The Top 10 Cryptozoology Stories of 2009
The general public and media were captivated in 2008 by stories of an alleged Bigfoot in ice, which was quickly revealed to be a costume. In contrast, perhaps in reaction to last year, exploration, historical appreciation, and baseline work were at the forefront of this year’s top cryptozoology stories. The communiques for 2009 were highlighted by several searches for hidden species, some surprising discoveries, the public opening of a museum, sighting series, and other events that turned this into quite a year for cryptozoology. It certainly was an upbeat way to end the decade.
Welcome to this year’s top stories in cryptozoology (the study of unknown or hidden, as yet to be verified, animals, i.e. cryptids). Compared to previous years in the ’00s, the news items were rather positive, if not sometimes only to be found in the strange and offbeat sections of your media samplers.
This year’s annual picks are cryptozoological events that became newsworthy or were announced during 2009 (even though, as actual discoveries, they may have happened in an earlier year or years).
The following are the top cryptid-related tidbits of most interest to the public, cryptozoologists, Bigfooters, fans, friends, foes, and the media during the last year. The stories may not be the most groundbreaking, but they include some that garnered the largest media reaction and greatest public discussions concerning our favorite field of study, for 2009.
This was a year in which cryptozoology continued to impact popular culture, but in a much more calm fashion than recent years’ hysterics.
Enjoy the quest.
1. Cryptozoology Expeditions Explored The World
Asian Yeti, Sumatran Orang Pendek, Siberian Snowman, American Bigfoot and Canadian/Scottish Lake Monster expeditions dominated cryptozoology media this year. Organized, sponsored search parties were in the field often during 2009.
“MonsterQuest” jump started the year by conducting a Yeti expedition that left for Nepal on January 13th. It, like the one later in the year to search for Sumatra’s Orang Pendek, was headed by explorer Adam Davies, with some members of the Centre for Fortean Zoology pulled in for the Indonesian trek. The competing reality program “Destination Truth” sent an expedition in the spring, hosted by Josh Gates, to Bhutan to be filmed for fall broadcast. Meanwhile, Siberian Snowman expeditions also took the field during the spring.
The reports of a Snowman from Tashtagol, Siberia resulted in exploratory investigative trips to the area by Russians.
Results were mixed from all the excusions, but inconclusive hair samples and tracks were found, and eyewitnesses accounts were recorded for further study and broadcast. In general, however, frustrating findings, especially from the Siberian search, were the rule of the day. Various searching occurred after reports of hairy hominoids, baboon-like creatures, and bogus Bigfoot popped up in locations as diverse as Iowa, Texas and Minnesota in the United States.
The Cameron Lake Monster expedition in British Columbia in September 2009, was headed by John Kirk and Adam McGirr of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, and came back positively convinced they would have to return for more explorations.
Legendary Nessie seeker Robert H. Rines’ last expedition to Loch Ness was broadcast on television’s “MonsterQuest” mid-year, and was his swam song. Rines passed away on November 1, 2009. (See “Top Ten 2009 Cryptozoology Deaths,” for other notable obituaries.)
2. World’s First Cryptozoology Museum Opened
After fifty years of active collecting, and six years of being open as a home-based cabinet of curiosities for researchers and documentary film companies, the International Cryptozoology Museum, the world’s only public collection of its kind, opened November 1st, and had its Grand Opening on November 6th, hosted by State of Maine Rep. Herb Adams and Bigfoot legendary figure Jim McClarin. Located at 661 Congress Street, Portland, Maine, in cooperation with space from the Green Hand bookshop, the museum garnered widespread press attention.
Publicity came from the Maine Department of Tourism to humorist Al Diamon announcing the opening. In Maine and New England, examples of stories from television, newspaper, university, and other media, as well as national/international outlets such as USA Today, the Associated Press, Daily Grail, and Boing Boing talked of the new museum.
Portland Monthly Magazine, Portland Press Herald, Go!, Down East Magazine, and hundreds of blogs online discussed the opening. The Lewiston Sun-Journal proclaimed the opening of the International Cryptozoology Museum as one of its top stories of 2009.
Science writer Matt Bille noted in his “Sci/Tech Blog” that the museum “deserves its place” on the year’s top ten list because “there has, until now, been nothing like a central repository for cryptozoological material.”
One of the first cooperative outcomes of the United States museum, in conjunction with a Swiss museum, was that the director of the International Cryptozoology Museum was appointed to be on the editorial board of cryptozoology’s new 2009 journal, the first one to be published in a quarter of a century.
The Musée Cantonal de Zoologie of Lausanne, Switzerland, which houses Bernard Heuvelmans’ archives and collection, this year announced and printed a new cryptozoological journal, the title of which is Kraken.
3. First Coelacanth Babies Filmed
The Japan Times and other news outlets reported on November 18, 2009, that a team from an aquarium in Iwaki, Japan had successfully, in a world’s first, photographed juvenile coelacanths (example above), a fish regarded as a living fossil, off Indonesia’s Sulawesi Island.
Aquamarine Fukushima reported that the small newborns (31.5 cm long) were found October 6, 2009, at a depth of 161 meters in Manado Bay off North Sulawesi Province. This is near where the Indonesian coelacanth was first discovered in a fish market in 1997, and then off-shore in 1998.
It was also announced that there will be a Wild Safari replica (5.75 inches long, 3 inches in height; 14.6 x 7.6 cm) of the coelacanth for 2010.
For more 2009 coelacanth news, see here.
Eric Olsen, 37, using his cellphone, took a video of something in Lake Champlain at Oakledge Park, near Burlington, Vermont, on Sunday, May 31, 2009, at about 5:30 am, Eastern Daylight Savings Time. No claims were made that this was the Lake Champlain Monster or Champ, although newspapers and other media wrote about it as a “Champ video.”
Bernard Heuvelmans’ Super-Otter (above) was compared to a frame from Eric Olsen’s cellphone footage (below), during the analyses of the new images.
The following stabilized version of the Eric Olsen-obtained video was produced by John Donald Carlucci of Darke Media.
5. African Pygmy Hippo Killed in Australia
Photo by Katrina Bridgeford.
On Saturday, November 14, 2009, Nico Courtney, 27, was out spotlighting for pigs with his mate Rusty in the bush in the Douglas Daly district, Australia. He came across what he thought was a wild pig, and shot an animal that actually turned out to be a pygmy hippopotamus. Trouble is this species of hippo (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis) is normally native to the swamps of west Africa, in particular Liberia and Nigeria, not Australia.
Although a theory was proposed that the hippo was believed to have escaped from the Tipperary Station Wildlife Sanctuary after it closed in 2003, no proof for that source of the beast was found. Like the stories of “circus train wrecks” that are told to explain sightings of other out-of-place animals found elsewhere, the only fact for certain is a pygmy hippo was killed in the Australian bush, origin unknown.
6. “Yeti” Stalked Bikini-Clad Student
One of the most-viewed YouTube videos during August 2009 turned out to be taken in the Tatra mountains of Poland, by Tadeusz Serafinowski, with his bikini-clad student girlfriend Justyna Folger (above), 19, in the foreground, and a stalking “Yeti” in the background. Meanwhile, 27-year-old Piotr Kowalski’s moving images of another “Yeti” filmed in the Tatra mountains, got a lot of looks too. Were these various people in “monkey suits” or did Serafinowski’s & Kowalski’s separately capture footage of genuine apelike creatures in Poland? The online videos were popular, whatever they showed.
An image from Piotr Kowalski’s video.
7. Alligator-In-The-Sewer Confirmed by New York Times
“Are the alligators in New York City sewers just an urban legend? Not according to Salvatore Condoluci, 92, who in 1935 claimed to have caught and killed an 8-foot-long gator in a sewer on 123rd Street near the Harlem River,” wrote David Pescovitz at Boing Boing when he reported on the breaking investigative story to be found in the New York Times.
The 1935 report had been revisited in new research conducted by reporter A. G. Sulzberger. The New York Times had rather casually and without fanfare confirmed a significant event in alligators-in-the-sewers history. The actual teenager who had the confrontation with the over seven-foot-long sewer alligator in 1935 was tracked down, and interviewed in November 2009. The reporter verified the old sighting wasn’t merely an elaborate newspaper tall tale.
8. Giant Woolly Rat and Other New Species Discovered
Several new species of mammals and other animals were found, announced, and/or verified during the year.
Two examples of the new species were rather large rodents.
A new species of rat was announced on February 18, 2009, as having been found on a mountain in the southern Philippines. Scientists reported the small rodent was found only on Mount Hamiguitan (known for its bonsai forest) in Davao Oriental and first noted two years ago by the Philippine Eagle Foundation and the Chicago-based Field Museum of Natural History. The Hamiguitan hairy-tailed rat (Hamiguitan batomys), shown above, is a yellow-brown animal with a long furry tail, and weighs about 175 grams. It lives only from an elevation of 950 meters and up in dwarf mossy forests of areas less than 10 square kilometers.
Then on September 7, 2009, it was announced that a new giant, woolly rat had been found in the crater of an extinct volcano on Papua New Guinea, among other animals.
The Bosavi woolly rat (Mallomys sp.?). Photo courtesy of BBC.
Biologist Muse Opiang of the Papua New Guinea Institute of Biological Research held a Bosavi silky cuscus, a newly discovered marsupial from central Papua New Guinea, in early 2009. Photo: National Geographic.
Channa Rajapaksa discovered a new civet, Sapumal kalawedda (Paradoxurus montanus) in Sri Lanka. His formal paper announcing the finding was published in the Linnean Society of London, Zoological Journal in January 2009.
During the year, a new iguana species that is pink and black was announced as found on the island of Galapagos: the rosada land iguana. The discoverer was Gabriele Gentile of the University of Rome Tor Vergata. Gentile and his colleagues said that the pink iguana is distinct from the two recognized species of land iguana on the Galápagos. They are located on the Volcan Wolf volcano on the island of Isabela, the only place where the pink iguanas live.
Some of the other species among many discovered and announced as new in 2009, included a warbler, a hummingbird, a monitor lizard, a ghostshark, frogs, chameleons, geckos, crabs, and sea worms.
9. Extinct and Rare Species Rediscovered & Sometimes Eaten
Besides entirely new species, “extinct” and rare species were rediscovered. This year two such finds were only photographed but not preserved. But first, a couple straightforward rediscoveries.
The Banggai crow was found after having not been seen for 107 years, in the forest of Pelang Island in Indonesia. It was thought to have gone extinct but obviously had not.
The Arakan forest turtle (Heosemys depressa), once thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in a remote forest in Myanmar, researchers announced on September 7, 2009. The local name for the turtle, Pyant Cheezar, translates into the “turtle that eats rhinoceros feces.” Sumatran rhinos were once found in the area, but vanished half a century ago due to hunting. One theory is the turtles may be eating elephant droppings now ~ unless, of course, Sumatran rhinos are yet to be rediscovered in this area too. There is hope, with conservation efforts, this turtle will make a recovery.
Two other noteworthy rare species finds, however, did not end up in any safe havens, zoos, or museums.
A rare Worcester’s buttonquail (Turnix worcesteri), a probable female, which is also locally known as the Philippines quail, was photographed while being held by a bird hunter in Caraballo (above). The bird, thought to be extinct, was photographed for the first time in the Philippines during February 2009, and then sold to a poultry market as food. Found only on the island of Luzon, Worcester’s buttonquail was known solely through drawings based on dated museum specimens collected several decades ago. The new specimen, however, was lost, as it was eaten.
Remarkably, then something similar happened again, also in the Philippines.
As the National Geographic News stated, “in just a short time, one of the rarest sharks in the world went from swimming in Philippine waters to simmering in coconut milk.”
The 13-foot-long megamouth shark (above), caught on March 30 by mackerel fishers off the city of Donsol, was only the 41st megamouth shark ever found, according to WWF-Philippines. Immediately identified as a megamouth shark by conservationists, the fishermen were asked to not eat it. However, shortly after it was found, the 1,102-pound shark was butchered for a shark-meat dish called kinuout.
Rarest of all sharks, the megamouth (Megachasma pelagios) is a recent scientific discovery, with just over 40 recorded encounters worldwide. The first specimen was caught off Oahu, Hawaii in 1976. Thus, the Florida Museum of Natural History named this one Megamouth 41.
10. European Black Panther Sighted
Late summer and into the fall in Europe, reports of a black panther dominated the news. The black panther hunt began on August 24, 2009, when a large wild cat was first spotted by hikers in woods in the Meurthe-et-Moselle region of northeast France. Tracks at the site were found to be those of a “great cat, probably a black panther.” Then a black panther was encountered in September 2009, in a southern Belgian forest, in Wallonia. On October 25, 2009, at 3:30 pm (1430 GMT), a woman saw a black panther in an industrial zone in Bascharage, a small community in southwest Luxembourg. Meanwhile, video was taken in Poland of a “Snow Leopard.” Elsewhere, in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States, reports of black panthers filled local newspapers and television broadcasts with close encounter and sighting accounts.
Searching, seeking, and preservation were the messages for 2009, as the year will be remembered in cryptozoology history for sightings, future thinking actions, and a few but remarkable discoveries of rare and new species.
The Cryptozoologist of the Year 2009: Gabriele Gentile
Italian researcher Gabriele Gentile holds a Galápagos iguana, a newly-verified species that may provide evidence of species divergence five million years ago, far earlier than Charles Darwin’s famous finches. It was noted when announced in January 2009 that Darwin did not visit the volcano on his travels to the Ecuadorian island chains in the 1830s, so the creature remained “undiscovered” until 1986, when it was spotted by park rangers. Only after Gentile’s painstaking field research, based on the ethnoknown sightings and confirmed via DNA testing, was this iguana recognized as its own species, formally in 2009.
“What’s surprising is that a new species of megafauna, like a large lizard, may still be [found] in a well-studied archipelago,” Gentile told National Geographic News.
© Loren Coleman/2009 ~ Permission is granted to summarize the top ten and cryptozoologist picks, and then to hyperlink to the list. Please, however, avoid the direct reproduction of the entire contents of the list. Thank you.
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