes, and which must have been truly spectacular in life, are conspicuous only by their absence from Roger’s description of the cryptid seen by him and Avil – because Therizinosauruspossessed incredibly long claws on its hands, probably up to 3 ft long (only incomplete versions are currently on record). In short, combining this startling absence from Roger’s description with the relatively undetermined appearance of Therizinosaurus as a whole anyway, his identification of the latter dinosaur’s illustration as being most similar to the cryptid that he saw clearly cannot be taken literally in any sense (although it has been on some websites), and can do no more than offer a basic idea of the latter beast’s general form.
Todd Jurasek and Brian Irwin (© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
During late December 2015 through early January 2016, Brian was in New Britain, accompanied by American cryptid investigator Todd Jurasek, to continue Brian’s earlier researches. Todd’s summary of what they learnt while there (plus a selection of their photographs) is included exclusively here as follows, with his kind permission:
1) Ambungi Island – We visited Ambungi Islandexamining the caves reportedly used by a sauropod in recent years. Brian and I and [a] large group [of] islanders went to the caves at night. Conflicting reports from the native divers led me to suspect it wasn’t really a deep one. I went back and physically examined the cave the next day in daylight. The water surrounding the entrance was maybe 15 ft at its deepest point, the cave maybe about 10 ft wide and deep. I placed a trail camera for a week above a secondary purported cave with no success. The last reported dinosaur sighting around the island was back in July of 2015 by an adult male who wished to remain anonymous. He watched a brown long necked creature with a saw like ridge on his back moving in the open ocean in the afternoon while in a canoe. Ambungi Islandappears to be visited at times by these creatures but I saw no surface caves capable of hiding an animal larger than an adult human. The island is comprised of pocketed limestone that has the appearance of Swiss cheese or iron/steel slag discard from an iron or steel mill. (I’m guessing most of the islands in New Britain if not all appear this way.) Just like Swiss cheese there are no real continual holes to be found, just many odd-shaped pot-marked ones of various sizes. The only sizable holes on the island that I saw were along the shores where water erosion has occurred on [a] consistent basis creating small bluffs or overhangs.
Main cave, next to boat, on Ambungi Islandreputedly used by sauropod-like creature (© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
2) Aiu Island (nearest island to Ambungi, also owned by the Ambungi people). According to [an eyewitness called] Davis who lives on the island, he and others had been chased out of the sea on multiple occasions at night by something emanating a bright white light. They were spearfishing at night when a bright white light would come out of the horizon and chase them to shore. Davis couldn’t tell if the light was an animal or not. After chasing the group to shore the light would then fly away to heights of the island. The men and boys spearfish at night off canoes. My guess is whatever the light was [it] was attracted to their flashlights maybe even more so than their presence or movement. (Flashlights are used to both guide their boats and underwater for spotting fish and predators.) The light fits the descriptions of the New Guinea pterosaur-like cryptids known as ropen. Flying brightly-lit nocturnal creatures were also reported to have been seen in Karadian in the past; one such story was told to me by [local missionary] Bryan Girard’s son, Rist. Another person in Karadian told me about an encounter with lights there at night. No planes fly in PNG [Papua New Guinea] at night so they couldn’t have been aircraft. As Brian and I travelled to Karadian along the Armio road I met a young ex-school teacher from the island of Bali, PNG (not Indonesia) whose name I forget (have picture of him). He told me of similar creatures on his island. He said a bright light flew over the ocean or travelled partially submerged in the water like an octopus with its head sticking out from Bali at night to another nearby island. He was familiar with the subject of living pterosaurs and brought up Umboi Island to me as well as Roy Mackal’s famous New Britain lake cryptid [already known for his mokele-mbembe expeditions, Prof. Roy Mackal also investigated the migo of New Britain’s Lake Dakataua during the 1990s].
3) Akinum. Brian and I visited the [New Britain] village of Akinumwhere Michael Hoffman filmed the “West New Britain Carcass” video that was posted on YouTube in January of 2014. We were led to believe the rotten carcass was buried by a back hoe at some point after washing ashore; however, it appears the remains may have just washed back into the sea. Michael accompanied us to Akinum as well as to Ambungi Island. A mechanic from Karadian who viewed the decaying remains said it was built like a wallaby with a saw on its back, had small front arms with four fingers on little hands and very large back legs. The legs were so large that two men had [a] hard time lifting and moving one of them. This was reported to me by missionary Bryan Girard, the poster of the YouTube video. There were conflicting reports as to what happened to the remains. Brian Irwin and I went to the village under the impression the remains were buried on the spot due to the stench. We also heard they were picked over by curiosity seekers and that the remains had just washed out slowly back to sea. It is my opinion based from talking to the locals that this is what most likely happened. The natives that we spoke with told us they had never seen the animal before and were adamant it did not live anywhere around there.
4) Crocodile Point. Brian and I looked into a story of a man (Graham Sangeo) who reportedly had fed fish to a small bipedal dinosaur for years near Crocodile Point. The animal turned out to be a male primate of some sort that walked primarily on two legs according to our guide Leo Sangeo, Graham’s father. He guided us to the cave which is currently abandoned. Leo described the creature as brown colored, about a meter to a meter and a half tall, big muscular arms and shoulders. The arms were shorter than the legs and its knees and big legs could be seen. The animal’s feet were like a dog’s hind feet with five toes (I asked Leo repeatedly about this feature to make sure I understood him correctly), it had very small to no tail, and canines like a monkey or ape does. The creature would come down out of the cave at night [and] scrounge around, walking on two legs at least a part of the time. It could be seen at times seemingly staring out to sea as if it was watching the horizon. Leo and Graham and a few others would attach cooked fish to tall branches and lift them up to it. It would then eat the food out [of] its hands. Leo said the animal grew bigger over time. The creature eventually brought two babies. He said he never saw the female. I’m not sure if the others saw the female or not. Graham discovered the creature in 2011, feeding it until he left for school in 2014 or 2015; others continued afterward but eventually stopped and the creature disappeared. Based on the description I’m inclined to believe this was a small ape of some sort or possibly a small bigfoot like creature. I was told by at least one other person along the distant Andru River that wild hairy men could be found in the Whitman range.
The Andru River(© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
5) Aivet Island. In 1992 John Manlel of Aivet Island had a startling encounter along the mangrove strewn shores of the island with what he described as a bright green dinosaur. He had been canoeing along the shores of the island around 4 pm when he accidentally startled the creature from about 20 or so yards away in open water. The animal attempted to submerge quickly but struggled because of how it was built. John said he watched it for about 5 minutes. He said he knew it lived on land because of the way it was built. The creature had two short hand-like front legs and much bigger back ones. The body was about 12 ft long with a very thick 5 to 6 ft tail that was about 8 in wide. The animal moved its tail back and forth as it moved through the water. John said the head looked like that of a dinosaur, the skin was rough like a crocodile and over-all build was kangaroo in shape. The creature had a small saw like structure on its back that became much bigger from back legs to the end of tail. There may have been an outlying ridge of small saw like structures along its tail like a crocodile has. If I can remember correctly the central ridge originating from the back ran between these. John said he never spoken to anyone but family about this encounter until he told Brian and I. He was frozen terrified by [it] when he sighted the creature and was adamant it was a dinosaur of some sort.
For the most part, the serrated-back water creatures sound very much like large crocodiles, but one would expect the local people to be very familiar with such beasts and not deem them to be anything other than crocodiles. Also, the bright green version reputedly spied by John Manlel, which had much shorter forelegs than hind legs, does not recall any crocodilian species known to exist today. Having viewed the ‘West New Britain Carcass’ video on YouTube (which can be accessed here), in my opinion it is the highly-decomposed remains of a large whale rather than anything reptilian, and various other zoologists and cryptozoologists who have seen it hold the same opinion, but some others favour a reptilian identity, ranging from a large crocodile or giant lizard to a bona fide dinosaur. Sadly, no physical samples from it were made available for formal scientific analysis, so the video is the only visible testament to this intriguing entity.
Two views of my Therizinosaurus model, reconstructed with feathers fringing its forelimbs (© Dr Karl Shuker)
As for the mysterious bipedal ape-like entity fed by Graham Sangeo: no species of monkey or ape is known from anywhere in New Guinea, but there have long been reports from here of a mysterious miniature bigfoot-like creature known locally as the kayadi. So if such a creature truly exists, perhaps this is what Sangeo had been feeding. Also of note is that Sangeo claimed that the adult female was never seen, i.e. indicating that they believed the adult individual bringing the two babies to have been a male. However, it may be that the latter was actually a female but with a large clitoris that its eyewitnesses had mistaken for a penis (in some primate species, famously including the spider monkeys Atelesspp., the adult female’s clitoris is indeed noticeably large and superficially penis-like). After all, it is far more likely to have been an adult female than an adult male that was caring for the babies.
Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek have asked me to announce that if anyone reading this account here has information concerning any of the mystery beasts sought by them in New Britain and its outlying islets, please contact them via Todd’s email address: hunterfox743@gmail.com
This ShukerNature blog article has been excerpted and expanded from my book Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors.

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SEEKING NEODINOSAURS IN NEW GUINEA

by on Mar.13, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Life-sized statue representing the postulated appearance in life of Therizinosaurus(© Dr Karl Shuker)
North of Australia is the extremely large island of New Guinea, still plentifully supplied with little-explored expanses of rainforest and mountainland. Might it be hiding some modern-day non-avian dinosaurs, living neodinosaurs, no less? Over the years, a number of searches for such creatures have been made there, inspired by local testimony of elusive cryptids bearing varying degrees of resemblance to dinosaurian reptiles, as will now be revealed.
Having said that, we begin our quest for surviving prehistoric Papuans with what must surely be one of the most bizarre episodes in the entire history of cryptozoology.
Political map of New Guinea, showing its division into Indonesia-owned Papua (left) and the independent sovereign state Papua New Guinea (right) (Wikipedia)
During the late 1930s, Java-born explorer/camera-man Charles C. Miller and his newly-married wife, former American society girl Leona Jay, spent their honeymoon visiting the Sterren Mountains in what was then Dutch New Guinea (the western half of New Guinea, now known variously, and confusingly, as Western New Guinea, Papua, Western Papua, Irian Jaya, or Indonesian New Guinea). Here they allegedly encountered not only a hitherto-unknown tribe of cannibals called the Kirrirri but also what Miller believed to be a living dinosaur. Their introduction to this latter beast came about in a somewhat unusual manner – courtesy of a coconut de-husker used by one of the native women.
Leona noticed that the tool in question, roughly 18 in long and 20 lb in weight, resembled the distal portion of an elephant tusk or rhino horn, but as there are no elephants or rhinos in New Guinea she was very perplexed as to its true identity and origin. When she told her husband, he made some enquiries and was shown several of these curious objects, which were made of a horn-like substance present in cone-shaped layers – i.e. resembling a stacked pile of paper drinking cups, one cup inside another. When pressed for more details, some of the natives drew a strange lizard-like creature in the sand, whose tail terminated in one of these horns. They called this beast the row (after its loud cry), and said that it was 40 ft long,
Although Miller was initially sceptical of their claims, he could not deny the evidence of the horns and could offer no alternative explanation for their origin, and so when he learned that the hills to the northwest of the Kirrirri camp reputedly harboured these gigantic beasts, he set out with his wife and a native party in the hope of filming them. After a couple of days’ journey, they reached a triangular swamp situated between two plateaux and occupying an area of roughly 40 acres. As Miller sat there, looking at a bed of tall reeds a quarter of a mile away, the reeds suddenly moved. Something was behind them. Hardly daring to breathe, Miller waited for them to move again, camera in hand – and when they did, the result was so shocking that Leona collapsed to the ground, almost fainting with fear.
A long thin neck bearing a small head fringed with a flaring bony hood had risen up through the reeds, followed by a sturdy elephantine body bearing a series of huge triangular plates running along its backbone, and a lengthy tapering tail bearing at its tip one of the mysterious horns that Miller had come to know so well. Its front limbs were shorter than its hind limbs, and while Miller was filming it, the row unexpectedly paused, raised itself up onto its hind limbs, and peered in the party’s direction, almost as if it sensed the presence of these human interlopers within its private, prehistoric domain. In colour, it was precisely the same shade of light yellow-brown as the surrounding reeds, no doubt affording it excellent camouflage should it seek anonymity, but it was presently intent upon more extrovert behaviour – rearing up on two further occasions before disappearing from sight behind a clump of dwarf eucalyptus trees, just as Miller’s film ran out.
My copy of the 1951 Travel Book Club reprint of Cannibal Caravan (© Travel Book Club, reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
In 1939, his extraordinary adventure was first published in book form – Cannibal Caravan. Yet despite containing many interesting pictures, there was none of his most spectacular discovery, the row. There was not even a photograph of one of the tail horns. Similarly, although Miller claimed to have shown the film to various (unnamed) authorities, nothing more has ever emerged regarding it, or the Kirrirri either, for that matter, as this tribe has apparently never been encountered again by any other explorer.
Equally odd was that in Cannibals and Orchids (1941), Leona Miller’s own book recalling their ostensibly highly eventful New Guinea honeymoon, she relegated the row episode to just a few short paragraphs (of which only a single half-paragraph directly documented their actual supposed sighting of it), and which contained none of the descriptive details given by her husband in his book (indeed, her entire description of it was confined to a single sentence, concerning its length). Needless to say, this is hardly what one might expect from someone who had supposedly encountered (and been thoroughly unnerved by) a living dinosaur!
Nevertheless, because I am unaware of any previous cryptozoological document ever having quoted her account of the row (as opposed to his), I am doing so now for its historical (if not its descriptive) value:
In the village we found the horny tail-tip of the row. It looked like a rhinoceros horn, except that one side had been worn flat and smooth from dragging across the ground. The Kirrirri women, undaunted by the battleship proportions of the creature that supplied it, used the point for husking coconuts.
Having seen the tip of the tail, Charles had to see the row. The Kirrirris, mightily impressed by Charles’s guns, were agreeable. They were just crazy enough to see what would happen when Charles popped at a monster with a gun, and Charles was just crazy enough to show them. I went along because I wouldn’t have been any better off if I stayed behind, and I also had an idea that if there really was such a thing as the creature described – I didn’t believe it for a minute – I wanted to be where I could yank Charles out before he did something he wouldn’t have time to regret.
We went, we saw the darn thing, and we came back. Charles got motion pictures of it, but it was his reflexes, trained in Hollywood, that started the camera. His brain was just as frozen as mine. In fact of the two of us, he was more scared than I. I was just scared blank and couldn’t get any more frightened. Charles had been in so many tight spots before, he could appreciate the various shadings of danger. This was the blackest shade he had ever encountered, so he hit a new high in fright. He says it really takes an expert to be as scared as he was, though I later encountered moments when I came awfully close to it.
Artistic representation of the row found online (identity of artist/© holder currently unknown to me, illustration reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
The rowwas the real thing. In a radio broadcast on a nation-wide hook-up I ventured to describe it over the air. The resulting fan-mail indicated the public was still interested in prehistoric monsters. It has long been known to science that Dutch New Guinea harbors some sort of monster on the order of, but much larger, than the Varanus Komodoensis. Other explores have found additional evidence, but Charles and I believe we are the first white people actually to see one alive and to have found its lair.
The giant reptile we saw was somewhere between thirty and forty feet long, which is not big considering that some of the crocodiles grow thirty feet long in the Merauke River. It was its bulk that made it so tremendous. But every tiny detail was impressed upon my mind, to be recalled bit by bit as the first shock wore off. Many a night after that I lay awake staring through the clouds of mosquitoes humming around my net and seeing only this monster smashing its casual way through what should have been an impenetrable quagmire of thorn brush and barbed wire marsh grass.
Charles took no shots at it. He recalled suddenly that he owed it to civilization to photograph in full the various details of the lost tribe. We hastened back to resume our travelogue where we left off. It was strangely restful to get in back of a tripod again, with nothing more alarming in front of the lens than a few dozen cannibals.
Perhaps the most paradoxical aspect of this entire episode, however, concerns the row itself. For although palaeontologists currently recognise the former existence of many hundreds of different dinosaur species, collectively yielding a myriad of shapes, sizes, and forms, not one compares even superficially with the row – and for very good reason. As Dr Bernard Heuvelmans pointed out in On the Track of Unknown Animals (1958), the row’s morphology is truly surrealistic – because it combines the characteristics of several wholly unrelated dinosaur groups.
Little wonder, then, why cryptozoologists are reluctant to countenance any likelihood of this morphologically composite creature’s reality. Of course, their denunciation could be premature – but as long as Miller’s film remains as elusive as the beast that it allegedly depicts, how can we blame them for remaining unconvinced?
Intriguingly, however, as documented in Rex and Heather Gilroy’s fascinating Australian cryptozoology tome Out of the Dreamtime (2006), reports of a neodinosaurian cryptid with the similar-sounding local name of rahruh have apparently been emerging elsewhere in New Guinea, but especially Papua New Guinea, for at least a century.
Out of the Dreamtime (© Rex and Heather Gilroy/URU Publications – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)
The reports describe an extremely large bipedal reptile with a very long neck, long tail, and predominantly frugivorous diet, but one that will also readily encompass the consumption of any Highland tribespeople who attempt to confront it. There have been many reports and sightings here of gigantic monitor lizards or varanids known as the artrellia, far longer than the accepted maximum length of 15 ft accorded to this island’s native Salvadori’s monitor Varanus salvadorii, and monitors can walk bipedally for a short time or distance, but the rahruh is supposedly very distinct from any such lizard.
Over the years, moreover, alleged sightings of sauropod-like mystery beasts have been reported from various tiny islets off the southwestern coast of the much larger island of New Britain (and also from New Britain itself), situated in the Bismarck Archipelago to the east of New Guinea, but little information concerning their precise appearance has been recorded. Conversely, I know of at least one reputed encounter with a very different type of supposed living dinosaur on one of these specks of land for which a detailed description is indeed on file, and which has been likened to a highly distinctive if decidedly surprising fossil form.
Brian Irwin on West New Britain‘s Ursula River(© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
In January 2008, Australian cryptozoologist Brian Irwin visited the island of Ambungi (aka Umbungi), and while there he interviewed one of two eyewitnesses who claim to have seen an extraordinary animal in 2005/2006, and which has apparently been sighted here and on a neighbouring isle called Alage at least nine times since the early 1990s. Robert, whom Brian interviewed (the absent eyewitness was named Tony Avil), stated that the creature was approximately 30-45 ft long, possessed smooth brown shiny skin, a long tail, and also a long neck, but was bipedal, and resembled a huge wallaby in overall appearance, except for its head, which was turtle-like.
When walking slowly on its hind legs, the top of this creature’s head was estimated to be “as high as a house”, and the vertical distance from its underbelly to the ground was estimated to be equal to the height of an adult man. It was observed from a distance of around 150 ft in the late afternoon, and for some considerable time, while it ate vegetation before eventually walking away, entering into some water, followed cautiously at a distance by its eyewitnesses.
Another view of a life-sized statue representing the postulated appearance in life of Therizinosaurus(© Dr Karl Shuker)
When shown pictures of creatures, Robert selected a restoration of the possible appearance in life of the theropod dinosaur Therizinosaurus as most closely resembling what he and Avil had seen that day – except for the head, which was depicted as horse-like in the illustration. As Brian has commented, however, the head’s morphology in that picture was entirely speculative, because no skull identified as being from a Therizinosaurus has ever been documented, so the appearance of its head is currently unknown. Indeed, the only portions of this very large theropod from the late Cretaceous that areknown from fossil evidence are its limbs and some ribs, so much of its likely appearance is merely deduced from related forms.
Ironically, however, its most famous confirmed attributes, and which must have been truly spectacular in life, are conspicuous only by their absence from Roger’s description of the cryptid seen by him and Avil – because Therizinosauruspossessed incredibly long claws on its hands, probably up to 3 ft long (only incomplete versions are currently on record). In short, combining this startling absence from Roger’s description with the relatively undetermined appearance of Therizinosaurus as a whole anyway, his identification of the latter dinosaur’s illustration as being most similar to the cryptid that he saw clearly cannot be taken literally in any sense (although it has been on some websites), and can do no more than offer a basic idea of the latter beast’s general form.
Todd Jurasek and Brian Irwin (© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
During late December 2015 through early January 2016, Brian was in New Britain, accompanied by American cryptid investigator Todd Jurasek, to continue Brian’s earlier researches. Todd’s summary of what they learnt while there (plus a selection of their photographs) is included exclusively here as follows, with his kind permission:
1) Ambungi Island – We visited Ambungi Islandexamining the caves reportedly used by a sauropod in recent years. Brian and I and [a] large group [of] islanders went to the caves at night. Conflicting reports from the native divers led me to suspect it wasn’t really a deep one. I went back and physically examined the cave the next day in daylight. The water surrounding the entrance was maybe 15 ft at its deepest point, the cave maybe about 10 ft wide and deep. I placed a trail camera for a week above a secondary purported cave with no success. The last reported dinosaur sighting around the island was back in July of 2015 by an adult male who wished to remain anonymous. He watched a brown long necked creature with a saw like ridge on his back moving in the open ocean in the afternoon while in a canoe. Ambungi Islandappears to be visited at times by these creatures but I saw no surface caves capable of hiding an animal larger than an adult human. The island is comprised of pocketed limestone that has the appearance of Swiss cheese or iron/steel slag discard from an iron or steel mill. (I’m guessing most of the islands in New Britain if not all appear this way.) Just like Swiss cheese there are no real continual holes to be found, just many odd-shaped pot-marked ones of various sizes. The only sizable holes on the island that I saw were along the shores where water erosion has occurred on [a] consistent basis creating small bluffs or overhangs.
Main cave, next to boat, on Ambungi Islandreputedly used by sauropod-like creature (© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
2) Aiu Island (nearest island to Ambungi, also owned by the Ambungi people). According to [an eyewitness called] Davis who lives on the island, he and others had been chased out of the sea on multiple occasions at night by something emanating a bright white light. They were spearfishing at night when a bright white light would come out of the horizon and chase them to shore. Davis couldn’t tell if the light was an animal or not. After chasing the group to shore the light would then fly away to heights of the island. The men and boys spearfish at night off canoes. My guess is whatever the light was [it] was attracted to their flashlights maybe even more so than their presence or movement. (Flashlights are used to both guide their boats and underwater for spotting fish and predators.) The light fits the descriptions of the New Guinea pterosaur-like cryptids known as ropen. Flying brightly-lit nocturnal creatures were also reported to have been seen in Karadian in the past; one such story was told to me by [local missionary] Bryan Girard’s son, Rist. Another person in Karadian told me about an encounter with lights there at night. No planes fly in PNG [Papua New Guinea] at night so they couldn’t have been aircraft. As Brian and I travelled to Karadian along the Armio road I met a young ex-school teacher from the island of Bali, PNG (not Indonesia) whose name I forget (have picture of him). He told me of similar creatures on his island. He said a bright light flew over the ocean or travelled partially submerged in the water like an octopus with its head sticking out from Bali at night to another nearby island. He was familiar with the subject of living pterosaurs and brought up Umboi Island to me as well as Roy Mackal’s famous New Britain lake cryptid [already known for his mokele-mbembe expeditions, Prof. Roy Mackal also investigated the migo of New Britain’s Lake Dakataua during the 1990s].
3) Akinum. Brian and I visited the [New Britain] village of Akinumwhere Michael Hoffman filmed the “West New Britain Carcass” video that was posted on YouTube in January of 2014. We were led to believe the rotten carcass was buried by a back hoe at some point after washing ashore; however, it appears the remains may have just washed back into the sea. Michael accompanied us to Akinum as well as to Ambungi Island. A mechanic from Karadian who viewed the decaying remains said it was built like a wallaby with a saw on its back, had small front arms with four fingers on little hands and very large back legs. The legs were so large that two men had [a] hard time lifting and moving one of them. This was reported to me by missionary Bryan Girard, the poster of the YouTube video. There were conflicting reports as to what happened to the remains. Brian Irwin and I went to the village under the impression the remains were buried on the spot due to the stench. We also heard they were picked over by curiosity seekers and that the remains had just washed out slowly back to sea. It is my opinion based from talking to the locals that this is what most likely happened. The natives that we spoke with told us they had never seen the animal before and were adamant it did not live anywhere around there.
4) Crocodile Point. Brian and I looked into a story of a man (Graham Sangeo) who reportedly had fed fish to a small bipedal dinosaur for years near Crocodile Point. The animal turned out to be a male primate of some sort that walked primarily on two legs according to our guide Leo Sangeo, Graham’s father. He guided us to the cave which is currently abandoned. Leo described the creature as brown colored, about a meter to a meter and a half tall, big muscular arms and shoulders. The arms were shorter than the legs and its knees and big legs could be seen. The animal’s feet were like a dog’s hind feet with five toes (I asked Leo repeatedly about this feature to make sure I understood him correctly), it had very small to no tail, and canines like a monkey or ape does. The creature would come down out of the cave at night [and] scrounge around, walking on two legs at least a part of the time. It could be seen at times seemingly staring out to sea as if it was watching the horizon. Leo and Graham and a few others would attach cooked fish to tall branches and lift them up to it. It would then eat the food out [of] its hands. Leo said the animal grew bigger over time. The creature eventually brought two babies. He said he never saw the female. I’m not sure if the others saw the female or not. Graham discovered the creature in 2011, feeding it until he left for school in 2014 or 2015; others continued afterward but eventually stopped and the creature disappeared. Based on the description I’m inclined to believe this was a small ape of some sort or possibly a small bigfoot like creature. I was told by at least one other person along the distant Andru River that wild hairy men could be found in the Whitman range.
The Andru River(© Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek)
5) Aivet Island. In 1992 John Manlel of Aivet Island had a startling encounter along the mangrove strewn shores of the island with what he described as a bright green dinosaur. He had been canoeing along the shores of the island around 4 pm when he accidentally startled the creature from about 20 or so yards away in open water. The animal attempted to submerge quickly but struggled because of how it was built. John said he watched it for about 5 minutes. He said he knew it lived on land because of the way it was built. The creature had two short hand-like front legs and much bigger back ones. The body was about 12 ft long with a very thick 5 to 6 ft tail that was about 8 in wide. The animal moved its tail back and forth as it moved through the water. John said the head looked like that of a dinosaur, the skin was rough like a crocodile and over-all build was kangaroo in shape. The creature had a small saw like structure on its back that became much bigger from back legs to the end of tail. There may have been an outlying ridge of small saw like structures along its tail like a crocodile has. If I can remember correctly the central ridge originating from the back ran between these. John said he never spoken to anyone but family about this encounter until he told Brian and I. He was frozen terrified by [it] when he sighted the creature and was adamant it was a dinosaur of some sort.
For the most part, the serrated-back water creatures sound very much like large crocodiles, but one would expect the local people to be very familiar with such beasts and not deem them to be anything other than crocodiles. Also, the bright green version reputedly spied by John Manlel, which had much shorter forelegs than hind legs, does not recall any crocodilian species known to exist today. Having viewed the ‘West New Britain Carcass’ video on YouTube (which can be accessed here), in my opinion it is the highly-decomposed remains of a large whale rather than anything reptilian, and various other zoologists and cryptozoologists who have seen it hold the same opinion, but some others favour a reptilian identity, ranging from a large crocodile or giant lizard to a bona fide dinosaur. Sadly, no physical samples from it were made available for formal scientific analysis, so the video is the only visible testament to this intriguing entity.
Two views of my Therizinosaurus model, reconstructed with feathers fringing its forelimbs (© Dr Karl Shuker)
As for the mysterious bipedal ape-like entity fed by Graham Sangeo: no species of monkey or ape is known from anywhere in New Guinea, but there have long been reports from here of a mysterious miniature bigfoot-like creature known locally as the kayadi. So if such a creature truly exists, perhaps this is what Sangeo had been feeding. Also of note is that Sangeo claimed that the adult female was never seen, i.e. indicating that they believed the adult individual bringing the two babies to have been a male. However, it may be that the latter was actually a female but with a large clitoris that its eyewitnesses had mistaken for a penis (in some primate species, famously including the spider monkeys Atelesspp., the adult female’s clitoris is indeed noticeably large and superficially penis-like). After all, it is far more likely to have been an adult female than an adult male that was caring for the babies.
Brian Irwin and Todd Jurasek have asked me to announce that if anyone reading this account here has information concerning any of the mystery beasts sought by them in New Britain and its outlying islets, please contact them via Todd’s email address: hunterfox743@gmail.com
This ShukerNature blog article has been excerpted and expanded from my book Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors.

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A TENACIOUS PTERODACTYL, OR A CRYPTIC CANARD? RECALLING A CLASSIC CASE OF INFAMOUS IMMOLATION!

by on Feb.28, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Did a living pterodactyl emerge from a blasted-apart hollow boulder in 19th-Century France? (© Dr Karl Shuker)
It can be all too easy to forget sometimes that just because in over 40 years of researching and writing about all manner of animal anomalies I have encountered one or other tall story countless times, there are many younger enthusiasts out there who are discovering it for the very first time and are naturally very excited by it, not being aware of its full history and denouement.
I was reminded of this recently when I received an email from a youthful cryptozoology fan who had just read what he considered to be an awesome 19th-Century report announcing the discovery of an allegedly long-entombed but still-living pterodactyl in France. I first learned about this (in)famous incident of entombment or immolation more than four decades ago, at the beginning of my own career in cryptozoological research, when Fortean Times recalled it in the form of a delightful comic-strip presentation drawn by FT‘s inestimable artist-in-residence, the wonderful Hunt Emerson.  So yes, there was a time in my life when I had not previously encountered this case either. Bearing that in mind, therefore, I’ve decided that it merits a retelling after all, and so, for my youthful correspondent and other first-timers, here it is.
According to an Illustrated London News report for 9 February 1856, a pterodactyl had supposedly emerged, weak but nonetheless alive, from out of a hollow boulder blasted apart during the then-recent excavation of a new railway tunnel at Culmont, in France. As soon as it took its first breath of air, however, it promptly expired. Although it has been repeated ad infinitum ever since in books, articles, and websites, this startling ILN report is rarely if ever reproduced directly in its original typeset form, so I am duly presenting it herewith, complete with its decidedly bizarre, mystifying title. (If anyone can explain to me why in this report’s title the pterodactyl was likened to a whale, I’d be extremely grateful. Is it a now-obscure 19th-Century idiom that actually had connotations very different from its primary, literal meaning? I have absolutely no idea.)
The complete entombed-pterodactyl report as it originally appeared on p. 166 of the Illustrated London News for 9 February 1856 (public domain)
Here, therefore, was surely a true (albeit brief) prehistoric survivor – not merely a modern-day descendant of an ancient line, but a bona fide Mesozoic monster that had somehow survived in suspended animation for over 64 million years! Moreover, when its body was examined by an anonymous expert, he was able to identify its species very precisely – Pterodactylus anas. Yet, amazingly, nothing more was ever heard of this zoologically-priceless specimen – but for good reason.
In reality, of course, there is no such species as Pterodactylus anas, and there was no such specimen either – but none of this should come as any surprise to the linguistically-minded, for whom all of the clues for deciphering the true nature of this tall tale are readily available. After all, ‘anas’ is Latin for ‘duck’, which in French (bearing in mind that the pterodactyl was supposedly found in France) is ‘canard’ – a word with a very different meaning in English. Namely, indicating an unfounded, deceiving story with no truth in it!
If nothing else, therefore, this whimsical case certainly confirms that ‘fake news’ is not a new phenomenon!
A word of advice: never be tempted to release a pterodactyl from a boulder – you know it makes sense! (© Richard Svensson)
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A TENACIOUS PTERODACTYL, OR A CRYPTIC CANARD? RECALLING A CLASSIC CASE OF INFAMOUS IMMOLATION!

by on Feb.28, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Did a living pterodactyl emerge from a blasted-apart hollow boulder in 19th-Century France? (© Dr Karl Shuker)
It can be all too easy to forget sometimes that just because in over 40 years of researching and writing about all manner of animal anomalies I have encountered one or other tall story countless times, there are many younger enthusiasts out there who are discovering it for the very first time and are naturally very excited by it, not being aware of its full history and denouement.
I was reminded of this recently when I received an email from a youthful cryptozoology fan who had just read what he considered to be an awesome 19th-Century report announcing the discovery of an allegedly long-entombed but still-living pterodactyl in France. I first learned about this (in)famous incident of entombment or immolation more than four decades ago, at the beginning of my own career in cryptozoological research, when Fortean Times recalled it in the form of a delightful comic-strip presentation drawn by FT‘s inestimable artist-in-residence, the wonderful Hunt Emerson.  So yes, there was a time in my life when I had not previously encountered this case either. Bearing that in mind, therefore, I’ve decided that it merits a retelling after all, and so, for my youthful correspondent and other first-timers, here it is.
According to an Illustrated London News report for 9 February 1856, a pterodactyl had supposedly emerged, weak but nonetheless alive, from out of a hollow boulder blasted apart during the then-recent excavation of a new railway tunnel at Culmont, in France. As soon as it took its first breath of air, however, it promptly expired. Although it has been repeated ad infinitum ever since in books, articles, and websites, this startling ILN report is rarely if ever reproduced directly in its original typeset form, so I am duly presenting it herewith, complete with its decidedly bizarre, mystifying title. (If anyone can explain to me why in this report’s title the pterodactyl was likened to a whale, I’d be extremely grateful. Is it a now-obscure 19th-Century idiom that actually had connotations very different from its primary, literal meaning? I have absolutely no idea.)
The complete entombed-pterodactyl report as it originally appeared on p. 166 of the Illustrated London News for 9 February 1856 (public domain)
Here, therefore, was surely a true (albeit brief) prehistoric survivor – not merely a modern-day descendant of an ancient line, but a bona fide Mesozoic monster that had somehow survived in suspended animation for over 64 million years! Moreover, when its body was examined by an anonymous expert, he was able to identify its species very precisely – Pterodactylus anas. Yet, amazingly, nothing more was ever heard of this zoologically-priceless specimen – but for good reason.
In reality, of course, there is no such species as Pterodactylus anas, and there was no such specimen either – but none of this should come as any surprise to the linguistically-minded, for whom all of the clues for deciphering the true nature of this tall tale are readily available. After all, ‘anas’ is Latin for ‘duck’, which in French (bearing in mind that the pterodactyl was supposedly found in France) is ‘canard’ – a word with a very different meaning in English. Namely, indicating an unfounded, deceiving story with no truth in it!
If nothing else, therefore, this whimsical case certainly confirms that ‘fake news’ is not a new phenomenon!
A word of advice: never be tempted to release a pterodactyl from a boulder – you know it makes sense! (© Richard Svensson)
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A TENACIOUS PTERODACTYL, OR A CRYPTIC CANARD? RECALLING A CLASSIC CASE OF INFAMOUS IMMOLATION!

by on Feb.28, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Did a living pterodactyl emerge from a blasted-apart hollow boulder in 19th-Century France? (© Dr Karl Shuker)
It can be all too easy to forget sometimes that just because in over 40 years of researching and writing about all manner of animal anomalies I have encountered one or other tall story countless times, there are many younger enthusiasts out there who are discovering it for the very first time and are naturally very excited by it, not being aware of its full history and denouement.
I was reminded of this recently when I received an email from a youthful cryptozoology fan who had just read what he considered to be an awesome 19th-Century report announcing the discovery of an allegedly long-entombed but still-living pterodactyl in France. I first learned about this (in)famous incident of entombment or immolation more than four decades ago, at the beginning of my own career in cryptozoological research, when Fortean Times recalled it in the form of a delightful comic-strip presentation drawn by FT‘s inestimable artist-in-residence, the wonderful Hunt Emerson.  So yes, there was a time in my life when I had not previously encountered this case either. Bearing that in mind, therefore, I’ve decided that it merits a retelling after all, and so, for my youthful correspondent and other first-timers, here it is.
According to an Illustrated London News report for 9 February 1856, a pterodactyl had supposedly emerged, weak but nonetheless alive, from out of a hollow boulder blasted apart during the then-recent excavation of a new railway tunnel at Culmont, in France. As soon as it took its first breath of air, however, it promptly expired. Although it has been repeated ad infinitum ever since in books, articles, and websites, this startling ILN report is rarely if ever reproduced directly in its original typeset form, so I am duly presenting it herewith, complete with its decidedly bizarre, mystifying title. (If anyone can explain to me why in this report’s title the pterodactyl was likened to a whale, I’d be extremely grateful. Is it a now-obscure 19th-Century idiom that actually had connotations very different from its primary, literal meaning? I have absolutely no idea.)
The complete entombed-pterodactyl report as it originally appeared on p. 166 of the Illustrated London News for 9 February 1856 (public domain)
Here, therefore, was surely a true (albeit brief) prehistoric survivor – not merely a modern-day descendant of an ancient line, but a bona fide Mesozoic monster that had somehow survived in suspended animation for over 64 million years! Moreover, when its body was examined by an anonymous expert, he was able to identify its species very precisely – Pterodactylus anas. Yet, amazingly, nothing more was ever heard of this zoologically-priceless specimen – but for good reason.
In reality, of course, there is no such species as Pterodactylus anas, and there was no such specimen either – but none of this should come as any surprise to the linguistically-minded, for whom all of the clues for deciphering the true nature of this tall tale are readily available. After all, ‘anas’ is Latin for ‘duck’, which in French (bearing in mind that the pterodactyl was supposedly found in France) is ‘canard’ – a word with a very different meaning in English. Namely, indicating an unfounded, deceiving story with no truth in it!
If nothing else, therefore, this whimsical case certainly confirms that ‘fake news’ is not a new phenomenon!
A word of advice: never be tempted to release a pterodactyl from a boulder – you know it makes sense! (© Richard Svensson)
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A TENACIOUS PTERODACTYL, OR A CRYPTIC CANARD? RECALLING A CLASSIC CASE OF INFAMOUS IMMOLATION!

by on Feb.28, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Did a living pterodactyl emerge from a blasted-apart hollow boulder in 19th-Century France? (© Dr Karl Shuker)
It can be all too easy to forget sometimes that just because in over 40 years of researching and writing about all manner of animal anomalies I have encountered one or other tall story countless times, there are many younger enthusiasts out there who are discovering it for the very first time and are naturally very excited by it, not being aware of its full history and denouement.
I was reminded of this recently when I received an email from a youthful cryptozoology fan who had just read what he considered to be an awesome 19th-Century report announcing the discovery of an allegedly long-entombed but still-living pterodactyl in France. I first learned about this (in)famous incident of entombment or immolation more than four decades ago, at the beginning of my own career in cryptozoological research, when Fortean Times recalled it in the form of a delightful comic-strip presentation drawn by FT‘s inestimable artist-in-residence, the wonderful Hunt Emerson.  So yes, there was a time in my life when I had not previously encountered this case either. Bearing that in mind, therefore, I’ve decided that it merits a retelling after all, and so, for my youthful correspondent and other first-timers, here it is.
According to an Illustrated London News report for 9 February 1856, a pterodactyl had supposedly emerged, weak but nonetheless alive, from out of a hollow boulder blasted apart during the then-recent excavation of a new railway tunnel at Culmont, in France. As soon as it took its first breath of air, however, it promptly expired. Although it has been repeated ad infinitum ever since in books, articles, and websites, this startling ILN report is rarely if ever reproduced directly in its original typeset form, so I am duly presenting it herewith, complete with its decidedly bizarre, mystifying title. (If anyone can explain to me why in this report’s title the pterodactyl was likened to a whale, I’d be extremely grateful. Is it a now-obscure 19th-Century idiom that actually had connotations very different from its primary, literal meaning? I have absolutely no idea.)
The complete entombed-pterodactyl report as it originally appeared on p. 166 of the Illustrated London News for 9 February 1856 (public domain)
Here, therefore, was surely a true (albeit brief) prehistoric survivor – not merely a modern-day descendant of an ancient line, but a bona fide Mesozoic monster that had somehow survived in suspended animation for over 64 million years! Moreover, when its body was examined by an anonymous expert, he was able to identify its species very precisely – Pterodactylus anas. Yet, amazingly, nothing more was ever heard of this zoologically-priceless specimen – but for good reason.
In reality, of course, there is no such species as Pterodactylus anas, and there was no such specimen either – but none of this should come as any surprise to the linguistically-minded, for whom all of the clues for deciphering the true nature of this tall tale are readily available. After all, ‘anas’ is Latin for ‘duck’, which in French (bearing in mind that the pterodactyl was supposedly found in France) is ‘canard’ – a word with a very different meaning in English. Namely, indicating an unfounded, deceiving story with no truth in it!
If nothing else, therefore, this whimsical case certainly confirms that ‘fake news’ is not a new phenomenon!
A word of advice: never be tempted to release a pterodactyl from a boulder – you know it makes sense! (© Richard Svensson)
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HOLY GOAT! – IT’S PSEUDONOVIBOS!

by on Feb.22, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Dr Maurizio Dioli holding a Pseudonovibos spiralis frontlet (© Dr Maurizio Dioli)
During the 1990s, a startling array of new and rediscovered species of ungulate were revealed in Indochina. Whereas the most famous of these is the saola or Vu Quang ox Pseudoryx nghetinhensis (the remarkable antelope-horned, long-limbed bovine beast that had remained entirely unknown to science until its discovery in Vu Quang, Vietnam, during 1992), the most infamous is the holy goat or kting voar Pseudonovibos spiralis – always assuming, of course, that this hoofed mystery beast ever existed at all…
Its convoluted scientific history began in earnest on a market stall in southern Vietnam‘s Ho Chi Minh City– for that is where, in early 1994, German zoologist Dr Wolfgang Peter, visiting from Münster’s Zoological Gardens, spotted a strange pair of horns that were unlike any that he had seen before. They were approximately 18 in long, heavily spiralled, blackish in colour, and their upper portions were greatly splayed – so that they bore more than a passing resemblance to a somewhat strange pair of motorbike handlebars!
Although he didn’t purchase them, Peter did take some photographs. And when he and his colleagues back home in Germanyand elsewhere around the world were unable to assign these mystifying horns to any known species, he and fellow German zoologist Dr Alfred Feiler, from Dresden‘s State Museum of Natural History, paid several further visits to southern Vietnam. Here they succeeded in uncovering eight pairs of these peculiar horns, one pair becoming the type specimen for the formal description (published by Peter and Feiler later in 1994) of their still-unseen owner as a new species, housed within its own, brand-new genus. Incredibly, this was the third new genus of large ungulate to be described in just over a year, following on from Pseudoryxin 1993 and Megamuntiacus in 1994 (although Megamuntiacus has since been abandoned – its sole species, the giant muntjac M. vuquangensis, having been reassigned to the typical muntjac genus Muntiacus).
Conversations with locals in the Vietnamese districts of Kon Tum, Dac Lac, and Ban Me Thuot revealed that they were familiar with this creature, which they call the linh duong – sometimes translated as ‘holy goat’. Another local name given to it translates as ‘spiral-horn’. Scientifically, moreover, it is Pseudonovibos spiralis(‘spiral-horned false kouprey’) – emphasising its spiralled horns, and their deceptive similarity in shape to those of the Cambodian wild ox or kouprey Bos(Novibos) sauveli, which itself remained concealed from scientific detection until 1936 and is also deemed controversial nowadays (but that, as they say, is another story!).
Stunning life-sized statue of a kouprey in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, showing clearly its very distinctive horns (© Prof. Colin Groves)
This, however, is only half of the Pseudonovibossaga. At much the same time that Peter and Feiler were discovering its horns in Vietnam, Norway-based zoologist Dr Maurizio Dioli was visiting northeastern Cambodia‘s Mondulkiri and Rattanakiri provinces when he purchased two pairs of unusual spiral horns at a market. Each pair was attached to a portion of skull, and seemed to resemble the horns of a juvenile female kouprey.
Upon closer observation, however, Dioli found that the skulls’ sutures were completely fused – conclusive proof that the animals had been adults, not juveniles. Moreover, whereas those of female koupreys are smooth and markedly oval in cross section, Dioli’s horns bore very pronounced rings, were almost perfectly circular in cross section, and were more widely splayed. Clearly, then, these were not from a kouprey. Nor did they match those from either of the other two species of wild cattle known in Cambodia– the gaur Bos gaurus and the banteng B. javanicus. Indeed, they did not correspond with the horns of any animal documented by science.
When Dioli made enquiries, he learnt from local Cambodian hunters that these mystifying horns belonged to a large bovine beast that they call the kting (or kthing) voar. This name translates as ‘wild cow with vine-like horns’, referring to their rings and curved shape.
Holding a kting voar frontlet (© Dr Maurizio Dioli)
Judging from hunters’ accounts collected by Dioli and also, more recently, by the Cambodia National Tiger Survey, the kting voar weighs 440-660 lb, stands 3.5-4 ft at the withers, and is said to be somewhat bovine in basic form. However, it is taller and more slender than a banteng or a domestic cow, and has legs like those of the sambar deer Rusa unicolor, as well as a well-developed coat, which is variously claimed to be uniformly greyish-black or dark red in colour. Very shy, rare, fleet-footed, and agile, given to standing on its hind legs to browse off leaves on trees, it lives in small family groups amid the region’s mountainous dipterocarp forests. Evidently, therefore, although it has successfully eluded scientific detection, this reclusive animal is no stranger to the region’s people, thus making all the more interesting their second, alternative name for it – kting sipuoh, or ‘snake-eating wild cow’!
It is not unique for primitive native folklore to incorporate fanciful beliefs regarding herbivorous ungulates consuming serpents – Indian tribes tell similar stories concerning Asia‘s ibex-like markhor Capra falconeri. Although intriguing, these curious claims have no scientific corroboration.
An adult male markhor showing its magnificent spiralled horns (© Geographer/Wikipedia – CC BY 2.5 licence)
The hunters alleged that when the kting voar devours snakes, these reptiles bite its horns, creating their rings, and imbuing them with venom. This supposedly bestows the horns with medicinal properties against snake bite. Consequently, as soon as a kting voar is killed by a hunter, its horns are removed and used for making venom antidote. This is prepared by burning the horns in a fire – hence few survive to be sold at the markets as trophies.
Not long afterwards, Dioli learnt of Peter and Feiler’s investigations, and he recognised that the horns of their Vietnamese holy goat matched those of his Cambodian kting voar. These two mysterious mammals were one and the same – both belonged to the newly-named species Pseudonovibos spiralis. Moreover, Dioli revealed that two horns supposedly from a young female kouprey that were collected in southern Vietnamas long ago as 1929 and donated to the Kansas Museum of Natural History are actually those of Pseudonovibos.
Researches have suggested that Pseudonoviboshad once been most common in Vietnam, but has been so heavily hunted there that today it survives predominantly across the border in Cambodia. Despite being known to the western world now for over 20 years, however, one major mystery remains unsolved. Scientists have yet to spy a living Pseudonovibos– apart from native testimony, therefore, we still do not know for sure what it looks like!
The ling, as portrayed in San Cai Tu Hui (1607) (public domain)
Having said that, however, a certain antiquated Chinese encyclopedia may offer a unique clue, as revealed by Drs Alastair A. Macdonald and Lixin N. Yang. Entitled San Cai Tu Hui, compiled by Wang Chi and Wang Si Yi, and published in 1607, it contains a drawing and short piece of accompanying text concerning a sturdy horned creature known as the ling. According to this encyclopedia, the ling: “…looks like a goat but is larger. Its horns are round and have pointed tips”. There is also a fanciful account of how it uses its horns to hang from trees at night to sleep. The animal depicted in the drawing does not call to mind any known species of ungulate – except, that is, for its horns, whose shape and ribbed pattern, as acknowledged by Macdonald and Yang, do recall those of Pseudonovibos.
Moreover, in 1999 ateam of German zoologists, which included Feiler and also Dr Ralph Tiedemann from Kiel University, published a short communication documenting the results of some mitochondrial DNA sequence analyses featuring DNA extracted from Pseudonovibos horn fragments and compared with corresponding DNA sequences from a range of other bovid ungulates in an attempt to ascertain its taxonomic affinities. These analyses revealed that Pseudonovibos did seem to be more closely related to goats than to antelopes or to cattle (despite its generic name), but in an e-mail Dr Tiedemann informed me that his team would be publishing more extensive genetic comparisons at a later date.
And in an e-mail to me of 15 December 1999, highly-renowned ungulate and primate expert Prof. Colin Groves, then based at Canberra‘s Australia National University, revealed that Australian zoologist Dr Jack Giles of Taronga Zoo in Sydneyhad recently visited Vietnam, where he had been shown an old black-and-white photo of a local hunter sitting upon a dead Pseudonovibos! Frustratingly, however, the photo was of such poor quality that little detail could be discerned, other than the fact that the animal was not particularly large. Making matters even worse, the hunter was perched upon the dead beast’s head, thereby obscuring any distinguishing facial or cranial features that may have been visible. (After learning this, I promptly wrote to Dr Giles requesting information and sight of this photograph, but unfortunately I did not receive any reply from him.)
Prof. Colin Groves, examining a deformed male mountain gorilla skull from Rwanda (public domain)
Even more tantalising are reports from early January 1995 documenting the capture of a still-unidentified mystery mammal in central Vietnamduring December 1994. An immature female specimen, it was caught alive near the village of A Luoi in the central Vietnamese province of Thua Thien-Hue, more than 180 milessoutheast of Vu Quang (the geographical epicentre for Vietnam’s 1990s ungulate discoveries). Referred to by its captors as a tuoa, it died shortly afterwards, and was eaten before its body could be scientifically examined. Its mother had also been captured, but escaped. The calf weighed 36 lb, and was said not to be a saola. Instead, it resembled a goat, with a roundish head, long ears, horns, stout body, and a black and white coat patterned with buff and grey patches. According to quotes attributed to Hanoi Universityzoologist Prof. Ha Dinh Duc, it seemed to be different from any bovid species known scientifically in Vietnam.
Nothing more has been heard about the tuoa, but in view of its morphological description, could this cryptic creature be one and the same as Pseudonovibos? If so, how ironic, and tragic, that the only complete – and living – specimen to come within reach of modern-day science found its way into a local cooking pot instead!
Spectacular painting of an adult saola (right) and okapi (left) prepared specifically by acclaimed American wildlife artist and longstanding friend Bill Rebsamen for my second and third books on new and rediscovered animals (© William M. Rebsamen)
Moreover, in his above-noted e-mail to me, Robert Timmins opined that it may already be too late for this most elusive Indochinese hoofed debutante: “It’s looking like Pseudonovibos has disappeared like the rhinos for a perceived medicinal value to its horns”.
However, we should not – indeed, cannot – forget that during the 1990s Indochinahosted an unparalleled spectacle of mammalogical revelations, and with research continuing here the present 21st century may well witness many more surprises in this cryptozoologically rich and still far from well-explored region. There must surely be hope, therefore, that one of these surprises will be the long-awaited discovery of living specimens of Pseudonovibos – or will it…?
A selection of individual Pseudonoviboshorns (© Dr Maurizio Dioli)
In January 2001, ateam of French biologists including Drs Arnoult Seveau, Herbert Thomas, and Alexandre Hassanin published a pair of startling, highly controversial papers, in which they claimed that Pseudonovibos is non-existent – a forgery. They based their claim upon the results of two separate studies of Pseudonovibosmaterial. In one of these, they sequenced two DNA markers from the bony cores of four sets of Pseudonovibos horns, and compared them with the equivalent genetic markers in Vietnamese domestic cattle. In the second study, they conducted a histological examination of the keratin in six Pseudonovibosfrontlets (the horn-bearing frontal bones of the skull that constitute the animal’s brow or forehead). The results of the DNA study revealed that the markers from the Pseudonovibos material were a perfect match with those from the Vietnamese domestic cattle. And the keratin study exposed the Pseudonovibos frontlets’ horns to be nothing more than domestic cattle horns whose keratin sheaths had been skilfully manipulated by heat treatment, followed by twisting and trimming, to create the distinctive spiral, heavily-ridged horns characterising Pseudonovibos.
Yet although there can be little (if any?) doubt that these particular specimens are indeed fakes, there is currently no evidence that any of the several other sets of Pseudonovibos horns on record (including this species’ type material) are also fraudulent. Hence the French team’s bold statement that Pseudonovibos is not a new animal and its scientific name should be abandoned is premature, to say the least. Kansas Universitymammalogist Prof. Robert M. Timm has published an extensive paper on Pseudonovibos, in which he and fellow mammalogist Dr John H. Brandt documented two sets of Pseudonovibostrophy horns procured by two western big game hunters in Vietnamduring 1929 (but not recognised back then to be from anything special or new). Following the appearance of the French team’s claims, Timm averred that he had no doubt that Pseudonovibos is a valid taxon, having uncovered various overlooked records from the 1880s and 1950s that documented a mysterious spiral-horned bovine beast ostensibly synonymous with P. spiralis.
Moreover, in a separate paper a team of Eastern European scientists announced that their phylogenetic analyses of nearly-complete 12S mitochondrial rDNA sequences for this enigmatic creature and a number of other bovids indicate that P. spiralis is a valid species belonging to the buffalo subtribe (Bovina), and should be placed between the Asiatic buffaloes Bubalus and the African buffalo Syncerus.
Asian water buffalo Bubalus(top) and African buffalo Syncerus (bottom) (© Dr Karl Shuker / public domain)
Personally, I consider it possible that the answer to the riddle of whether Pseudonovibos truly exists is that this enigmatic beast is a real but extremely rare species, so rare that procurement of its much-prized, supposedly snake-repelling horns even by locals is extremely difficult – which has in turn led to the deliberate preparation of copies for use in rituals. In other words, some of the preserved horns on record are indeed fakes, yet were created not to fool, but merely to act as substitutes for the real thing. This is also an opinion that has been aired by Prof. Colin Groves, though as he has noted to me, if the type material for Pseudonovibosis examined and is also shown to be fake, then regardless of whether this animal does exist, the name ‘Pseudonovibos spiralis‘ must be abandoned, and every remaining specimen must be examined to see whether any genuine material does exist.
Meanwhile, however, the holy goat remains suspended in a decidedly unholy scientific limbo, and seems destined to remain there indefinitely, or at least until – if ever – further evidence for or against its reality is obtained.
The above ShukerNature blog article is excerpted and expanded from my book The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals. My sincere thanks as ever to Dr Maurizio Dioli for very kindly permitting me to include some of his photographs in my writings.

EPILOGUE
In early August 2016, cryptozoological colleague Lorenzo Rossi brought to my attention a very strange but intriguing photograph that he had recently discovered in the entry for Pseudonovibosin Spain’s version of Wikipedia (but not present at that time in other countries’ Wikipedia entries for Pseudonovibos, although, very oddly, it does currently appear in the English-language Wikimedia Commons entry for the saola!). According to the photo’s subject and accompanying caption, it depicted in close-up a living specimen of the kting voar encountered in Cambodia. Remarkably, however, this potentially highly-significant image had (and still has) attracted virtually no cryptozoological attention – ostensibly a very surprising situation, bearing in mind the still-unresolved controversy regarding this notoriously elusive/non-existent creature.
Moreover, in the photo, the creature has either somehow lost its right-hand horn or it is twisted backwards out of sight; and, very bizarrely, a snake appears to be fastened by its jaws to and hanging down from the creature’s still-present or visible left-hand horn. Here is the photo in question:
Photograph of an alleged living kting voar in Cambodia, currently still online in Spain‘s Wikipedia (click here to visit the entry) (© Stephenpkirrane/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 4.0 licence – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only for academic/educational review purposes)
Naturally, I was exceedingly curious as to what precisely was depicted in this odd photo (and in a near-identical one that I shortly afterwards discovered on the Cryptidz Wikia site – in the latter, there was more foliage partly obscuring the creature’s face), especially as to me it seemed very similar in appearance to ordinary domestic goats commonly seen in Cambodia (such as several of the somewhat frisky individuals currently viewable here in a short YouTube video). Accordingly, I decided to obtain the opinion of a certain internationally-renowned authority on ungulates, who also happened to have an abiding interest in cryptozoology, and with whom I had corresponded on many different subjects (including Pseudonovibos) for many years. I refer of course to the earlier-mentioned mammalogist Prof. Colin Groves, who had delineated and formally described several major new species of mammal in modern times, and whose subsequent passing on 30 November 2017 was a massive loss to mainstream zoology and cryptozoology alike.
I was very interested to discover in his emailed response of 11 August 2016 to my enquiry sent to him a day earlier (and also in a subsequent, more detailed phone conversation between us regarding this matter) that Prof. Groves aired precisely the same thoughts that had occurred to me when perusing the image. Here are his most significant comments from his email:
I certainly agree with you about the goat… [and] if you [look] carefully there is a very distinct join along the forehead.  I would think it just must be that rare thing, a goat standing in water (or else the water has been photoshopped into the picture)… The other one [horn] is just visible at the base, evidently skewed backward.  It may be that the only frontlet and horns available to the photographer or photoshopper was defective in some way, maybe the right horn had broken off and what remained of it was pulled out of sight… The rather scruffy hair along the bases of the horns is brownish.
Summarising his emailed and phone comments: Prof. Groves personally deemed the photo to be of a domestic Cambodian goat either directly photographed or digitally photoshopped standing in water, with a Pseudonovibos frontlet bearing brown hair at its base either physically attached to or digitally photoshopped onto its black-haired head, and with one of the frontlet’s horns broken off or twisted virtually out of sight. A nice touch also commented upon by Prof. Groves was the snake hanging down from the fully-visible left horn, because this immediately recalls the horn-biting snake-related folklore linked to the kting voar.
All in all, a photograph every bit as enigmatic as the highly ambiguous animal that it purportedly portrays – a fitting conclusion, in fact, to a lengthy, tortuous tale as twisted and contorted as the spiralled horns of Pseudonovibos itself!
I wish to dedicate this ShukerNature blog article to the memory of Prof. Colin Groves, in grateful thanks to him for his kind and always much-valued assistance and responses to my many enquiries on all manner of mutually interesting wildlife subjects down through the years.
Prof. Colin Groves (1942-2017), RIP. (public domain)
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CELEBRATING TEN YEARS OF SHUKERNATURE, VIA ITS ALL-TIME TOP TEN ARTICLES

by on Jan.25, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

My ShukerNature blog’s official banner, very kindly designed for me by Mark North (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Yes indeed – this week is a very momentous occasion in the history of my ShukerNature blog, because it was exactly 10 years ago this week, on 20 January 2009 to be precise, that I uploaded onto it my very first (albeit very short) article (click here to access it), and the rest, as they do say, is history.
So what better way to celebrate ShukerNature’s tenth anniversary than to present (in what is its 652nd article) a clickable listing of its all-time top ten articles, as determined by their respective total number of visitor hits received. And here they are, with their total hit counts as of right now included in brackets following their links:
Judging from the subjects covered by the above articles, melanistic mystery cats seem to be of considerable interest to ShukerNature readers, as no fewer than three of the top ten articles (out of a total of no fewer than 652) are devoted to the investigation of such creatures and, in particular, alleged photos of such. Intriguing images also form the basis of a further four, purportedly portraying such diverse entities as an unexpectedly fluffy moth, a bizarre bird with a gargantuan gape, a monstrously huge grasshopper, and a grotesque being likened to an incongruous human-rabbit hybrid but likely to have been something much less extraordinary yet far more tragic.
Stir into this singular mix some truly bizarre beasts conjured forth into tangible existence by the creative genius of a celebrated master in manipulation and design, plus the perennially-popular saga of merfolk, and never forgetting a remarkable amphibian whose memorable external appearance has earned for it from the ever-imaginative media an even more memorable monicker, and the result is a listing of fascinating subjects that could not be found together anywhere else online, only here on ShukerNature, along with 642 other no less enthralling and entertaining topics too.
Subjects covered in some of my top ten ShukerNature blog articles (mermaid photo (© Dr Karl Shuker; Venezuelan poodle moth © Arthur Anker; giant sea serpent gaff photo © Takeshi Yamada; © of the other photos unknown to me but presented here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
So here’s hoping that they will continue to be of interest to readers for a long time to come, and that I will be able to continue adding further ones to their elite company.
Finally, I’m happy to say that my long-awaited, long-promised ShukerNature book will be published during this coming spring, containing an exceedingly varied selection of my blog’s articles in expanded, updated form, fully illustrated throughout in colour, and supplemented by a very extensive bibliography of sources consulted by me during their preparation. Look out here on ShukerNature for further updates as I receive them.
The original and extremely beautiful artwork specially prepared for the front cover of my forthcoming ShukerNature book by renowned artist Anthony Wallis (© Dr Karl Shuker/Anthony Wallis)
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CELEBRATING TEN YEARS OF SHUKERNATURE, VIA ITS ALL-TIME TOP TEN ARTICLES

by on Jan.25, 2019, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

My ShukerNature blog’s official banner, very kindly designed for me by Mark North (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Yes indeed – this week is a very momentous occasion in the history of my ShukerNature blog, because it was exactly 10 years ago this week, on 20 January 2009 to be precise, that I uploaded onto it my very first (albeit very short) article (click here to access it), and the rest, as they do say, is history.
So what better way to celebrate ShukerNature’s tenth anniversary than to present (in what is its 652nd article) a clickable listing of its all-time top ten articles, as determined by their respective total number of visitor hits received. And here they are, with their total hit counts as of right now included in brackets following their links:
Judging from the subjects covered by the above articles, melanistic mystery cats seem to be of considerable interest to ShukerNature readers, as no fewer than three of the top ten articles (out of a total of no fewer than 652) are devoted to the investigation of such creatures and, in particular, alleged photos of such. Intriguing images also form the basis of a further four, purportedly portraying such diverse entities as an unexpectedly fluffy moth, a bizarre bird with a gargantuan gape, a monstrously huge grasshopper, and a grotesque being likened to an incongruous human-rabbit hybrid but likely to have been something much less extraordinary yet far more tragic.
Stir into this singular mix some truly bizarre beasts conjured forth into tangible existence by the creative genius of a celebrated master in manipulation and design, plus the perennially-popular saga of merfolk, and never forgetting a remarkable amphibian whose memorable external appearance has earned for it from the ever-imaginative media an even more memorable monicker, and the result is a listing of fascinating subjects that could not be found together anywhere else online, only here on ShukerNature, along with 642 other no less enthralling and entertaining topics too.
Subjects covered in some of my top ten ShukerNature blog articles (mermaid photo (© Dr Karl Shuker; Venezuelan poodle moth © Arthur Anker; giant sea serpent gaff photo © Takeshi Yamada; © of the other photos unknown to me but presented here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis only)
So here’s hoping that they will continue to be of interest to readers for a long time to come, and that I will be able to continue adding further ones to their elite company.
Finally, I’m happy to say that my long-awaited, long-promised ShukerNature book will be published during this coming spring, containing an exceedingly varied selection of my blog’s articles in expanded, updated form, fully illustrated throughout in colour, and supplemented by a very extensive bibliography of sources consulted by me during their preparation. Look out here on ShukerNature for further updates as I receive them.
The original and extremely beautiful artwork specially prepared for the front cover of my forthcoming ShukerNature book by renowned artist Anthony Wallis (© Dr Karl Shuker/Anthony Wallis)
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