Monday, June 29, 2009

The term Cryptozoology was coined in 1959 by Lucien Blancou in a book dedicated to the foremost researcher of unknown animals, Bernard Heuvelmans. As the term has now become a standard part of modern vocabulary and appears in almost all dictionaries, it is defined as "the science of hidden animals". It combines the three Greek words: kryptos, zoon and logos, which mean, respectively, hidden, animal, and discourse. In 1955, Heuvelman published On the Track of Unknown Animals and the new discipline was born. By 1982, the International Society of Cryptozoology was founded at a meeting held at the Smithsonian Institution. According to this meeting, Cryptozoology concerns "the possible existence of known animals in areas where they were not supposed to occur, either now or in the past), as well as the unknown persistence of presumed extinct animals to the present time or recent past...What makes an animal of interest to that it is unexpected". To be an animal of interest, it also must have at least one trait "truly singular, unexpected, paradoxical, striking, emotionally upsetting and thus be capable of mystification" according to Bernard Heuvelman.

The most famous creatures of Cryptozoology are the spectacular and disputed Loch Ness Monster, Sasquatch and Colossal Squid. And while these legendary creatures have made the study of cryptids (as cryptozoologists call them) well known throughout the world, it is only a fraction of the hidden, un-catalogued, or out-of-place animals that have advanced this discipline. In 1812, Baron Georges Cuvier, the revered French biologist considered the father of Paleontology, declared the end of the age of zoological discovery. "There is," he said, "little hope of discovering new species [of large animals]. I hope nobody will ever seriously look for [Sea Serpents] in nature; one could as well search for the animals of Daniel or for the beast of the Apocolypse." A short seven years later, in 1819, the American tapir was found, the first of thousands of "new" animals to be uncovered in the last few centuries. Some other animals include the Giant Squid (1870s), Okapi (1901), the Komodo dragon (1912), the koupey (1937), and the coelacanth (1938). At one time even the Giant Panda was considered elusive and unknown, living in the valleys of the Himalayas, since it took 65 years between its "discovery" and the capture of a live one.

Cryptozoology represents the original way animals were studied and discovered. Researchers would go to new places and listen to local legends and reports. They would be led to amazing animals that they would document or capture to show off back in Europe at zoos or schools, where they would formally classify them. But more often than not, Cryptozoologists and their discipline is dismissed by other recognized fields like paleontologists, anthropologists and zoologists as a pseudo-science due to some of the extraordinary claims. For many, "the search for unknown animals was at best a tainted enterprise, at worst an exercise in folly."

Hoaxes also figure into the perception of Cryptozoology. From false news reports in the late-19th century to the Patterson Film today, Cryptozoologists fight an uphill battle to get their questions answered and creatures found.

New Monsterquest coming July 8th...

Review: Monsterquest 4-29-09

On Monsterquest, the main focus was what is known as "water apes", Sasquatch on Vancouver Island, which examines the possibility of these creatures swimming from Vancouver Island to the mainland of British Columbia. Several well-known Sasquatch personalities are featured on this episode, such as Dr. John Bindernagel, who lives on the island who gives his assessments of the sightings and the history. Thomas Steenburg and Richard Noll team up to search for evidence on the island. A wildlife biologist talks about his skeptical bent on whether or not such creatures could survive on the island; he also shows a rather interesting video of bears swimming in the Pacific from the island to the mainland, as well as showing apes swimming such as orangutans and monkeys, which somewhat negates the old myth that apes can't swim. Bindernagel is joined by a forensic podiatrist from the U.S. who examines his track casts and is rather open-minded about the possibility of them being from an unknown primate. Noll and Steenburg use different methods to attract some Sasquatch to in front of cameras, such as using fresh clams which the Sasquatch is known to eat. There is also a sighting recounted from 1901 in which a man was going to shoot a Sasquatch which was drinking from a stream because he thought it to be a bear, but when it stood upright, he changed his mind. Several encounters are recounted and witnesses interviewed, more methods of attracting Sasquatch are employed and the results are...well, I won't spoil it for you. A really good episode, I would give it a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. Next week is a sequel to a Season 1 episode, titled Gigantic Killer Fish II, beginning at 9:00 EST/8:00 Central on History. Check local listings for time and channel.

Review: Monsterquest 6-10-09

This was a really good episode, one of the best ones in a while, about the Indian Monkey Man, also known as the Mande Barung, a large, black, hairy manlike creature seen in the Garo Hills in Northeastern India. The beginning saw some alleged encounters within the city of Delhi of people allegedly being attacked on their rooftops and three people dying and that being blamed on the Monkey Man, which turned out to be just mass hysteria and someone dressing in a suit within the city. The more plausible creature in the Garo Hills area, the Mande Berung, is investigated by a team led by primatologist Esteban Sarmiento and local investigator Dipu Marak, who search the jungle, and also set out game cams, one still camera, one video camera. Plus, strange hairs are found, as well as a drop of blood. The hair actually turned out to be from the red panda, which is not indigineous to that area, and the blood turned out to be from a human. There is an older account of the capture of two large hairy creatures sometime from I believe the 19th Century, and also some other accounts of sightings in the Garo Hills. The still camera does not pick up anything other than something triggered it which seems to stay out of range of the camera, but the video picks up something's hind quarters off to the left of the screen which is unidentified and could possibly be a more mundane animal. If I were to rate this episode, it would be a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, due to the objective way it was examined. Well-done, Monsterquest.