The Top Cryptozoology Stories of 2015
In the 1940s, the Scottish-born zoologist Ivan T. Sanderson began using a word he coined, “cryptozoology,” to describe a new subdiscipline of zoology that studied hidden, as yet-to-be-discovered large animals. In the late 1950s, after a decade of correspondence with Sanderson, Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans began formalizing “cryptozoology.” In 1960, I joined the quest. I began writing about the subject in 1969, and then wrote my first book in 1975. My coauthored book Cryptozoology A to Z appeared in 1999. I founded the Museum in 2003.
Today, Sanderson’s and Heuvelmans’ precise approaches to the passion and patience of the field has grown into a more scientifically-aware cryptozoology. A history is being written about cryptozoology, as it grows older, year to year.
Again, I pass along a quick overview of ten areas of the high and low points of cryptozoology for the last year.
(8) New Species Discovered
What could Georges Curvier be pondering?
In 1812, Baron Georges Cuvier, a French naturalist and zoologist, made what cryptozoologist Bernard Heuvelmans coined as Cuvier’s “Rash Dictum.” Cuvier remarked that it was unlikely that any large animal remained undiscovered. But Cuvier was wrong. Tapirus indicus, the Malayan, white-backed, or Indian tapir is famous within cryptozoology as the first animal to be described as a “new species” after Cuvier’s infamous 1812 declaration.
Although this tapir was ethnoknown to the Chinese and Japanese “since time immemorial,” Cuvier distrusted such traveler’s tales. Therefore, the white-backed tapir was not known in the West until it was collected and formally described to the Asiatic Society in 1819.
New species continue to be discovered to this day. The Year 2015 was no different. Here are a few highlights.
A New Primate Is Confirmed
The Urubamba brown titi monkey (Callicebus urubambensis) was confirmed as a new species from Peru, in 2015.
A New Rodent: The Hog-Nosed Rat
Photo by Kevin C. Rowe, Senior Curator of Mammals, Museum Victoria.
This newly identified species (Hyorhinomys stuempkei) is elusive rodent from the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. ”I had never seen a rat with a nose like that,” Jacob Esselstyn, curator of mammals at Louisiana State University’s Museum of Natural Science, told Live Science in October 2015. “When I took it out of the trap, I knew it was a new species. There was never any doubt in my mind.”
A New Canid Species: African Golden Wolf
In a finding reported in the journal Current Biology, during August 2015, the African Golden Wolf (Canis anthus), which makes its habitat in Africa and Asia, was found to be its own species. The 2015 discovery marked the first time in 150 years that a new canid species had been identified. It was widely ethnoknown and merely considered to be a variant of the golden jackal. Recently, researchers analyzed the animal’s DNA and confirmed it was a distinct species.
A New Species of Galapagos Tortoise
For the first time in more than a century, in October 2015, scientists reported they discovered a new species of Galápagos tortoise, the grand giants of the Pacific archipelago that helped inspire Darwin’s theory of evolution. Through using DNA genetic code analysis, they found that the tortoise species Chelonoidis porteri living on Santa Cruz Island, in fact, had two “evolutionarily and spatially distinct lineages.”
(9) Finding Bigfoot Spawns Copycats
During 2015, the Animal Planet program Finding Bigfoot ended its eighth season high in popularity and deep in confusion about whether it would continue. As often happens, success breeds the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nonfiction programming, such as Monsters and Mysteries in America, like Finding Bigfoot, captured actual testimony of eyewitnesses. That program on Destination America was a real plus that added to the historical archives in 2015. More horrible examples, such as the highly fictionalized Swamp Monsters, Mountain Monsters, and Monsters Underground, were created in the wake of MonsterQuest and Finding Bigfoot. The worst of the lot, Killing Bigfoot, took up the mandate of guns blasting in the field.
Finding Bigfoot in 2015 visited states it had not before, including Maine, where they came to the International Cryptozoology Museum for the first time. Finding Bigfoot premieres their 9th season on January 3, 2016, and the Maine episode, for example, airs on January 10th.
In the realm of documentaries, indie Bigfoot and cryptozoology-oriented films made the jump to cable networks. In 2015, The Bridgewater Triangle and CryptoTrip, in edited versions, both played on Destination America. The production company Small Town Monsters released Minerva Monster as its first film in their cryptozoology/Bigfoot series during the Spring of 2015. They began pre-production on their next documentary, Beast of Whitehall, late in 2015. Minerva Monster, Something In The Woods, and other documentaries were shown at various venues, including the Ohio Bigfoot Conference and the Boggy Creek Festival, during 2015.
(10) International Cryptozoology Museum On The Move
As the world’s only cryptozoology museum enters its 13th year of existence, it was recognized numerous times on the “best of” lists published throughout the year. The Minnesota Iceman was a traveling exhibit from the Museum of the Weird in Austin, Texas, for the last half of the year. Most of the year also involved planning the first International Cryptozoology Conference, January 4, 5, & 6, 2016, at the Casa Monica Hotel in Saint Augustine, Florida. (Come walk up the day of the conference, and join the attendees there.)
The year of 2015 factored as a pivotal one in the museum’s transformation. The lease comes to an end in 2016, for the downtown Portland, Maine location, and some decisions had to be made. The present configuration of the space and lack of parking made the opportunity to join the developing Thompson’s Point area of Portland, an easy one. A capital campaign was launched to build a new museum, assist with the move, and create a foundation of fiscal support beyond the month-to-month balance sheet of the first 12 years.
The new Museum, while not as grand as we wish it would be, is a modest attempt to diversify the space, use an open second floor to curate a space that enhances the exhibits, and utilize the most from what we can offer presently.
Here is the pewter master architectural model of the new museum. A 12-15 ft tall Yeti sculpture will be installed at the south end of the museum after it is built, and thus is shown on this replica:
Thanks to all who support the work of cryptozoology, and assist in the continued establishment of a solid foundation of the study of hidden animals and emerging new species. Please consider a donation that is within your ability to assist. Click here.
A footnote of appreciation: Marc Dewerth, at the 2015 Ohio Bigfoot Conference, honored me with my special induction into the Bigfoot Hall of Fame. Thank you, Marc. Another high point of 2015, personally, was when John Ventre, one of the regulars on History’s Hanger 1, bestowed the “Lifetime Achievement in Cryptozoology” Award to me at the PA MUFON Conference. I thank all who went to the trouble during the last 12 months to note all the blood, sweat, and passion I’ve put into the field of cryptozoology so others could enjoy the quest.
Other 2015 Lists: