BEWARE, BEWARE – THE FISH WITH HAIR!

by on Feb.03, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Could certain ‘fishes with hair’ be fur seals? An engraving of a northern fur seal Callorhinus ursinus from 1865 (public domain)
During my 30+ years as a cryptozoological researcher and author, I have written hundreds of published articles on this fascinating subject. Many of these, however, have appeared in now-defunct British or continental European periodicals that never achieved international circulation, so they remain unseen by a sizeable proportion of my present-day global, online audience. Consequently, it seems worthwhile redressing this unfortunate, frustrating situation by reproducing here in ShukerNature a selection of those long-out-of-print articles of mine, in their original format. Moreover, those that I have duly chosen for this purpose, and which will be appearing as an intermittent series during the coming weeks and months, are specifically ones that document cryptozoological subjects not previously covered by me here.
So, without further ado, here is the first in this series, dealing with a diverse array of ‘fishes with hair’. It originally appeared in the June 1996 issue of a long-discontinued monthly British magazine entitled Wild About Animals. The thoroughly charming illustration included in it was prepared by the very gifted artist Philippa Foster (nee Coxall), whose beautiful artwork has graced so many of my publications down through the years, and whose delightful new book, Lofty Abodes, I shall be reviewing in ShukerNature.
My June 1996 Wild About Animals article re ‘fish with hair’ – please click image to enlarge for viewing and reading purposes (© Dr Karl Shuker)
NB – Please note that these early articles of mine are being reproduced here for their historical interest; their content may be outdated in places. Updates and additional examples of furry fishes can be found in my 2003 book The Beasts That Hide From Man. Also, please click here for an even more recent, updated ShukerNature account concerning the true nature and taxonomic identity of Mirapinna esau.

Vintage American picture postcard depicting a mounted fur-bearing trout (public domain)
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WHITHER THE QUEENSLAND MOA? RECALLING AN ORNITHOLOGICAL ANOMALY FROM AUSTRALIA

by on Jan.28, 2018, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Photographed in 2006 alongside the sturdy, relatively short-legged Aotea Moa Statue, designed and sculpted (in concrete?) by Robin Coleman of Marton, and standing outside the Aotea New Zealand Souvenir Store on Queen Street in the centre of Auckland, on North Island, New Zealand – might it have been inspired by a Pachyornis species? (© Dr Karl Shuker)
It is well established that the extinct moas constituted a group of ratites exclusive to New Zealand – which is why the little-known tale of Australia‘s unique Queensland moa is worth retelling. So here it is.
In 1884, this zoogeographical heretic was christened Dinornis queenslandiae by English-born zoologist Charles W. De Vis (at that time the director of the Queensland Museum), in a Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland paper. He based its species on a fossilised, incomplete left femur, spotted by him in a collection of bones from King’s Creek, on Queensland‘s Darling Downs, that had been presented to the museum by a Mr J. Daniels of Pilton. Naturally, the specimen attracted great interest among ornithologists, as it extended the moas’ distribution very considerably. No longer were they a novelty of New Zealand – always assuming, of course, that it really was a moa.
The contentious partial left femur upon which the Queenslandmoa was established (Figs 1 and 2 from De Vis’s Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland paper, 1884 – public domain)
Over the years, however, this assumption became a much-debated issue.
In 1893, for instance, eminent New Zealand naturalist Captain Frederick W. Hutton deemed the bone to be from a cassowary-like species that probably represented the common ancestor of emus and cassowaries, which are currently classed together within the same taxonomic order, Casuariiformes (and click hereto access my ShukerNature article documenting some very controversial cassowaries). He documented his opinion in a Proceedings of the Linnean Society of NSW paper.
Australian emu Dromaius novaehollandiae (top) and double-wattled aka southern cassowary Casuarius casuarius (bottom) (public domain)
Then in 1949 its species was readmitted to the moa brotherhood, when Dr Walter R.B. Oliver of Wellington‘s Dominion Museum renamed it Pachyornis queenslandiae in a Bulletin: Dominion Museum (New Zealand) paper. By the early 1960s, conversely, it was back among the emus and cassowaries, when in 1963, within a Records of the South Australian Museum paper, American ornithologist Dr Alden H. Miller (director of the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, for 25 years) classified it as an emu, dubbing it Dromiceius [=Dromaius] queenslandiae. It seemed as if this contentious species would be spending the rest of time ricocheting from one ratite family to another – but then came the study that finally brought its taxonomic tribulations to a long-awaited end.
This was when, in April 1967, osteologist Ronald J. Scarlett from New Zealand’s Canterbury Museum examined the Queensland moa’s femur and revealed that it was indeed from a Pachyornis moa, but specifically the heavy-footed moa P. elephantopus (the presence and precise shape of a bony femoral projection called the cnemial crest clinched this taxonomic identification). He also paid close attention to the other bones in the original King’s Creek collection within which it had been found by De Vis back in the 1880s.
Skeleton of the heavy-footed moa Pachyornis elephantopus skeleton in the Naturhistorisches Museum of Basel, Switzerland (public domain)
In so doing, Scarlett recognised that the femur was strikingly different in general appearance and colour from the rest of this collection’s material, and clearly had not been obtained with it. In addition, his very appreciable experience with moa bones derived from caves, Maori middens, swamps, and other sources of such remains enabled him to reveal something even more significant – the femur was readily identifiable as a bone originating from a midden in New Zealand‘s South Island. Consequently, it was not from Australia at all! In 1969, Scarlett documented his revelatory findings in a Memoirs of the Queensland Museum paper.
In short, the (in)famous Queensland moa was just another non-existent creature that had been granted a transient reality by the evocation of inaccurate information and incomplete investigation – a mere monster of misidentification, nothing more. Pachyornis queenslandiae – R.I.P.!
Reconstruction of the heavy-footed moa in life (© niaolei.org.cn – reproduced here on a strictly educational, non-commercial Fair Use basis only for the purposes of review)
My sincere thanks go to the late Ron Scarlett for so kindly communicating with me regarding this once-controversial form (and other moa mysteries) during the 1990s, and for bringing his study and published paper concerning it to my attention.
This ShukerNature article is excerpted and expanded from my book The Beasts That Hide From Man.
Alongside a life-sized statue carved in 2004 by Frank Triggs of the giant moa Dinornis at Chester Zoo, England, in 2013 (© Dr Karl Shuker)
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‘MYSTERY CREATURES OF CHINA: THE COMPLETE CRYPTOZOOLOGICAL GUIDE’, BY DAVID C. XU – A LANDMARK IN THE LITERATURE OF UNKNOWN ANIMALS

by on Dec.29, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

The exquisite artwork on the front cover of David C. Xu’s wonderful book (© David C. Xu/Coachwhip Publications)
December 2017 may seem rather early for anyone to put forward a major contender to receive in a year’s time the accolade of Best Cryptozoology Book of 2018, but in my opinion the truly exceptional work by David C. Xu to which this present ShukerNature blog post is devoted, and which is officially published at the beginning of next month by Coachwhip Publications, more than justifies being nominated for such an honour.
When David very kindly asked me a while ago if I would pen a foreword to his book on Chinese cryptozoology, I was delighted to do so, because Sinian mystery beasts have always fascinated and frustrated me in equal amounts – fascinated by those select examples recorded in Western-language publications, and frustrated by the certain knowledge that there were many additional examples hidden from my investigative capabilities as I do not read or speak any of China’s native tongues.  And my latter suspicion was more than confirmed by the incredible diversity of such latter beasts that David’s book revealed to me as I read through it in advance of preparing my foreword.
So now, as an exclusive pre-publication taster of what to expect in this incredible, thoroughly engrossing volume, and with David’s kind permission, here is my foreword to his book, reproduced in full:
I consider myself very fortunate to possess at least a working knowledge of several different European languages, which has enabled me to research and bring to international cryptozoological attention via my writings a considerable number of fascinating but hitherto-obscure cryptids that had never previously been documented in any English-language publication.
However, there is one massive geographically-based archive of cryptozoological information that until now has remained largely unattainable for me, due simply to the frustrating fact that I have no comparable knowledge or experience of any of the languages indigenous to that vast country in question – the latter country being, of course, China. True, down through the ages, a number of English-language books have chronicled some of the most famous and spectacular of its mythological fauna – such as the Chinese dragons (long, etc), Chinese phoenix (fenghuang), Chinese unicorn (qilin), celestial stag, and winged hua fish. A smaller number of cryptids have also been highlighted internationally, in particular the yeren or Chinese wildman, the blue tigers of Fujian, the aquatic monsters of Lake Tianchi, and the bizarre ‘hippoturtleox’ of Tibet. Nevertheless, to adapt one of Sir Isaac Newton’s most quoted of quotations, to me these are little more than just a few pebbles or seashells lying on the beach, perhaps a little smoother or prettier than some others, but with the great ocean of Sinian cryptozoology lying all undiscovered before me – but not any more!
Thanks to the superb book before you now, the vast and previously-concealed, unseen menagerie of Chinese mystery beasts is enshadowed and encrypted no longer, its fascinating panoply of scientifically unknown animals laid bare at last to an international readership that has waited so long for a knowledgeable guide adept in English to lead it into these secret creatures’ enthralling domain.
Having been wholly immersed in cryptozoology from both an investigative and a chronicling standpoint for over 30 years, whenever I read any new such book nowadays I expect to be (and generally am) already familiar with the majority of mystery beasts presented within it – but not this time! To my surprise but total delight, page after page in this extremely comprehensive volume unfurled extraordinary cryptids that I had never previously encountered – confirming my long-held suspicion as outlined earlier here that China’s crypto-chronicles held all manner of treasures formerly hidden from me by virtue of my inability to read any Sinian language. And I have no doubt whatsoever that countless other readers similarly limited linguistically will experience the same thrill of discovery as I did when first reading this book, and am still doing when re-reading it.
After all, where else could a non-Chinese cryptozoological reader readily encounter (and especially all within the same single volume) such captivating creatures as cyan lake goats and aquatic oxen, coffin beasts and mountain crashers, elusive water monkeys (one of my favourite ‘new’ cryptids) and blood-sucking blanket beasts, the tamarisk children and the water man-bear, false-eyed ungulates, and wolf-pack interlopers, a bewilderment of mystery big cats and an extraordinary diversity of man-beasts all meticulously disentangled and delineated, relict chilotheres and living chalicotheres (or at least some mystifying cryptids very like them in appearance), vanishing three-humped camels (another particular favourite of mine) and colour-changing deer, living dragons and latter-day unicorns (not so mythological after all, it would seem), giant birds and birds with four wings, a veritable plethora of putative prehistoric survivors, and even a supposed flying centipede, plus many, many more. Some are undoubtedly more folkloric than factual, but in every instance their case makes compelling reading.
The history of each cryptid is chronicled comprehensively, followed by an equally detailed assessment of the various possible identities on offer for it, and concluding with a very valuable bibliography of sources. There is also a very considerable number of illustrations, including some very eyecatching reconstructions of what many of the cryptids under consideration here may look like, based at least upon eyewitness descriptions.
Today, thanks to the ease with which specialised books on mystery animals that would once have struggled to find a mainstream publisher can now appear in print due to POD technology, e-readers, and other advances, cryptozoology is experiencing a veritable Golden Age within the publishing world, with more titles appearing – and staying – in print than at any other time in this subject’s history. In short, crypto-readers nowadays can all too easily find themselves in the previously unexpected but thoroughly delightful position of being spoilt for choice when deciding which book(s) to buy. So here, as a gift from me to you, is a personal recommendation – buy this book, and I absolutely guarantee that you will not be disappointed.
True, I have to confess that when I first read its subtitle I had to suppress an instinctive inward shudder, because I have seen the phrase “Complete…Guide’ or similar appear so often in book titles across a vast range of subjects, only for a reading of the books to reveal all too readily how inappropriate and grandiose was the application of such a title to them – but not in this instance. David Xu must be very heartily congratulated, because he has prepared a truly exemplary work of cryptozoological scholarship and erudition, one that in my opinion can stand alongside any of the greatest works on mystery beasts ever published, and, in terms of its specific subject, one that has absolutely no peers or competitors of any kind. It is, quite simply, unique, one of a kind, a cryptozoological sui generis – there really is nothing else like it in existence, and its comprehensiveness is such that I consider it highly unlikely that there ever will be.
So, if you’re looking for a fascinating, entirely original cryptozoological book to read (and I am obviously assuming that you have already purchased and read all of mine!), then this is the book for you – it really is as simple as that.
David’s book can be ordered here on Amazon’s USA site and here on Amazon’s UK site – if you do so, I guarantee that it will be one of the most spellbinding cryptozoological books that you will ever read, because it is a monumental landmark in the literature of unknown animals.
The back cover of David’s book, containing more information concerning its contents (© David C. Xu/Coachwhip Publications)
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KICKING UP ANOTHER STINK – BRINGING JAVA’S GIANT TREE-CLIMBING ‘SKUNKS’ DOWN TO EARTH

by on Dec.18, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

19th-Century engraving of the Malayan or Javanese stink badger, native to Java, Sumatra, and throughout Borneo (public domain)
If you have ever wondered what was the very first cryptozoological investigation that I ever undertook, wonder no longer – because here it is.
In my previous ShukerNature blog article (click here), I documented the little-known but fascinating crypto-case of a still-unidentified Argentinian mammal captured alive and even nurtured for a while by renowned British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse that she vehemently claimed to have been a pouched skunk – a creature not presently known to the zoological world. However, that was not my first encounter with a mephitic mystery beast, as will now be revealed.
During the mid-1980s, in what turned out to be my debut within the fascinating field of cryptozoological investigation, I was able to assist in revealing the true identity of another skunk-dubbed zoological enigma. Namely, the alsatian-sized, tree-climbing Javan ‘skunks’ reported by the Antara News Agency on 14 May 1977.
A common hog-nosed skunk Conepatus leuconotus, at up to 3 ft long one of the largest skunk species, from North and Central America, as illustrated by Louis Agassiz in 1918 (public domain)
The baffling report in question was quoted in full within the book Living Wonders: Mysteries and Curiosities of the Animal World (1982), authored by John Michell and Bob Rickard, which is where I encountered it, and it reads as follows:
Giant skunks, probably survivors from prehistoric times, have been discovered in the jungles of north central Java. The skunks are as big as German shepherd dogs [aka Alsatians] and can climb trees. B.O. Naing-golan of the Central Java Animal Lovers’ Association said one of the giant skunks was captured and killed by shepherds recently on the slopes of the Ungaran mountain in Central Java. He deplored the fact that the giant skunks are not included on the list of protected species.
Skunks, of course, are not the size of alsatians, they do not inhabit Indonesia or anywhere else in the Old World per se (but see the end of this blog article for a pertinent taxonomic tail-note), and they are not typically arboreal. Consequently, in an attempt to find out more regarding these Javan anomalies, I penned a letter of enquiry to the ISC Newsletter – the now-defunct International Society of Cryptozoology’s quarterly newsletter – which was duly published in its winter 1985 issue. And here it is:
My letter as published in the ISC Newsletter (winter 1985) – please click image to enlarge it for reading purposes
After reading it, Gerald L. Wood, author of all three editions of The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats (1972, 1976, 1982), kindly wrote to me on 26 June 1986 and revealed that he too had been greatly perplexed by the above-quoted news agency report after having first encountered it. Consequently, he had fully investigated its strange claim of zoological impossibilities – as a result of which he had successfully uncovered a startling error of etymology as the explanation.
All three editions of Gerald’s wonderful book The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats (© Gerald L. Wood/Guinness Publishing)
Gerald had discovered (but had not publicly revealed) that these ‘skunks’ were in fact skinks – i.e. a type of lizard. Moreover, they were of very much more modest proportions than would befit an alsatian dog!
The Solomon Islands giant (prehensile-tailed) skink Corucia zebrata – at up to 32 in long from nose-tip to tail-tip, it is the world’s largest extant species of skink but hardly compares with an alsatian dog! (public domain)
Here is a photocopy of Gerald’s letter containing these revelatory details that he kindly sent to me:
Gerald’s letter to me re Java’s giant ‘skunks’, written on 26 June 1986 – please click image to enlarge it for reading purposes
To provide an official, published response to my enquiry, a copy of his above letter was later published by the ISC Newsletter in its autumn 1986 issue, thus bringing to an official close another longstanding cryptozoological conundrum.
Gerald’s letter as published in the ISC Newsletter (autumn 1986) – please click image to enlarge it for reading purposes
Incidentally, I’ve never actually identified with confidence the precise species of skink, giant or otherwise, to which the confused Antara News Agency report was referring. So if there are any herpetological specialists out there reading this blog article of mine who could offer any suggestions, please do post them here, as I’d very greatly welcome them – many thanks indeed!
Solomon Islands giant skink at rest – note its very long tail (public domain)
As for the tail-note that I promised earlier: in recent years, taxonomic revisions based upon comparative DNA analyses have led to all of the New World’s ten or so species of skunk being split off from the mustelids (family Mustelidae) and rehoused in their very own distinct taxonomic family, Mephitidae. Moreover, they are no longer of exclusively New World distribution either, because those same DNA-based analyses revealed that the two species of Asian stink badger (the afore-mentioned Malaysian or Javanese and the Palawan ) are more closely related to the skunks than they are to badgers or to any other mustelids. Hence these too are now housed within Mephitidae. (Also, since my ISC Newsletter enquiry was published, the two stink badger species have been reassigned to a single genus, Mydaus, by some taxonomists.)
This in turn means that if we use ‘skunk’ as a general, informal collective term for all mephitids (rather than just the true, New World contingent), there really are skunks in Java after all – but nothing like the giant tree-climbers erroneously created by the Antara News Agency report!
An engraving from 1887 of the Palawan stink badger, native to the western Philippines (public domain)
My sincere thanks to the late Gerald L. Wood, whose encouragement readily given to me during my fledgling years as an investigative cryptozoologist were – and always will be – very greatly appreciated by me.
Gerald L. Wood, one of my earliest cryptozoological/animal superlative correspondents and friends (© Gerald L. Wood), and my much-treasured signed copy of his Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats, 3rd edition (© Gerald L. Wood/Guinness Publishing/Dr Karl Shuker)
This ShukerNature blog article is expanded and updated from the original section contained within my book From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings: From the Pages of Fate Magazine.

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KICKING UP A STINK – BARBARA WOODHOUSE’S PERPLEXING POUCHED SKUNK

by on Dec.14, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

The late Barbara Woodhouse on the front cover of one of her books, No Bad Dogs: The Woodhouse Way (© Barbara Woodhouse/Summit Books – reproduced here on a strictly educational, non-commercial Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
I’ve said it before, but it’s well worth repeating – mystifying creatures can turn up in the most unexpected locations, and the following example is certainly no exception.
To those of us of a certain age, the name Barbara Woodhouse is fondly associated with the staccato cry “Walkies!”, uttered by a Joyce Grenfellesque lady of the genteel English schoolma’am variety that, sadly, seems to have quietly expired in these much more thrusting, belligerent modern times. She acquired national – indeed, international – fame rather late in life, aged 70, when in 1980 her idiosyncratic show ‘Training Dogs The Woodhouse Way’ was first screened on British television and soon attained cult status, as a result of which she became one of the most recognisable, and parodied, personalities of the ’80s.
The Fontana paperback edition of Talking To Animals that I own (© Barbara Woodhouse/Fontana Books – reproduced here on a strictly educational, non-commercial Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
Nevertheless, there seemed to be no connection between the redoubtable Ms Woodhouse and cryptozoology – at least, that is, until the 1990s, when I was reading through her autobiography Talking To Animals (1954), and, while perusing a section concerning her life as a young woman training horses in Argentina, stumbled upon the following fascinating, but very perplexing, paragraph:
Shortly after the storm [she had been describing the aftermath of a very violent storm that had hit their estate the previous evening], the foreman’s little son came rushing up to say that all his pet rabbits had gone and that in the cage instead was a baby skunk. The mother had perished in the storm and lay dead by the cage. How that living little skunk had got into the undamaged cage, and the rabbits out of it, was beyond our understanding. In the mother’s pouch were two dead babies. Experts cannot account for a skunk with a pouch, and try to persuade me that she was a ‘possum. But she was no ‘possum: she had the bushy tail of a skunk and was identical with the skunk picture in Cassell’s Book of Knowledge. She did have a pouch: I examined her closely.
Woodhouse then went on to describe how she attempted to care for the alleged baby skunk by rearing it and feeding it in a cottonwool-lined pocket of her riding skirt, noting that it successfully fed and survived in this makeshift pouch for a week before ultimately dying after escaping from the pouch one night and becoming severely chilled.
An engraving from 1848 depicting the Andean hog-nosed skunk (public domain)
Skunks, of which there are at least ten recognised species, were traditionally classed as mustelids (members of the weasel family), but more recently, based upon genetic studies, these infamously malodorous mammals have been allocated a taxonomic family of their own. However, although they do exhibit quite a diversity of morphologies, none of them has a pouch – a taxonomically-significant anatomical feature specific to marsupials. Moreover, only the hog-nosed skunks (genus Conepatus, constituting 4-5 species, depending upon opinion) are native to South America, and only two of these species are known to occur in Argentina – the Andean C. chinga in some of this vast country’s northern regions, and the Patagonian C. humboldtii throughout much of its southern portion.
The Patagonian hog-nosed skunk (© Payayita/Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)
Consequently, I find myself in agreement with the unnamed experts who claimed that Woodhouse’s ‘pouched skunk’ was a ‘possum – or, to be accurate, an American opossum, of which many species in several genera have been described. Having said that, the fundamental problem with this identity is that none of the known species of American opossum bears any real degree of similarity to a skunk.
True, the black-shouldered opossum Caluromysiops irrupta has distinctive black shoulders, a black dorsal stripe, and dark feet and tail that contrast markedly with the much paler fur on the rest of its body, but it is hardly skunk-like. And the distal portion of its tail is unfurred and rat-like, thereby bearing no resemblance to the uniformly furred tail of a skunk.
Photograph of the black-shouldered opossum (© owner’s identity unclear to me; I found this picture on Globalspecies.org’s page for the species – it is now reproduced here on a strictly educational, non-commercial Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
Conversely, there is another species, Glironia venusta, which is actually known as the bushy-tailed opossum because of its unusually thick, densely-furred tail; however, it lacks any black-and-white fur colouration reminiscent of a skunk’s, and as with the previous species its tail’s distal portion is unfurred.
Illustration of the bushy-tailed opossum (© owner’s identity is unclear to me; I found this illustration on Wikipedia, and it is now reproduced here on a strictly educational, non-commercial Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
Even the yapok or water opossum Chironectes minimus, whose distinctive black and pale grey fur may conceivably invite comparisons with skunks by observers poorly acquainted with these latter mammals, can be readily eliminated from further consideration by virtue of its very slender, wholly unfurred tail.
Illustration of a yapok from Dr Richard Lydekker’s volume A Hand-Book to the Marsupialia and Monotremata (1896) (public domain)
As for the thick-tailed or lutrine opossum Lutreolina crassicaudata (aka the little water opossum), its pelage (especially in females) also has dark and light markings, though these are far less prominent than those of the yapok; however, it has a thicker tail than the yapok, but this is still far less bushy than that of a skunk. Moreover, of the species noted here, only the yapok and the thick-tailed opossum are native to Argentina anyway.
Taxiderm specimen of a thick-tailed opossum at Italy‘s Museo Civico di Storia Naturale di Genova (public domain)
So what could Woodhouse’s pouched skunk have been? I have even considered briefly the possibility that the adult female animal found dead was a genuine skunk that was heavily pregnant, and that the shock of the storm had caused one of her babies to be born prematurely, with Woodhouse mistaking this mother skunk’s vagina and uterus for a pouch! However, this all seems highly improbable, especially as Woodhouse was someone with considerable experience from a very early age at caring for and handling animals.
I would have dearly loved the opportunity to contact Barbara Woodhouse in order to elicit more details concerning her baffling little beastie, but, sadly, she died in 1988, well before I discovered her account of it in her book. There is still one way, however, of shedding, perhaps, just a little more light on this mystery.
Exquisite 1800s engraving of a yapok (public domain)
Does anyone out there have a copy of Cassell’s Book of Knowledge, which I am assuming must date from around the 1920s or 1930s, bearing in mind that Barbara Woodhouse was born in 1910 and lived in Argentina for more than three years during her 20s? If so, I’d love to see its picture of a skunk, because this would give some idea of what her supposed pouched variety looked like (bearing in mind that there are several very different skunk morphologies, depending upon the species in question). That in turn may provide clues as to its real identity – unless, of course, by any remote chance it really was a pouched skunk, and thereby constituted a still-undescribed and dramatically different species?
This ShukerNature blog article is excerpted from my book Karl Shuker’s Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times.

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DELINEATING THE DARKER SIDE OF LEOPARDS – ARE SOME MYSTERY CATS PSEUDO-MELANISTIC?

by on Dec.05, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Chromolithograph from the PZSL, 3 March 1885, depicting the first Grahamstown pseudo-melanistic leopard as it would probably have looked in life, based upon its pelt’s appearance (public domain)
To date, my very first book, Mystery Cats of the World, originally published in 1989 and now long out of print (but not out of copyright, incidentally), has yet to be republished. Regrettably, however, considerable chunks of its content can be found in uncredited and sometimes extensively plagiarised form on the Net within a number of websites. Consequently, unless readers of those particular sites are already familiar with my book, they will probably be entirely unaware that it is the original source of such material.
To redress at least a portion of this very unfortunate and frustrating situation, I am therefore presenting herewith the full text from my book concerning one of the most eyecatching but rarest categories of feline enigmas on record. Namely, pseudo-melanistic leopards, and their potential relevance to the identity of certain cryptozoological cats. My book was the first to document this very intriguing, thought-provoking subject in detail, including the discovery of pseudo-melanistic leopard specimens in both Asia and Africa, but once again its coverage has since been copied profusely online by others yet with very varying degrees of associated acknowledgement. I am also expanding its coverage, by incorporating some additional information and illustrations that I have encountered with regard to such cats during the period of almost 30 years that has passed since my book was published.

A MYSTERY FROM MALABAR
In certain parts of Asia, black panthers (i.e. melanistic specimens of the leopard Panthera pardus constituting a visibly distinctive morph resulting from the expression of the recessive non-agouti mutant allele of the agouti gene and described in more detail later here) are more common than the normal, spotted wild-type morph of the leopard. Conversely, pseudo-melanistic individuals from this continent are exceedingly rare, so much so in fact that I have only ever read of one confirmed specimen. It was originally documented in 1915 by H.O. Collins, as referred to fully below, within the Bulletin of the South California Academy of Science. Here is its noteworthy history.

Normal spotted wild-type version of the leopard (© JanErkamp/Wikipedia – CC BY SA 3.0 licence)
One of the magnificent and mysterious feline skins on record was purchased in December 1912 by Holdridge Ozro Collins from G.A. Chambers of Madras [now Chennai], India. Its predominant colour was an elegant glossy black and was described in 1915 by Collins as follows:
The wide black portion, which glistens like the sheen of silk velvet, extends from the top of the head to the extremity of the tail entirely free from any white or tawny hairs.
He goes on to say:
In the tiger, the stripes are black, of an uniform character, upon a tawny background, and they run in parallel lines from the center of the back to the belly. In this skin, the stripes are almost golden yellow, without the uniformity and parallelism of the tiger characteristics, and they extend along the sides in labyrinthine graceful curls and circles, several inches below the wide shimmering black continuous course of the back. The extreme edges around the legs and belly are white and spotted like the skin of a leopard….The skin is larger than that of a Leopard but smaller than that of a full grown Tiger.
The cat had been killed in Malabar, south-western India, earlier in 1912, and so unusual was its exceedingly handsome skin that Chambers had been totally unable to classify it, so that he wondered whether it could actually represent some hitherto unknown form of felid. To obtain an answer, Chambers had sent it to Madras‘s Government Museum for official identification. He subsequently received a letter from J.R. Henderson of the museum, who stated that, although the species was certainly leopard, it constituted a variety that he had never before seen. Collins also sought scientific advice concerning its status, and learnt from Dr Gerrit S. Miller Jnr, curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Division of Mammals in Washington DC, USA, that it was indeed a black leopard, but not of the normal melanistic type.
A normal melanistic leopard, aka black panther (© Qilinmon/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)
In fact, this remarkable skin was that of a pseudo-melanistic leopard, an extremely rare mutant known even today from only from a handful of specimens. In a normal melanistic leopard (i.e. black panther), its coat’s background colour is abnormally dark, but its coat’s rosettes are unchanged (so they can often still be spied in shadow-like form against its coat’s dark background colouration, rather like a pattern on watered silk, when viewed at certain angles and in certain lighting conditions). Conversely, in a pseudo-melanistic leopard its coat’s background colour is normal (orange-yellow) but is largely obliterated by abnormal fusion (nigrism) and multiplication (abundism) of the rosettes.
In extreme cases of pseudo-melanism, as demonstrated by Collins’s specimen, this fusion and multiplication of the rosettes can be so extensive that virtually the entire upper body is covered in a solid mass of black colouration, with only occasional gaps present through which its coat’s normal background colour is visible (appearing as orange streaks or spots). Faced with such a bizarre skin, it is little wonder that its owners had wondered whether it constituted a major zoological discovery.
King cheetah (© Steve Jurvetson/Wikipedia/Flickr – CC BY 2.0 licence)
Incidentally, less extreme occurrences of nigrism and abundism in the cheetah Acinonyx jubatus are responsible for the ornately striped and blotched pelage of a rare but very distinctive morph dubbed the king cheetah Acinonyx jubatus var. rex, which was once mistakenly thought to be a separate species from the normal spotted version. There are also a few visibly-comparable leopard counterparts to this cheetah variety on record, which I have duly referred to in my writings as king leopards. One Indian specimen, recorded as recently as 2012 from the Parambikulam forests in Kerala’s Palakkad district, has sometimes been referred to online as a pseudo-melanistic leopard but its extent of abundism and nigrism is much less pronounced than that of the Malabar specimen or any of the Grahamstown specimens discussed below – instead, it is a classic king leopard.
A BEWILDERMENT OF BLACK LEOPARDS IN AFRICA
Surprisingly, and in stark contrast to the extremely abundant black panther of Asia, very few records exist of melanistic leopards in Africa. Considering that this latter continent has numerous localities whose habitats and climate correspond closely with those in Asia that support black panthers, the reason for this anomaly is quite obscure. In fact, the only areas from which true (i.e. non-agouti) melanistic leopards have been recorded with certainty are Ethiopia and Cameroon, plus the forests of Mount Kenya and Kenya‘s Aberdares mountains.
Yet, if we also take heed of the many unconfirmed reports of predominantly black, leopard-like cats from several other African regions, it would seem that African panthers of one form or another are (or were) more widespread – and varied – than science supposes.
SOUTH AFRICA‘S MELANOTIC MYSTERY CATS
A mysterious felid of quite remarkable appearance was killed by a Mr F. Bowker during the early 1880s in a hilly, scrub-covered district 40 miles northeast of Grahamstown, in South Africa‘s Eastern Cape Province, and its flat skin was sent by him to German-born British zoologist Dr Albert Günther at London‘s Natural History Museum, where it remains today. Its coat’s background colour was tawny, brightening to a rich orange gloss on the shoulders. Rosettes were virtually absent, being replaced mostly by numerous small separate spots, but these had coalesced dorsally to yield an unbroken expanse of black, stretching from its head right along to its tail base. In contrast to this specimen’s richly hued upperparts, however, its underparts were principally white with large black spots, as in typical leopards, and it also bore the facial markings characteristic of this species. Its total length was 6 ft 7 in (including a 2.5- ft tail).
Dr Albert Günther (public domain)
Günther had initially entertained the possibility that this singular cat was actually a naturally-occurring leopard-lioness hybrid. However, as he reported on 3 March 1885 in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, his detailed examination of its skin had ultimately revealed certain very specific but taxonomically significant features which, in combination with its already-noted leopard features, persuaded him that, despite its exotic colour scheme, its owner had indeed been nothing more than a leopard after all – albeit of a very spectacular pseudo-melanistic variety (and comparable with the Malabar specimen noted earlier in this ShukerNature blog article).
A year later, Günther received a second, even darker, glossier flat skin from a specimen of this same pseudo-melanistic variety, which had been shot at Collingham, approximately 20 miles from Grahamstown, and subsequently presented as a donation to London‘s Natural History Museum by its then-owner Reverend Nendrick Abraham (President of the Grahamstown Natural History Society). Utilising the detailed account contained in Abraham’s accompanying letter, Günther formally documented this skin on 6 April 1886, once again in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London.
B/w photograph from the PZSL, 6 April 1886, of the flat skin from Abraham’s Collingham-derived pseudo-melanistic leopard (public domain)
At least seven other, less striking pseudo-melanistic examples have been recorded (although, tragically, some of these no longer exist), including two pelts and sightings of two living specimens as reported by Abraham in his letter to Günther, but only from South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province and none at all since the 20thCentury’s opening decade, as documented in 1987 by Dr Jack Skead (a former director of the Kaffrarian Museum in King William’s Town) within a major review entitled Historical Mammal Incidence in the Eastern Cape. Skead’s work was brought to my attention via some references to it in a CFZ Yearbook 1997article on these exotic-looking leopards authored by Chris Moiser, who with fellow wildlife writer David Barnaby had viewed and photographed a mounted specimen at the Izoko South African Museum in Cape Town two years earlier.
In his PZSL report for 3 March 1885 concerning Bowker’s pelt, Günther had dubbed this spectacular pseudo-melanistic leopard variety Felis leopardus [=Panthera pardus] var. melanotica. As a result, sometimes these extremely unusual felids are alternatively termed melanotic leopards.
As noted above, the Izoko South African Museum in Cape Town famously has on display a mounted specimen of a pseudo-melanistic leopard. In his CFZ Yearbook 1997 article, Chris Moiser revealed that this was purchased from a professional taxidermist based in Grahamstown in November 1898, and had apparently been shot 15.5 miles south of that town. Although somewhat faded with age nowadays, appearing brown rather than black, it is still visually arresting, as seen here:
The mounted pseudo-melanistic leopard on display at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town (© Lew Viergacht)
My sincere thanks to Lew Viergacht for so kindly making his two excellent photographs of this remarkable specimen available to me for inclusion in this ShukerNature blog article.
THE DAMASIA – DARK LEOPARD OR NEW SPECIES?
Well worth considering is whether a comparable variety could be the explanation for a still-unidentified African felid known as the damasia, which dwells – not surprisingly? – in Kenya’s Aberdares [already documented in my book as the home of a controversial, diminutive form of spotted lion known as the marozi, as well as melanistic leopards, i.e. black panthers].
The damasia was referred to in a letter sent to The Field by G. Hamilton-Snowball and published on 9 October 1948, concerning his sighting of spotted lions on these mountains. In it, he also recalled that during the 1920s he had shot a creature that he had taken to be a leopard, albeit a very large, dark specimen. Yet when his Kikuyu attendants saw it, they announced that it was not a chui (leopard) but a damasia, and that a damasia was as different from a leopard as a simba (lion) was from a marozi. Apparently the damasia is well known to the Aberdares natives but is always mistaken by non-locals for a leopard.
Painting of a pair of marozis or Kenyan spotted lions, based upon a preserved skin and eyewitness descriptions (© William M. Rebsamen)
Tropical Africa’s native tribes frequently classify animals by way of criteria very different from those used by scientists. Often an individual animal that is of a colour or size different from that of normal specimens of the same species, or an individual that is notably more aggressive than others of its own species, is given an entirely separate name by the natives and thought of as being of a form totally different from the more typical members of its species. Therefore it is certainly possible that, despite the Kikuyus’ firm denial, the damasia really is just a dark-coloured (pseudo-melanistic?) leopard.
Since genuine black (melanistic) leopards are on record from the Aberdares, it would be interesting to learn whether the natives class them as leopard or damasia. Alternatively, considering that the Aberdares’ primeval forests already house one mystery cat, in the form of the marozi, it is not inconceivable that they are hiding further zoological surprises too.
THE NDALAWO – BLACK-AND-GREY CRYPTO-CAT OF UGANDA
This Ugandan mystery carnivore was described by game warden Captain William Hichens in a Discovery article of December 1937 as follows: “…a fierce man-killing carnivore, the size and shape of a leopard, but with a black-furred back shading to grey below”. A ndalawo skin was actually procured on one occasion but was sent out of the country before it could receive formal scientific attention. Consequently, its identity was never ascertained, and its whereabouts are now unknown.
African wildlife authority Captain Charles Pitman had previously recorded in his book A Game Warden Among His Charges (1931) that the ndalawo seemed to be a “partly melanistic leopard” (note the word ‘partly’, indicating that it was not a normal black panther), practically devoid of spots but displaying a few typical leopard markings on the extremities and round the lower jaw. This more detailed description is reminiscent of that cited by Günther for P. pardus var. melanotica; certainly, pseudo-melanistic leopards have paler underparts, unlike the uniformly-dark melanistic black panthers.
Second view of the mounted pseudo-melanistic leopard at the Iziko South African Museum (© Lew Viergacht)
Based upon pelage considerations alone, it is not implausible that the ndalawo may indeed prove to be a pseudo-melanistic leopard (albeit a less showy version than those from South Africa). However, there is more than just its pelage to consider: the ndalawo exhibits some rather unexpected traits for a mere leopard. For example, it allegedly hunts in threes or fours, and whilst hunting it gives voice to a most peculiar laugh. These traits are indicative of a hyaena.
Yet as Hichens pointed out, the ndalawo is very greatly feared as an exceedingly ferocious beast, whereas even the oldest woman in a native kraal is more than prepared to shoo away a hyaena that comes too close. If the ndalawo is a form of leopard, it is a very unusual one; in fact, out of all of the black mystery cats of Africa discussed here, the ndalawo is surely the one most likely to represent a hitherto unknown felid species.

Vintage sepia photograph of the Iziko South African Museum’s mounted pseudo-melanistic leopard specimen as featured in The Mammals of South Africa, Vol 1 (1900), authored by the museum’s then-director, W.L. Sclater, and showing how much darker it was a century ago than it is today, light-induced fading having taken its toll down through the intervening decades (public domain); my sincere thanks to Facebook friend Velizar Simeonovski for kindly bringing this illustration to my attention.
OTHER PSEUDO-MELANISTIC BIG CATS
Pseudo-melanistic specimens have also been confirmed from other big cat species, most notably the tiger P. tigris, with several examples recorded from Similipal and elsewhere in India (although these are often referred to incorrectly as melanistic specimens by the media), as documented by me in various publications.
Exquisite painting of a pseudo-melanistic tiger in life as inspired by photographs of various pseudo-melanistic tiger pelts; produced specifically for me by William M. Rebsamen, it first appeared in an article of mine published by the now-defunct British monthly magazine All About Cats in its January-February 1999 issue, then again later that same year in my book Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999) (© William M. Rebsamen)
In addition, I once saw a close-up full-colour photograph of an exceedingly handsome pseudo-melanistic jaguar in captivity, but unfortunately I have no further details concerning this specimen.
AN ARTICLE OF MINE ON PSEUDO-MELANISTIC LEOPARDS
Finally: In addition to the above coverage directly excerpted and expanded from my Mystery Cats of the World book, I have also documented pseudo-melanistic leopards (albeit only briefly this time) in my second, more recent feline-themed book, Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery(2011), as well as in a two-page article published by All About Cats in its May-June 1997 issue. Within that article, I was granted exclusive permission by David Barnaby and Chris Moiser to reproduce a colour photograph snapped by them in August 1995 during their viewing of the mounted specimen at the Iziko South African Museum, which I did. Regrettably, however, as with my writings about such cats, this photo has since turned up on various websites but without any accompanying credit given to David and/or Chris (hence in my opinion it seems unlikely that their permission for such sites to use it has been obtained, or even sought).
For those of you who may not have seen my All About Cats article, here it is – please click on each of its two scanned pages to enlarge it for reading purposes.
My two-page All About Catsarticle from May-June 1997 on the subject of pseudo-melanism and melanism in leopards and other big cats (© Dr Karl Shuker)

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DELINEATING THE DARKER SIDE OF LEOPARDS – ARE SOME MYSTERY CATS PSEUDO-MELANISTIC?

by on Dec.05, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Chromolithograph from the PZSL, 3 March 1885, depicting the first Grahamstown pseudo-melanistic leopard as it would probably have looked in life, based upon its pelt’s appearance (public domain)
To date, my very first book, Mystery Cats of the World, originally published in 1989 and now long out of print (but not out of copyright, incidentally), has yet to be republished. Regrettably, however, considerable chunks of its content can be found in uncredited and sometimes extensively plagiarised form on the Net within a number of websites. Consequently, unless readers of those particular sites are already familiar with my book, they will probably be entirely unaware that it is the original source of such material.
To redress at least a portion of this very unfortunate and frustrating situation, I am therefore presenting herewith the full text from my book concerning one of the most eyecatching but rarest categories of feline enigmas on record. Namely, pseudo-melanistic leopards, and their potential relevance to the identity of certain cryptozoological cats. My book was the first to document this very intriguing, thought-provoking subject in detail, including the discovery of pseudo-melanistic leopard specimens in both Asia and Africa, but once again its coverage has since been copied profusely online by others yet with very varying degrees of associated acknowledgement. I am also expanding its coverage, by incorporating some additional information and illustrations that I have encountered with regard to such cats during the period of almost 30 years that has passed since my book was published.

A MYSTERY FROM MALABAR
In certain parts of Asia, black panthers (i.e. melanistic specimens of the leopard Panthera pardus constituting a visibly distinctive morph resulting from the expression of the recessive non-agouti mutant allele of the agouti gene and described in more detail later here) are more common than the normal, spotted wild-type morph of the leopard. Conversely, pseudo-melanistic individuals from this continent are exceedingly rare, so much so in fact that I have only ever read of one confirmed specimen. It was originally documented in 1915 by H.O. Collins, as referred to fully below, within the Bulletin of the South California Academy of Science. Here is its noteworthy history.

Normal spotted wild-type version of the leopard (© JanErkamp/Wikipedia – CC BY SA 3.0 licence)
One of the magnificent and mysterious feline skins on record was purchased in December 1912 by Holdridge Ozro Collins from G.A. Chambers of Madras [now Chennai], India. Its predominant colour was an elegant glossy black and was described in 1915 by Collins as follows:
The wide black portion, which glistens like the sheen of silk velvet, extends from the top of the head to the extremity of the tail entirely free from any white or tawny hairs.
He goes on to say:
In the tiger, the stripes are black, of an uniform character, upon a tawny background, and they run in parallel lines from the center of the back to the belly. In this skin, the stripes are almost golden yellow, without the uniformity and parallelism of the tiger characteristics, and they extend along the sides in labyrinthine graceful curls and circles, several inches below the wide shimmering black continuous course of the back. The extreme edges around the legs and belly are white and spotted like the skin of a leopard….The skin is larger than that of a Leopard but smaller than that of a full grown Tiger.
The cat had been killed in Malabar, south-western India, earlier in 1912, and so unusual was its exceedingly handsome skin that Chambers had been totally unable to classify it, so that he wondered whether it could actually represent some hitherto unknown form of felid. To obtain an answer, Chambers had sent it to Madras‘s Government Museum for official identification. He subsequently received a letter from J.R. Henderson of the museum, who stated that, although the species was certainly leopard, it constituted a variety that he had never before seen. Collins also sought scientific advice concerning its status, and learnt from Dr Gerrit S. Miller Jnr, curator of the Smithsonian Institution’s Division of Mammals in Washington DC, USA, that it was indeed a black leopard, but not of the normal melanistic type.
A normal melanistic leopard, aka black panther (© Qilinmon/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)
In fact, this remarkable skin was that of a pseudo-melanistic leopard, an extremely rare mutant known even today from only from a handful of specimens. In a normal melanistic leopard (i.e. black panther), its coat’s background colour is abnormally dark, but its coat’s rosettes are unchanged (so they can often still be spied in shadow-like form against its coat’s dark background colouration, rather like a pattern on watered silk, when viewed at certain angles and in certain lighting conditions). Conversely, in a pseudo-melanistic leopard its coat’s background colour is normal (orange-yellow) but is largely obliterated by abnormal fusion (nigrism) and multiplication (abundism) of the rosettes.
In extreme cases of pseudo-melanism, as demonstrated by Collins’s specimen, this fusion and multiplication of the rosettes can be so extensive that virtually the entire upper body is covered in a solid mass of black colouration, with only occasional gaps present through which its coat’s normal background colour is visible (appearing as orange streaks or spots). Faced with such a bizarre skin, it is little wonder that its owners had wondered whether it constituted a major zoological discovery.
King cheetah (© Steve Jurvetson/Wikipedia/Flickr – CC BY 2.0 licence)
Incidentally, less extreme occurrences of nigrism and abundism in the cheetah Acinonyx jubatus are responsible for the ornately striped and blotched pelage of a rare but very distinctive morph dubbed the king cheetah Acinonyx jubatus var. rex, which was once mistakenly thought to be a separate species from the normal spotted version. There are also a few visibly-comparable leopard counterparts to this cheetah variety on record, which I have duly referred to in my writings as king leopards. One Indian specimen, recorded as recently as 2012 from the Parambikulam forests in Kerala’s Palakkad district, has sometimes been referred to online as a pseudo-melanistic leopard but its extent of abundism and nigrism is much less pronounced than that of the Malabar specimen or any of the Grahamstown specimens discussed below – instead, it is a classic king leopard.
A BEWILDERMENT OF BLACK LEOPARDS IN AFRICA
Surprisingly, and in stark contrast to the extremely abundant black panther of Asia, very few records exist of melanistic leopards in Africa. Considering that this latter continent has numerous localities whose habitats and climate correspond closely with those in Asia that support black panthers, the reason for this anomaly is quite obscure. In fact, the only areas from which true (i.e. non-agouti) melanistic leopards have been recorded with certainty are Ethiopia and Cameroon, plus the forests of Mount Kenya and Kenya‘s Aberdares mountains.
Yet, if we also take heed of the many unconfirmed reports of predominantly black, leopard-like cats from several other African regions, it would seem that African panthers of one form or another are (or were) more widespread – and varied – than science supposes.
SOUTH AFRICA‘S MELANOTIC MYSTERY CATS
A mysterious felid of quite remarkable appearance was killed by a Mr F. Bowker during the early 1880s in a hilly, scrub-covered district 40 miles northeast of Grahamstown, in South Africa‘s Eastern Cape Province, and its flat skin was sent by him to German-born British zoologist Dr Albert Günther at London‘s Natural History Museum, where it remains today. Its coat’s background colour was tawny, brightening to a rich orange gloss on the shoulders. Rosettes were virtually absent, being replaced mostly by numerous small separate spots, but these had coalesced dorsally to yield an unbroken expanse of black, stretching from its head right along to its tail base. In contrast to this specimen’s richly hued upperparts, however, its underparts were principally white with large black spots, as in typical leopards, and it also bore the facial markings characteristic of this species. Its total length was 6 ft 7 in (including a 2.5- ft tail).
Dr Albert Günther (public domain)
Günther had initially entertained the possibility that this singular cat was actually a naturally-occurring leopard-lioness hybrid. However, as he reported on 3 March 1885 in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, his detailed examination of its skin had ultimately revealed certain very specific but taxonomically significant features which, in combination with its already-noted leopard features, persuaded him that, despite its exotic colour scheme, its owner had indeed been nothing more than a leopard after all – albeit of a very spectacular pseudo-melanistic variety (and comparable with the Malabar specimen noted earlier in this ShukerNature blog article).
A year later, Günther received a second, even darker, glossier flat skin from a specimen of this same pseudo-melanistic variety, which had been shot at Collingham, approximately 20 miles from Grahamstown, and subsequently presented as a donation to London‘s Natural History Museum by its then-owner Reverend Nendrick Abraham (President of the Grahamstown Natural History Society). Utilising the detailed account contained in Abraham’s accompanying letter, Günther formally documented this skin on 6 April 1886, once again in the Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London.
B/w photograph from the PZSL, 6 April 1886, of the flat skin from Abraham’s Collingham-derived pseudo-melanistic leopard (public domain)
At least seven other, less striking pseudo-melanistic examples have been recorded (although, tragically, some of these no longer exist), including two pelts and sightings of two living specimens as reported by Abraham in his letter to Günther, but only from South Africa’s Eastern Cape Province and none at all since the 20thCentury’s opening decade, as documented in 1987 by Dr Jack Skead (a former director of the Kaffrarian Museum in King William’s Town) within a major review entitled Historical Mammal Incidence in the Eastern Cape. Skead’s work was brought to my attention via some references to it in a CFZ Yearbook 1997article on these exotic-looking leopards authored by Chris Moiser, who with fellow wildlife writer David Barnaby had viewed and photographed a mounted specimen at the Izoko South African Museum in Cape Town two years earlier.
In his PZSL report for 3 March 1885 concerning Bowker’s pelt, Günther had dubbed this spectacular pseudo-melanistic leopard variety Felis leopardus [=Panthera pardus] var. melanotica. As a result, sometimes these extremely unusual felids are alternatively termed melanotic leopards.
As noted above, the Izoko South African Museum in Cape Town famously has on display a mounted specimen of a pseudo-melanistic leopard. In his CFZ Yearbook 1997 article, Chris Moiser revealed that this was purchased from a professional taxidermist based in Grahamstown in November 1898, and had apparently been shot 15.5 miles south of that town. Although somewhat faded with age nowadays, appearing brown rather than black, it is still visually arresting, as seen here:
The mounted pseudo-melanistic leopard on display at the Iziko South African Museum in Cape Town (© Lew Viergacht)
My sincere thanks to Lew Viergacht for so kindly making his two excellent photographs of this remarkable specimen available to me for inclusion in this ShukerNature blog article.
THE DAMASIA – DARK LEOPARD OR NEW SPECIES?
Well worth considering is whether a comparable variety could be the explanation for a still-unidentified African felid known as the damasia, which dwells – not surprisingly? – in Kenya’s Aberdares [already documented in my book as the home of a controversial, diminutive form of spotted lion known as the marozi, as well as melanistic leopards, i.e. black panthers].
The damasia was referred to in a letter sent to The Field by G. Hamilton-Snowball and published on 9 October 1948, concerning his sighting of spotted lions on these mountains. In it, he also recalled that during the 1920s he had shot a creature that he had taken to be a leopard, albeit a very large, dark specimen. Yet when his Kikuyu attendants saw it, they announced that it was not a chui (leopard) but a damasia, and that a damasia was as different from a leopard as a simba (lion) was from a marozi. Apparently the damasia is well known to the Aberdares natives but is always mistaken by non-locals for a leopard.
Painting of a pair of marozis or Kenyan spotted lions, based upon a preserved skin and eyewitness descriptions (© William M. Rebsamen)
Tropical Africa’s native tribes frequently classify animals by way of criteria very different from those used by scientists. Often an individual animal that is of a colour or size different from that of normal specimens of the same species, or an individual that is notably more aggressive than others of its own species, is given an entirely separate name by the natives and thought of as being of a form totally different from the more typical members of its species. Therefore it is certainly possible that, despite the Kikuyus’ firm denial, the damasia really is just a dark-coloured (pseudo-melanistic?) leopard.
Since genuine black (melanistic) leopards are on record from the Aberdares, it would be interesting to learn whether the natives class them as leopard or damasia. Alternatively, considering that the Aberdares’ primeval forests already house one mystery cat, in the form of the marozi, it is not inconceivable that they are hiding further zoological surprises too.
THE NDALAWO – BLACK-AND-GREY CRYPTO-CAT OF UGANDA
This Ugandan mystery carnivore was described by game warden Captain William Hichens in a Discovery article of December 1937 as follows: “…a fierce man-killing carnivore, the size and shape of a leopard, but with a black-furred back shading to grey below”. A ndalawo skin was actually procured on one occasion but was sent out of the country before it could receive formal scientific attention. Consequently, its identity was never ascertained, and its whereabouts are now unknown.
African wildlife authority Captain Charles Pitman had previously recorded in his book A Game Warden Among His Charges (1931) that the ndalawo seemed to be a “partly melanistic leopard” (note the word ‘partly’, indicating that it was not a normal black panther), practically devoid of spots but displaying a few typical leopard markings on the extremities and round the lower jaw. This more detailed description is reminiscent of that cited by Günther for P. pardus var. melanotica; certainly, pseudo-melanistic leopards have paler underparts, unlike the uniformly-dark melanistic black panthers.
Second view of the mounted pseudo-melanistic leopard at the Iziko South African Museum (© Lew Viergacht)
Based upon pelage considerations alone, it is not implausible that the ndalawo may indeed prove to be a pseudo-melanistic leopard (albeit a less showy version than those from South Africa). However, there is more than just its pelage to consider: the ndalawo exhibits some rather unexpected traits for a mere leopard. For example, it allegedly hunts in threes or fours, and whilst hunting it gives voice to a most peculiar laugh. These traits are indicative of a hyaena.
Yet as Hichens pointed out, the ndalawo is very greatly feared as an exceedingly ferocious beast, whereas even the oldest woman in a native kraal is more than prepared to shoo away a hyaena that comes too close. If the ndalawo is a form of leopard, it is a very unusual one; in fact, out of all of the black mystery cats of Africa discussed here, the ndalawo is surely the one most likely to represent a hitherto unknown felid species.

Vintage sepia photograph of the Iziko South African Museum’s mounted pseudo-melanistic leopard specimen as featured in The Mammals of South Africa, Vol 1 (1900), authored by the museum’s then-director, W.L. Sclater, and showing how much darker it was a century ago than it is today, light-induced fading having taken its toll down through the intervening decades (public domain); my sincere thanks to Facebook friend Velizar Simeonovski for kindly bringing this illustration to my attention.
OTHER PSEUDO-MELANISTIC BIG CATS
Pseudo-melanistic specimens have also been confirmed from other big cat species, most notably the tiger P. tigris, with several examples recorded from Similipal and elsewhere in India (although these are often referred to incorrectly as melanistic specimens by the media), as documented by me in various publications.
Exquisite painting of a pseudo-melanistic tiger in life as inspired by photographs of various pseudo-melanistic tiger pelts; produced specifically for me by William M. Rebsamen, it first appeared in an article of mine published by the now-defunct British monthly magazine All About Cats in its January-February 1999 issue, then again later that same year in my book Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999) (© William M. Rebsamen)
In addition, I once saw a close-up full-colour photograph of an exceedingly handsome pseudo-melanistic jaguar in captivity, but unfortunately I have no further details concerning this specimen.
AN ARTICLE OF MINE ON PSEUDO-MELANISTIC LEOPARDS
Finally: In addition to the above coverage directly excerpted and expanded from my Mystery Cats of the World book, I have also documented pseudo-melanistic leopards (albeit only briefly this time) in my second, more recent feline-themed book, Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery(2011), as well as in a two-page article published by All About Cats in its May-June 1997 issue. Within that article, I was granted exclusive permission by David Barnaby and Chris Moiser to reproduce a colour photograph snapped by them in August 1995 during their viewing of the mounted specimen at the Iziko South African Museum, which I did. Regrettably, however, as with my writings about such cats, this photo has since turned up on various websites but without any accompanying credit given to David and/or Chris (hence in my opinion it seems unlikely that their permission for such sites to use it has been obtained, or even sought).
For those of you who may not have seen my All About Cats article, here it is – please click on each of its two scanned pages to enlarge it for reading purposes.
My two-page All About Catsarticle from May-June 1997 on the subject of pseudo-melanism and melanism in leopards and other big cats (© Dr Karl Shuker)

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THE GIANT ANT GODS OF KLUMPOK, AND THE SPIDER MONSTER OF SUNDRA STRAIT – THEY REALLY WERE ‘STRANGER THAN PEOPLE’ !

by on Nov.03, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Stunning artwork from ‘Klumpok’ in Stranger Than People (© YWP – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
It is always fascinating and often truly eye-opening to learn about and reflect upon books read by a person during their childhood that had such an impact upon them that these volumes subsequently influenced that person’s entire future career. In my case, I owe a great deal to two very different but equally influential books, one of which is much better known than the other. The former is Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s classic cryptozoology tome On the Track of Unknown Animals, whose seismic impact upon my life I have already blogged about on ShukerNature (click here to read my account of how this came to be).
The second book, conversely, is a no-less-wonderful but sadly long-since-forgotten one. It is a compendium of famous true-life and fictitious mysteries entitled Stranger Than People – and here is what I wrote about it in the introduction to one of my own compendia of mysteries, Dr Shuker’s Casebook (2008):
It is well known that my passion for cryptozoology was ignited by the 1972 Paladin paperback reprint of Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s classic tome On the Track of Unknown Animals, bought for me as a birthday present by my mother when I was around 13 years old. However, my interest in mysterious phenomena as a whole stemmed from an even earlier present – a copy of Stranger Than People, an enthralling compendium of mysteries from fact and fiction, published in 1968 by YWP, and aimed at older children and teenagers, which I saw one day in the Walsall branch of W.H. Smith when I was 8 or 9 years old, and was duly purchased for me as usual by my mother.
Within its informative, beautifully-illustrated pages I read with fascination – and fear – about Nessie and the kraken, vampires and werewolves, the Colossus of Rhodes and Von Kempelen’s mechanical chess player, dinosaurs and the minotaur, witches and zombies, yetis and mermaids, leprechauns and trolls, Herne the Hunter and Moby Dick, giants and the cyclops, feral children, the psychic powers of Edgar Cayce, and lots more. It even included two original – and quite superb – sci-fi short stories: ‘Klumpok’, about giant ant-like statues found on Mars and what happened when one of them was brought back to Earth; and ‘The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait’, in which a giant transparent globe containing an enormous spider-like entity rises up out of the ocean; plus a thrilling (and chilling) fantasy tale, ‘Devil Tiger’, featuring a royal but malevolent weretiger that could only be killed with a golden bullet.
Needless to say, I re-read the poor book so many times that it quite literally fell apart, and was eventually discarded by my parents. After I discovered its loss, I spent many years scouring every bookshop for another copy, but none could be found. Not even Hay-on-Wye – world-famous as ‘The Town of Books’ with over 40 secondhand bookshops – could oblige. A few years ago, however, the Library Angel was clearly at work, because one Tuesday, walking into the bric-a-brac market held on that day each week in my home town of Wednesbury, on the very first stall that I approached I saw a near-pristine copy of Stranger Than People! Needless to say, I bought it, and to this day it remains the only copy that I have ever seen since my original one.
Holding the two books that sparked my lifelong interest in cryptozoology and other subjects of mystery – Stranger Than People, on the right, and the Paladin paperback edition of Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s On the Track of Unknown Animals, on the left (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Tragically, however, this superb book did not appear to have had a very large print run, was never reprinted, and as noted earlier it is nowadays long-forgotten and very scarce. Indeed, due to this book’s great rarity today, it occurred to me that few people will have been fortunate enough to have ever read those marvellous, original short science-fiction stories from it that I mentioned above, yet which remain among my own personal favourites within that genre.
My much-treasured second copy of Stranger Than People (© YWP/Dr Karl Shuker – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
Consequently, after almost 50 years and for the very first time anywhere on the internet, utilising the Fair Dealing/Fair Use convention I was delighted to be able to rectify this sad situation a while ago by presenting two of them on ShukerNature’s sister blog, The Eclectarium of Doctor Shuker, in the context of review.
The Contents page from Stranger Than People, revealing the wonderfully diverse and fascinating array of subjects documented within this amazing book – please click to enlarge for reading purposes (© YWP – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
So for any of you reading this article of mine here on ShukerNature but for some inexplicable reason have never visited my Eclectarium before (shame on you, shame, I say!), just click here to access scans in the form of readily-readable enlargements of the original pages from Stranger Than People for ‘Klumpok’, and herefor those for ‘The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait’ (and yes, it is spelled ‘Sundra’, not ‘Sunda’, in the story, although whether by accident or design I cannot say).
I hope that you enjoy encountering the giant ant gods of Klumpok and the Sundra Strait‘s globe-encapsulated spider monster just as much as I did – and still do.
The deadly globe-encapsulated yellow monster of Sundra Straitas depicted in spectacular artwork from Stranger Than People (© YWP – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
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THE GIANT ANT GODS OF KLUMPOK, AND THE SPIDER MONSTER OF SUNDRA STRAIT – THEY REALLY WERE ‘STRANGER THAN PEOPLE’ !

by on Nov.03, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Stunning artwork from ‘Klumpok’ in Stranger Than People (© YWP – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
It is always fascinating and often truly eye-opening to learn about and reflect upon books read by a person during their childhood that had such an impact upon them that these volumes subsequently influenced that person’s entire future career. In my case, I owe a great deal to two very different but equally influential books, one of which is much better known than the other. The former is Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s classic cryptozoology tome On the Track of Unknown Animals, whose seismic impact upon my life I have already blogged about on ShukerNature (click here to read my account of how this came to be).
The second book, conversely, is a no-less-wonderful but sadly long-since-forgotten one. It is a compendium of famous true-life and fictitious mysteries entitled Stranger Than People – and here is what I wrote about it in the introduction to one of my own compendia of mysteries, Dr Shuker’s Casebook (2008):
It is well known that my passion for cryptozoology was ignited by the 1972 Paladin paperback reprint of Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s classic tome On the Track of Unknown Animals, bought for me as a birthday present by my mother when I was around 13 years old. However, my interest in mysterious phenomena as a whole stemmed from an even earlier present – a copy of Stranger Than People, an enthralling compendium of mysteries from fact and fiction, published in 1968 by YWP, and aimed at older children and teenagers, which I saw one day in the Walsall branch of W.H. Smith when I was 8 or 9 years old, and was duly purchased for me as usual by my mother.
Within its informative, beautifully-illustrated pages I read with fascination – and fear – about Nessie and the kraken, vampires and werewolves, the Colossus of Rhodes and Von Kempelen’s mechanical chess player, dinosaurs and the minotaur, witches and zombies, yetis and mermaids, leprechauns and trolls, Herne the Hunter and Moby Dick, giants and the cyclops, feral children, the psychic powers of Edgar Cayce, and lots more. It even included two original – and quite superb – sci-fi short stories: ‘Klumpok’, about giant ant-like statues found on Mars and what happened when one of them was brought back to Earth; and ‘The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait’, in which a giant transparent globe containing an enormous spider-like entity rises up out of the ocean; plus a thrilling (and chilling) fantasy tale, ‘Devil Tiger’, featuring a royal but malevolent weretiger that could only be killed with a golden bullet.
Needless to say, I re-read the poor book so many times that it quite literally fell apart, and was eventually discarded by my parents. After I discovered its loss, I spent many years scouring every bookshop for another copy, but none could be found. Not even Hay-on-Wye – world-famous as ‘The Town of Books’ with over 40 secondhand bookshops – could oblige. A few years ago, however, the Library Angel was clearly at work, because one Tuesday, walking into the bric-a-brac market held on that day each week in my home town of Wednesbury, on the very first stall that I approached I saw a near-pristine copy of Stranger Than People! Needless to say, I bought it, and to this day it remains the only copy that I have ever seen since my original one.
Holding the two books that sparked my lifelong interest in cryptozoology and other subjects of mystery – Stranger Than People, on the right, and the Paladin paperback edition of Dr Bernard Heuvelmans’s On the Track of Unknown Animals, on the left (© Dr Karl Shuker)
Tragically, however, this superb book did not appear to have had a very large print run, was never reprinted, and as noted earlier it is nowadays long-forgotten and very scarce. Indeed, due to this book’s great rarity today, it occurred to me that few people will have been fortunate enough to have ever read those marvellous, original short science-fiction stories from it that I mentioned above, yet which remain among my own personal favourites within that genre.
My much-treasured second copy of Stranger Than People (© YWP/Dr Karl Shuker – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
Consequently, after almost 50 years and for the very first time anywhere on the internet, utilising the Fair Dealing/Fair Use convention I was delighted to be able to rectify this sad situation a while ago by presenting two of them on ShukerNature’s sister blog, The Eclectarium of Doctor Shuker, in the context of review.
The Contents page from Stranger Than People, revealing the wonderfully diverse and fascinating array of subjects documented within this amazing book – please click to enlarge for reading purposes (© YWP – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
So for any of you reading this article of mine here on ShukerNature but for some inexplicable reason have never visited my Eclectarium before (shame on you, shame, I say!), just click here to access scans in the form of readily-readable enlargements of the original pages from Stranger Than People for ‘Klumpok’, and herefor those for ‘The Yellow Monster of Sundra Strait’ (and yes, it is spelled ‘Sundra’, not ‘Sunda’, in the story, although whether by accident or design I cannot say).
I hope that you enjoy encountering the giant ant gods of Klumpok and the Sundra Strait‘s globe-encapsulated spider monster just as much as I did – and still do.
The deadly globe-encapsulated yellow monster of Sundra Straitas depicted in spectacular artwork from Stranger Than People (© YWP – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis for review purposes only)
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MORE PICTURES OF MONKEY BUSINESS? – DOES AT LEAST ONE OF THE ‘LOST’ AMERANTHROPOIDES LOYSI PHOTOGRAPHS EXIST?

by on Nov.02, 2017, under Syndicated from the Web

Reposted from ShukerNature | Go to Original Post

Could there be a ‘lost’ Ameranthropoides loysi photograph out there somewhere, awaiting rediscovery and looking something like this? (original photograph © Attilio Gatti, utilised here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis only; photo-manipulation © Dr Karl Shuker)
Earlier this year, I posted here on ShukerNature an extensive two-part article of mine concerning Ameranthropoides loysi, the supposed bipedal, tailless ape encountered and shot dead in the Venezuelan jungle in 1920 by a team of geologists led by Dr François de Loys, but whose carcase was subsequently propped upright on a crate in a sitting position and photographed – the resulting picture becoming one of the most iconic but contentious images in the entire annals of cryptozoology, and which was finally, conclusively exposed as a blatant hoax earlier this present century. To read my article on ShukerNature, please click herefor Part 1 and here for Part 2.
One of the many curious aspects of this case that had already raised suspicions among its more sceptical investigators several decades before the true nature of the creature in the photograph was finally exposed, however, was why only a single photograph existed of such an ostensibly momentous zoological discovery as a South American ape. In particular, critics queried why no photos had been snapped of the creature’s back view, in order to confirm that it was naturally (not artificially) tailless, as claimed by de Loys, and as seen in all Old World apes.
In response, as noted in my earlier article, de Loys had explained away this anomalous situation by alleging that there had indeed been more photographs but that only the famous one known today had survived a subsequent capsizing of the boat that had been carrying them and its crew down a river – the other photos had all been lost. How convenient.
The familiar background-cropped version of the only known photograph of de Loys’s supposed ‘ape’ – in reality nothing more than the deftly-posed body of his pet marimonda spider monkey that had died recently at the team’s camp and whose tail had earlier been amputated after it had become infected (public domain)
In view of how de Loys had hoaxed the world for so long with that single photograph, it is not surprising that today few people believe that any other photos had ever even been taken, let alone lost. Yet if some additional pictures had indeed existed and had actually survived, especially any that portrayed some of de Loys’s party standing alongside the carcase, that would have provided a much clearer guide to the creature’s size. True, it would still have been only a marimonda spider monkey, but who knows, it might have been an unusually large specimen and therefore worthy of note in its own right.
In fact, as I discovered to my great surprise while researching the complicated case of Ameranthropoides, and in flagrant disregard of de Loys’s claim to the contrary, at least one such photo might truly have survived. Not only that, in a fascinating scenario readily recalling the equally tantalising case of the supposedly missing thunderbird photograph, it may actually have been published – judging from the fact that I have on file the testimonies of several wholly independent but highly qualified eyewitnesses who all claim to have seen it! First made public by me in a series of accounts published in Strange Magazine and Fortean Times, read them all here now, and then judge for yourself.
Back in the late 1990s, Dr Susan M. Ford was an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies at Southern Illinois University’s Department of Anthropology. During correspondence in November 1997 concerning Ameranthropoides, Dr Ford informed me that sometime in the early 1980s a student had shown her a popular-format wildlife book that included a spread containing an Ameranthropoides photograph – but not the famous one reproduced by me in this present article in both cropped and uncropped form, and which, as already noted here, is the only such photo presently known to cryptozoologists. According to her recollection of the photo, it was:
…a black and white photo of the animal (looking a lot like a big spider monkey), dead, propped between two native males who were standing. They appeared to be adult but of possibly short stature; I recall no scale in the picture or reference in the text to the height of the humans. It was a chapter specifically dealing with this animal, in a book about unusual animal discoveries. I seem to recall it being hard bound with a dark cover, and not a large or thick book. It was small [in a separate communication she suggested that it was possibly 100 pages long, probably had an 8″ x 6″ format, and was a rather old book], the size perhaps of an average journal today. I recall neither title nor author of the book…I can visualize the picture quite clearly, however, and there were two males on either side of the dead monkey.
The native men were presumably two of the geological expedition’s local Indian helpers. As for the student who showed Dr Ford the book, she could no longer remember who this was.
A marimonda spider monkey, the true identity of Loy’s ‘ape’ (© Ewa-Flickr/Wikipedia – CC BY 2.0 licence)
Moving from one side of the Atlantic to the other, I also learned in 1997 from Scottish-born zoo keeper Alan Pringle that one of his colleagues, education officer Jon Flynn at Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park in Somerset, was convinced that several years previously, he too had seen a photograph of de Loys’s ape that included some men standing on either side of it. Unfortunately, however, he could not recall any details of the publication containing this picture.
Furthermore, in a letter to me of 15 January 1998, Steven Shipp, who was at that time the proprietor of the Sidmouth-based mail order book service Midnight Books, wrote:
I am certain that I too have seen a picture of this monkey flanked by two people! My first thought when I saw the photograph [the familiar cropped version] (before reading the text) was why has it been cropped, leaving out the people either side? Then I read the article and realised it was a different photograph! I believe that I saw the picture in one of those mysteries anthologies covering all aspects of the unexplained – probably during the time I would have been buying books for the catalogue [Steven’s own mail order catalogue of books for sale] – so that pins it down to the last nine years! It may have been in an older book as Susan Ford says but I am sure it was in a big format, well illustrated book. Of course I cannot remember which. But I will certainly keep an eye out for it again and let you know immediately if I locate it. I don’t believe this is a case of my memory deceiving me as I can clearly see the image in my mind’s eye.
Several months after receiving Steven Shipp’s communication, I received a letter on this same subject from Lawrence Brennan, hailing from Liverpool, which (curiously) was dated 31 June 1998! (I am assuming that he meant 30 June.) Anyway: in his letter, Lawrence was adamant that he too had seen such a photograph – so much so that until reading my account on this subject, he had no idea that there was any mystery surrounding it. According to his testimony, he saw it in a book when he was aged around 13-15; and as he was 30 at the time of his letter to me, this means that the book had been published no later than the early 1980s.
The photo depicted de Loys’s ‘ape’ sitting upright on a crate, flanked by at least two humans – who were also sitting, one on either side of it, and likewise presumably on crates, as they seemed to be of comparable height to the ape. At least one of the humans may have been dressed in what Lawrence referred to as “full ‘Great White Hunter’ garb”, with a rifle resting in his hands, but he was not absolutely certain of this because, as he pointed out: “The ape is obviously the thing you tend to concentrate on and remember!”. He went on to say that there were possibly other persons, probably natives, standing behind, and he reiterated that the creature was of similar size to the humans.
As for the book that contained this photo: Lawrence claimed that his father had obtained it for him from the local library, and that its subject was man-beasts from around the world. He believed that the book was entitled something like “Giants Walk the Earth”, or “There are Giants Among Us”, and was certain that the word ‘Giants’ featured in it somewhere.
There are Giants in the Earth, by Michael Grumley (© Michael Grumley/Panther Books – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis only)
Needless to say, as soon as I read this, I immediately thought of the book by Michael Grumley entitled There are Giants in the Earth, first published in 1975, which is indeed a book surveying man-beasts worldwide, including de Loys’s ‘ape’. I lost no time in seizing my own copy of this volume from my cryptozoology bookshelves, and painstakingly going through it – how ironic (and embarrassing!) it would be if the ‘missing’ photo proved to be in a book that I actually owned!
Consequently, it was with somewhat mixed feelings that I ascertained that it was not present in the book. True, the familiar photo of Ameranthropoides was included, but far from showing anyone standing alongside the ape, it had been so extensively cropped for publication in this particular book that the creature’s hands, feet, and even the top of its head had been cut off! Another dead end.
Rough mock-up of what a photograph snapped at the same time as the familiar one but featuring a western ‘big game’ hunter and some smaller, native hunters alongside Loys’s ‘ape’ sitting upright on a crate might look like (original photograph © Attilio Gatti, utilised here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis only; photo-manipulation © Dr Karl Shuker)
In October 1998, I received a letter from Robert Hill of Cardiff, Wales, who claimed to have seen a photograph of de Loys’s ape with two persons alongside it when he was younger than twelve, i.e. before November 1976. He was sure of this because he remembered seeing it while he was on one of his childhood holidays in Porthcawl, South Wales. He looked at it while inside a newsagent’s shop or bookstore, and, interestingly, he went on to say: “It sticks in my mind because I had just bought (or had bought for me) a copy of There are Giants in the Earth by Michael Grumley (which I still have!)”.
Robert’s statement is important, demonstrating independently of my own search through it that Grumley’s book and the book containing the mystery photograph are indeed different, notwithstanding Lawrence Brennan’s thoughts regarding the latter’s title. It also pinpoints Robert’s sighting of the mystery photo to the years 1975-76 (1975 being the publication date of Grumley’s book, which he had received beforeseeing the mystery book; and 1976 being the last year in which, until November, he was still less than 12 years old).
Robert believed that the publication in which he saw it was a wildlife book of some sort. Moreover, since seeing it he had always assumed (until reading one of my afore-mentioned magazine accounts) that the familiar photograph depicting the ape by itself was simply a cropped version of the picture that he had seen in the mysterious wildlife book encountered by him all those years ago in Wales.
Echoing comments by Steven Shipp and Robert Hill, when I first began investigating the mystery of the ‘lost’ Ameranthropoides photograph(s) I too had initially speculated that perhaps the explanation was simply that the familiar Ameranthropoidesphoto was indeed a cropped image, which had originally contained people standing on either side of the animal, i.e. that the ‘lost’ photo was merely the original, uncropped version of the familiar one.
However, I subsequently recalled having seen a copy of the familiar picture in its rarely reproduced, uncropped form – it appeared in the 1995 reprint of Heuvelmans’s On the Track of Unknown Animals, which contains several pictures not present in the original edition from 1958. It is also reproduced below – and as can readily be seen, there are no people in it.
The uncropped version of de Loys’s famous Ameranthropoides loysi photograph (public domain)
In view of the above-quoted testimonies, I feel that there really could be a second ‘missing’ Ameranthropoides photograph somewhere out there, inconspicuously residing amid the vast worldwide library of wildlife literature – and also, I would assume, held (apparently without knowledge of its cryptozoological value) in one or two picture libraries. Who knows – there may even have been others too.
De Loys’s own account of encountering the creature and its mate first appeared as an article in the Illustrated London News on 15 June 1929, with the famous photograph as its illustration. One plausible scenario that comes to mind is that when de Loys sent in his article to the ILN, he submitted with it not just one but a selection of photos from which the magazine’s picture editor could select the most eyecatching example with which to illustrate it – a common enough occurrence in publishing. Judging from Dr Ford’s account, the second, ‘lost’ photo, depicting the creature’s dead carcase supported between two men, would be less dramatic, and certainly less photogenic, than the famous photo, depicting the creature by itself, deftly propped upright in quite a life-like pose by the long slender pole.
Consequently, if both of these images were indeed submitted (and perhaps others, too, maybe even depicting the geologists alongside it in similar poses to those adopted by the native men, and also showing the creature from the back as well as the front?), it can be readily appreciated why the now-famous photograph would have been the one selected for reproduction. The other(s) would normally have been returned to de Loys, but what if they were mislaid somehow, going astray, and were therefore never returned? Where might they be now?
There is, of course, another, decidedly different interpretation of this tantalising case, one with which devotees of the long-running saga of the missing thunderbird photograph will be only too familiar. For, just as with that latter ‘lost’ crypto-image, sceptics will no doubt claim that such a photo never existed – that it is merely a figment of the imagination, or is a half-remembered, distorted memory of some superficially similar picture.
Might some early photograph such as this one, from 1912, depicting two native hunters holding upright a very large dead chimpanzee (now known to be one of the elusive Bili apes), have elicited false memories of a comparable but non-existent photo featuring Ameranthropoides loysi? (public domain)
Certainly, just as there are many early pictures in existence of large birds with their wings outstretched that mirror the alleged thunderbird photograph, so too are there numerous early pictures of hunters standing alongside carcases or stuffed specimens of gorillas and other large primates that might conceivably be capable of generating false memories of Ameranthropoides images with some eyewitnesses.
Moreover, in a letter to me of 12 January 1998, Alan Gardiner of West Sussex, England, even nominated, as a possible false-memory trigger, a famous hoax photograph consisting of a photomontage that depicts a supposed alien bipedal entity flanked by two government agents (in reality, this picture was part of a satirical section making fun of UFO/aliens hysteria that was published by the German photo-magazine Neue Illustrierte in its 1 April 1950 issue).
The above-mentioned hoax ‘alien’ photograph published on 1 April 1950 by Neue IllustrierteNeue Illustrierte – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis only)
Could a distant, confused or mis-remembered memory of one such photograph explain why my correspondents believe that they have seen a second, currently unknown photo of Ameranthropoides? An intriguing variation on this theme was proffered by Argentinian biologist Mariano Moldes in a letter to me of 2 February 1998. Discounting the false memory scenario, he suggested that what may have happened is as follows:
The book alluded to by them [the eyewitnesses of the missing photograph] probably existed and had a chapter on Ameranthropoides loysi – illustrated with a wrong photograph. It’s quite common that laypeople in charge of editorial technical tasks mistake similar illustrations on a subject, and the frequency of such an event increases with decreasing general quality of the publication. Dr Ford says that it was a “rather old” book with forgettable author and title. It’s true that the witnesses couldn’t have mistaken an allusion to a well-known simian…But what if they saw a bad photograph of, say, a bonobo chimp (Pan paniscus) or a siamang (genus Symphalangus) surrounded by misleading text?
All of the above-proposed explanations undeniably have merit, but in this particular instance I consider them unsatisfactory. After all, the missing photograph’s eyewitnesses whose vocations are known to me include a wildlife education officer, a highly-qualified university anthropologist, and a dealer in cryptozoology books – hardly the kinds of eyewitness likely to suffer problems in distinguishing (or subsequently remembering) photos of gorillas and other extremely familiar primates from that of a highly distinctive, wholly unfamiliar beast resembling an exceptionally large ape-like spider monkey.
Mariano Moldes’s suggestion has more merit – I am certainly aware of many instances, especially in older wildlife books, in which photos have been wrongly identified, or a section of text concerning a particular species has been accompanied by a photo of the wrong species. Even so, I still consider it unlikely that those eyewitnesses with zoology-related expertise would fail to spot such a mistake.
Consequently, I am currently willing to believe that a second Ameranthropoides photo may indeed exist, concealed somewhere amid the world’s vast archives of wildlife literature. Perhaps there is someone reading this present ShukerNature blog article of mine who has seen a ‘lost’ Ameranthropoides photo, or knows where such an image has been published. If so, I would greatly welcome any information that you may wish to send to me – many thanks indeed! Clearly, even though the history of Ameranthropoides loysi is nowadays totally discredited as a hoax, it may still be capable of offering up some genuine surprises.
A different time, a different outlook: the original vintage photograph – featuring Italian explorer Attilio Gatti, two Congolese pygmies, and a hunting-trophy gorilla – that I photo-manipulated to create the mock-up photo of Ameranthropoides loysi with people alongside it (original photograph © Attilio Gatti, utilised here on a strictly non-commercial, educational Fair Use basis only; photo-manipulation © Dr Karl Shuker)
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