15 June 2006

2006 *IS* The Year of Crytozoology - Next Up the Mongolian Death Worm!

This is just incredible! Before I tell you what exactly is incredible, let me give you a brief history lesson. 30 years and 2 months ago, if you suggested that there was a large, strange shark out there so different from other sharks it deserved its own family (let alone genus), you'd be laughed at. In May 1976 the unusual Megamouth Shark was caught, proving the myths correct. Fast forward to 2004. Wander around proclaiming that there's this strange giant ape in the DR Congo the is the size of a gorilla and nests on the ground like a gorilla *but* mainly eats fruit and walks upright (both like a chimp) and you'd be laughed at. No matter how many eye witness accounts from natives you can produce you'd get the same response back, "it's a case of Chinese whispers". Then in October 2004 New Scientist publish an article detailing Shelly Williams's encounter with the Bili Apes (or Bondo Mystery Ape). Finally back to 2006 and we have had a plethora of rumoured species and cryptids discovered and documented. A month ago it turns out a new species of monkey isn't ... it's a new genus, the first for 83 years. Whilst on holiday eight unknown insects are discovered in a cave in Israel that has been sealed off from the rest of world for around five million years. This weekend a new type of hammerhead shark is discovered in the Atlantic Ocean and then today, oh boy, pictures of a live giant rat deemed extinct eleven million years ago is published! Locals in Lao new about it and didn't dispute its existence but science dismissed it until dead specimens were found on a market a year ago.

What could possibly be next? For the past few years there has been efforts to find the "extinct" Tasmanian Tiger (or Thylacine) and a German tourist successfully managed to grab digital photographs of it in 2005 but as yet not body. In recent years the blue tiger and extinct moa have been seen in india and New Zealand respectively, as documented by Karl Shuker in his excellent book The Beasts That Hide From Man. There have been a few expeditions to the Mongolian Chinese border to hunt for the Mongolian Death Worm - that would be my number one choice for the best animal to "discover" next. A close second comes some form of living dinosaur like mokele-mbembe in the Congo...