Here be monsters:  There are strange creatures whose existence has yet to be confirmed by science

I’m not sure who or what is more monstrous: the smug sceptics or the scant cryptids.

Let me explain. Having interviewed Debbie Martyr (research conservationist with Flora and Fauna International) 12 years ago about her apparent sighting of the primate cryptid the orang pendek in Sumatra and more recently interviewing ape expert Ian Redmond on his research into sasquatch/big foot (supported by David Attenborough and Jane Goodall), over the years I have acquired a fascination for primate cryptids. So I was eager to attend a recent lecture at the Zoological Society London entitled “Cryptozoology: science or pseudoscience?”.

Henry Gee, a senior editor at Nature looking and behaving like a jovial, off-duty roadie dressed in grubby T shirt and ruby crocs, chaired the event in which Drs Michael Woodley, Charles Paxton and Darren Naish presented their crypto data.

Paxton reminded us that atmospheric electrical disturbances such as sprites, blue jets and elves were only identified in the 1980s and 1990s when they were photographed. Until then, anecdotal reports of flashes of light above the clouds were frequently ignored. Scientists used to dismiss accounts of meteorites as paranormal fantasy and poured scorn on eyewitness descriptions from lucky survivors of rogue waves – until satellite images in the 1990s confirmed their existence. The mountain gorilla wasn’t believed to exist by Western science until two were shot dead in 1902, and the bonobo was not credited with being a unique species until 1930. In the past 20 years, 70 species of primate have been newly described, including a Vietnamese gibbon and the Bili ape: a large, sub-species of chimp from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2009, a Papua New Guinean crater yielded up a cat-sized species of woolly rat, among other previously undiscovered creatures.  Read Article

By Carole Jahme
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