Saturday 23 January 2010

The explorers hunting for unknown animals

The explorers' club

Meet the scientists risking their lives to find Earth's rarest species By Helena de Bertodano

Extract from the article which mentions cryptozoologists:

I ask him what he thinks about quests for creatures like the Loch Ness Monster – the existence of which British naturalist Peter Scott tried hard to prove in the Seventies. 'I have to say I wouldn’t invest a lot of time looking for a Loch Ness Monster,’ he chuckles. 'On the other hand, what made Peter Scott’s work interesting is that he set up a kind of rationale for doing what he was doing. That is what defines a quest. You are going out to answer a particular set of questions you have in your mind.’ 'Another way to find a new species,’ says Jeff Meldrum, Idaho State University’s associate professor of anatomy and anthropology, 'is to walk into a village in some far-flung place and look at what the kids have tied up on a leash somewhere or to examine the pelt that’s nailed to the side of a hut. Or to look on the dinner plate and see what’s there.’ Indeed, many so-called 'new’ species are already known to locals, particularly in more primitive areas. But no animal officially 'exists’ until a scientist says it does. It’s no use returning from a stroll through the jungle and saying you have seen a huge black jaguar twice the size of other jaguars – as a Catholic missionary working in Amazonian Peru did recently – unless you have some physical evidence. Meldrum is an eminent professor and a cryptozoologist. As a specialist in the evolution of bipedal primates, he devotes every spare minute to his hunt for none other than Bigfoot (known in different locations as the Sasquatch, Yeren or yeti). 'The only shred of doubt for me is the persistently missing definitive physical proof.’ Nevertheless, he has a laboratory containing 200 casts of footprints made, he says, by a large bipedal primate: 'I am convinced, based on a thorough analysis of those tracks, that we are dealing with the footprints of an unrecognised primate.’ Certain that they live mostly in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, he believes that the reason there has been no definitive sighting is that they are naturally reclusive. 'It took Jane Goodall months before she got her first glimpse of chimpanzees. And she was looking for a group of gregarious boisterous primates on the single side of a little mountain valley. It just shows the ability of these animals to avoid human observation,’ Meldrum says. In one remote location where he was trying to track the Sasquatch he experienced something so strange one still windless night that he is convinced that only a large primate could be responsible. 'We had gone to a location only accessible by float plane – 100 miles from anywhere in any direction – and late one night, one of the guys was relieving himself off the porch and while he was standing there this stone comes whizzing past him and hits the metal siding of the cabin. 'It was thrown with some force so it really pinged off the cabin wall. I came out of the cabin and one of the fellows said: “Why don't we throw something into the woods and see what happens?” So we tossed a stone in there and about five minutes went by and out comes another stone that was even bigger and bounced across the metal corrugated roof. 'We went into the woods with thermal imaging equipment and night vision binoculars. But whatever it was had vanished.’ He also cites evidence from a Chinese park ranger, who apparently saw the Yeren. 'He was on patrol and across the small canyon on the opposite flank of the valley sunning itself on a large boulder was a big reddish brown figure. He yelled at it to get its attention – it sat up and spied him and then slid off the rock and walked away on two legs. 'Later he came across tracks at a watering hole and cast a right and a left foot. I met him and I was stunned – the tracks showed a very distinctive mid-tarsal pressure ridge that was identical to the tracks I’ve examined that are attributed to the Sasquatch. 'He didn’t have any concept or knowledge of Bigfoot or Sasquatch at all. So the notion that this is some copycat stunt is out of the question.’ Recently, too, there was the discovery of 'The Hobbit’, a dwarf-like species in the genus Homo, which is thought to have lived until relatively recently (18,000 years ago, which is recent in scientific terms). The unearthing of bones in Flores, Indonesia, which verified the myth of a tiny man, was so surprising that Henry Gee, editor of the revered Nature journal wrote: 'The discovery that Homo floresiensis survived until so very recently, in geological terms, makes it more likely that the stories of other mythical humanlike creatures such as yetis are founded on grains of truth.’ Goodall herself has backed Meldrum’s theories about the Sasquatch. 'You’ll be amazed when I tell you that I’m sure that they exist,’ she said recently. On the whole, cryptozoologists are less interested in the smaller species. 'Most of them are into the big animals,’ says Voss, the mammalogist. 'There’s a high learning curve to figuring out the small stuff. And in my opinion we have already got 99 per cent of the mammals bigger than a breadbox.’ Bruce Beehler agrees: 'It’s mainly insects: beetles – lots and lots of beetles – and plants left to be found. Having said that, there are new primates that have been found in Brazil, new lemurs from Madagascar, at least one new wallaby from the Foja Mountains…’

Source and full article here:

Well worth a read!

No comments: