The Centre for Fortean Zoology was founded in the UK in 1992 - nearly 20 years ago. Over the past two decades it has expanded to become a truly global organisation. We opened our American office in 2001, or Australian office in 2009, and now - in our 19th year - we are proud to welcome CFZ New Zealand to the CFZ global family.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Orang pendek trail heats up

With this latest discovery - an article from 1958. If this is discovered it could open a lot of information on other cryptids. more on this at some other time.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Funny world we live in.

Over the last couple of days I've been working on a thesis that I've promiosed Jon for about a year now, Due to my marraiage breaking up last year it just didn't happen. Well in all honesty, I'm glad, because as I started writing it, a whole new idea came to me which seemed to make a whole lot more sense than what I was trying so desperately to prove.

I think they call them eureka moments, (but no, I definitely did not run from the bath naked and screaming. Not that anyone would notice round here). So in light of this it seems to me that sometimes we are made to wait for the right penny to drop at the right time.

We have been really busy round here, and now have a sun room which will house my carnivorous plant collection once I get it back to what it once was. The Whitebait are growing rapidly and making excellent subjects for studys. Nelso the NZ CFZ Mascot Chiclid has learned to go for the hand not the food (its bigger) so we are in manners-training at the moment.

Got the first lot of stinging nettles in for the butterfly project, so I'm really chuffed about that and can sit in the study and watch the plants. I am trying to work on bits and bobs, but sick parents and being unwell myself is not helping. I am getting there, but it is a very very slow process.

Ohhhh yes this mind blowing thesis... well you'll just have to wait until the end of the year, and buy a yearbook to find out - hhmmmmmmmmmmmm. But it will be well worth it I can assure you.

Study Finds Aquarium Fishes Are More Aggressive In Reduced Environments | Goldfish Angry? Study Finds Aquarium Fishes Are More Aggressive In Reduced Environments

The Jesus bird returns

Last updated 05:00 25/09/2011

JOHN COWPLAND Photographer and birdwatcher Brent Stephenson on a Napier beach.

Relevant offersNo one knows how many are left or where they breed. But we now know that the New Zealand storm petrel lives. Catherine Woulfe with the remarkable story of how a bird 'extinct' for 150 years came back from the dead.

The New Zealand storm petrel flutters along the surface of the water like a big butterfly, slapping the water with its feet – a habit that has earned all storm petrels the nickname "Jesus birds".

It doesn't follow boats. It is quiet and lives almost its whole life at sea, landing only to breed, and then only at night. It looks a lot like one of the world's most common seabirds, Wilson's storm petrel. All of which explains, perhaps, how for more than 150 years, it did not officially exist.

But it was there: DNA from birds caught in the Hauraki Gulf has just been matched to tissue fragments of the "extinct" species, sent from museums in England and France. So last month, eight years after the bird was first spotted near the Mercury Islands, this line appeared in an academic article: "We can therefore confirm that the previously presumed-extinct New Zealand storm-petrel has indeed been rediscovered."

WE'RE AT this point thanks to a series of fortunate coincidences. The most fortunate is that this bird survived for a century and a half with no deliberate help from humans, from a population base some experts believe to have been quite low. (Only three museum specimens exist, the last received in 1895, which could indicate that no one collected them, or there were not many there to collect.)

No one knows how the birds managed this. Perhaps they existed in reasonable numbers in the Hauraki Gulf the whole time, but we've only just noticed them, thanks to changes in camera technology, and the rise of the "drift and chum" method of attracting birds to boats, which involves hanging bags filled with pummelled fish over the side to create a slick of food.

Perhaps the birds spent those 150 years elsewhere and moved here due to climate change. Or, perhaps they clung to survival in tiny numbers on a rock in the gulf, and shifted to a bigger island in the past decade in the wake of DoC's rat-eradication programme.

This is the theory favoured by Ian "Sav" Saville, a Hawke's

Bay-based birder who on January 25, 2003, became the person to rediscover this enigmatic little bird.

Eight years later he's still enchanted by it: the petrel is the official mascot of the bird touring company he runs with photographer Brent Stephenson.

On that day, Stephenson, Saville, and about eight others chartered a fishing boat out of Whitianga. The plan was to have a nosy at seabirds in the Hauraki Gulf.

"It was a complete fluke," Saville says. "We saw heaps and heaps of the common storm petrels, the white-faced storm petrels, and then I just saw this little black and white thing..."

Saville called out "black and white storm petrel" and Stephenson, beside him on the top deck of the boat, managed five photographs as the bird raced toward the boat, did one quick lap, and raced off again.

Ad Feedback Four of the photos were of poor quality. But the fifth was a stunner: it clearly showed a white belly streaked with darker markings. The pair knew as soon as they saw it on the screen that this was odd. They emailed the photos to all the bird experts they could think of, all over the world, who told them what it was not. But they still didn't know what it was.

"It was not a bird that was on the radar of any birder," says Stephenson. "Really, the only people who knew about it were seabird taxonomists and museum people."

In Wellington, one of those people, Te Papa paleantologist Alan Tennyson, happened to hear about the mystery bird. The picture rang a bell – it looked like a bird from a book he'd read in high school – so he jokingly emailed Saville and Stephenson: "How about this for a suggestion way out of left field... it's Oceanites maorianus – the plumage matches!"

Saville didn't get the joke. He didn't know what Oceanites maorianus was [the Latin name was later changed] and his birding books were no help either: the bird was noted only as an afterthought, alongside entries on other storm petrels.

"The strange thing is nobody thought of it as an extinct bird," Saville says. "It had been sort of discarded. In the 1930s the

pre-eminent seabird experts of the world decided, off their own bat, that this thing wasn't a distinct species, that it was just an aberration of something else. And so it just got sort of put to one side and forgotten."

Soon after that, Saville bumped into birding guide Ian Southey, who had by chance just inspected the three skins in the museums – and taken photographs.

"He sent us the photographs and sure as eggs, there it was."

Saville and Stephenson published the story of their "possible sighting" in a UK birding magazine and walked on air for the next few months.

But they were laughed out of town by many experts, Saville says, and failed to spot the black-and-white bird on two subsequent outings in the gulf.

THEN, IN November 2003, British twitchers Robert Flood and Bryan Thomas had a dream day on the water: 20 minutes after starting their "drift and chum" just north of Little Barrier Island, the first black and white storm petrel appeared. Over the next 90 minutes, they photographed and filmed about 20 of the birds.

That was enough for the global conservation body Birding International to classify the rediscovered NZSP as "critically endangered". But DoC deemed the bird "data deficient". The New Zealand storm petrel is alone in this limbo-like category. Here's a catch-22: the bird will not be shifted out of that category, or attract any serious DoC funding, until we know where it breeds and how many are left. And to answer those questions costs money.

Even the new DNA evidence, which cleared up years of uncertainty over the bird, will not be enough to shunt the bird into a more useful category.

Dr Bruce Robertson, who led that work, was able to slot the bird into the storm petrel family tree – as a distinct species, not some freaky-feathered offshoot of another bird. He recommends it be renamed Fregetta maoriana, and says the DNA also suggests the population is not closely

inter-related. In his academic article, Robertson is assertive and optimistic: the DNA analysis will make the petrel "a conservation priority and allow conservation managers to start planning a species recovery program," he writes.

On the phone he's less confident.

"Yeah, I don't know." He sighs. "Conservation dollars are being slashed back... It could actually take quite a lot of effort.

"It could well be that they've just survived on some small rockstack somewhere that didn't have rodents or predators, so it might be like trying to find a needle in a haystack."

Stephenson, too, sounds jaded: "It's a very hard task to get money for this species. It should be a priority, but seabirds in New Zealand are receiving less and less funding... It's not a cute cuddly kakapo, or a big sort of in-your-face takahe, it's a little black and white bird that flits around at sea."

That little black and white bird is doing its very best to prove itself. During the two summers after its big reveal, it was spotted by at least 31 birdwatching groups in the gulf. Stephenson: "You can now go out pretty much any day in the summer, and see these birds – almost within sight of the Sky Tower."

In November 2005, one particularly determined bird flew into a boat and fluttered around fisherman and seabird expert Geordie Murman, one of the few people in the country who would recognise it.

Murman was having dinner at the time. He put the bird in a box and called a team of scientists who had chartered his boat for the next day, intending to observe the birds. The captured bird was measured and tagged, and the team took samples of its feathers and lice.

Over the next four years, 12 more birds were caught and released, but attempts to track them back to their breeding colonies failed, as none of the birds had the telltale "brood patches". These patches are areas of plucked down on the belly, which the birds use to transfer heat to eggs. To date, no one has caught a New Zealand storm petrel with one of these patches.

On the other hand, a few years ago the birds were spotted over land, at night, on a remote island in the gulf. And years of work by ornithologists, DoC staff and volunteers has narrowed the core search area down to the Mokohinau Islands, Little Barrier Island and Poor Knights Islands.

This month, Birding International gave a group of seabird experts from DoC, Forest & Bird and universities $20,000 to continue the search. This summer, they'll again be out on the water trying to catch the little bird and check for brood patches. And recording devices are set up on some of the islands, running all night in the hope a New Zealand storm petrel will pipe up.

The only problem is, they don't know what it sounds like.


Very little is known about the New Zealand storm petrel. Flocks of up to 30 have been seen but we don't know how many are left or where they breed. Each bird weighs about 35 grams and is roughly the size of a sparrow. Over summer they are based in the Hauraki Gulf. Late last summer, a handful of birds were spotted off New South Wales, and they have also been seen in winter, off New Caledonia, so perhaps they migrate to warmer waters.

Storm petrels are the smallest of all seabirds. They are in the "tubenosed" family, along with albatrosses and shearwaters, and live their whole lives at sea, coming ashore only to breed and landing only at night. Storm petrels mate for life and may live for 30 years. Each pair lays one egg each season, in a burrow (although the New Zealand storm petrel may nest on cliffs). They feed on plankton in the open ocean, and fly low over the water, often pattering their feet on the surface, hence the "Jesus bird" moniker.

There's an awful lot of myth attached to storm petrels: they get their name because sailors thought they warned of storms. Others thought they were the souls of dead sailors. There's footage of these gorgeous little birds on YouTube, but you'll see them in real life only from the water, in summer. A professional bird tour will greatly improve your chances.

Brent Stephenson and Sav Saville run tours of the Hauraki Gulf: see for details. Pterodroma Pelagics also run regular tours;

If you happen to see one anywhere other than the Hauraki Gulf, try to take a photo, and contact the Ornithological Society:

The group trying to locate the birds' breeding grounds needs sponsorship to continue the search. Please contact Chris Gaskin at if you can help.

- Sunday Star Times

Next Features story:
Let's dance: 'Ka mate' in perspective

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Sunday, 18 September 2011

Turtle survives aquarium inferno

By Matthew Theunissen on Fri, 16 Sep 2011
News: National

A turtle miraculously survived an inferno in an aquarium which was so hot it boiled water in some tanks and killed hundreds of fish.

The blaze at the Mapua Aquarium near Nelson was one of three fires in the area early yesterday morning believed to have been the work of arsonists.

Fire investigator Lewis Jones said the fire caused "total destruction'' in the building and was so intense it boiled water in some of the tanks and caused their glass to burst.

"Miraculously'', a turtle somehow survived the fire, which killed everything else in the building.

"Fortunately for the turtle he must have been underwater in an area that didn't get so hot or he was in an area where there was a fair quantity of cold water running in from fire hoses,'' Mr Jones said.

"It was the one lovely thing about the whole job. Everything else is a gut-wrenching thing for the community.''

The turtle seemed unscathed after its ordeal and was being looked after by aquarium staff.

While firefighters were battling the blaze at about 3am, they received calls about two other fires in the area, one in a wheelie bin on Iwa Street and another at the local tennis court pavilion.

These were quickly extinguished but the aquarium blaze took hours to control.

Police are treating all the fires as suspicious.

They asked anyone who took photos of any of the fires to contact Motueka police.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Endangered whales under Threat.

Research has shown 14 endangered Bryde's whales found dead in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf in recent years were killed by boats.

An autopsy on a 12-metre Bryde's whale found dead on Friday revealed massive injuries along half its body, said Massey University veterinary pathologist Stuart Hunter.

"It was clear that the whale had severe trauma, running all the way from the rib cage to near the tail of the whale, so it was most likely to be a large vessel that caused these lethal injuries," he said.

One of New Zealand's most endangered species, Bryde's whales are found in the Hauraki Gulf all year round, with ship strike posing the greatest threat to their life.

Auckland University marine scientist Rochelle Constantine has started tagging the creatures to investigate why they are so vulnerable, and found most swim quite close to the surface.

"We have deployed five tags so far and preliminary analysis shows that the whales are spending the majority of their time less than 10 metres below the surface," Dr Constantine said.

"This puts them within the strike depth of many vessels using the gulf."

The researcher urged captains of large ships to be more vigilant in watching out for the huge mammals.

"All vessels using the Hauraki Gulf pose a threat to whales so it is important that everyone using these waters is watching out for these large residents in Auckland's backyard," she said.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Happy Feet's $30,000 'not wasted'

Happy Feet's $30,000 'not wasted'

NZ NewswireSeptember 13, 2011, 7:44 am

New Zealand's famed emperor penguin Happy Feet might be missing, presumed dead, but animal advocates are standing by the tens of thousands of dollars spent on his rescue.

The adolescent bird's tracking device stopped transmitting last Friday, after he had swum 115km south of his release point towards his Antarctic home.

Wildlife telemetry consultant Kevin Lay said it was possible the device, fastened with superglue, had slipped off, but this was uncommon.

Other possibilities won't want to be considered by the thousands of Happy Feet lovers who have tracked his every move since he washed up on Peka Peka beach north of Wellington in June.

More then $30,000 in donations have been spent on nursing the penguin back to health over two months, with specialised care, diets and extensive consultation on the best way to return him home.

Conservation Department Kapiti biodiversity program manager Peter Simpson, told the Dominion Post that the money was worthwhile, if only to raise public awareness about wildlife.

He remained positive that there was a chance the bird could be alive and may still end up at a penguin colony in Antarctica.

Wellington Zoo vet Lisa Argilla, who is credited with saving Happy Feet's life, told the newspaper the penguin was an ambassador for his species, spreading an important conservation message.
"That makes every cent spent worthwhile," she said.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Happy Feet stops transmitting

Happy Feet could be lost forever.

The transmitter attached to the wayward emperor penguin before his release at the start of the month appears to have stopped transmitting.
The transmitter had been sending back tracking information which showed he had travelled south and then east of his drop off location at 51 degrees south.

Our Far South, the company helping to use the tracking data to come up with locations, has not received a transmission since September 9.

It was initially thought that solar flares could be disrupting the signal.

However, the company now believes the most likely scenario is that the transmitter has fallen off.

"After all it was only glued on and would have had to survive extreme conditions. It will be at least a couple of days before we know for sure that the transmitter is no longer working."

Other possibilities included transmitter damage or technical failure.

The company was still hoping to be pleasantly surprised and for the transmit to start working again.

"But if we don't get further readings then we'll have to hope for the best."

Friday, 9 September 2011

Spring Brings the Stirring of Life and Cryptids

Not an abundance of activity at the moment, it’s sort of the calm before the storm scenario.
We are just coming into spring so nature is gradually awakening.

Of great excitement the other week was a sighting of the Canterbury Panther, regrettably the media in this country are sadly lacking in who to contact in these cases, so I learned about it through the media, not the best of ways if you want to avoid sensationalisation.

Fortunately due to complaining about the lack of proper research covering this sort of thing the gentleman who had the sighting was kind enough to contact me by email himself and gave me an excellent account of events.

I have also had confirmation of at least 3 – yes 3 other sightings of the same beast in the same vicinity. I’m in the process of following up with dates and more data. Ohhhhh for the finances for an expedition.

One of these sightings occurred at night and from a distance of 25m and showed the classic “Black figure with gleaming yellow eyes staring back at us”. The many encounters with these large black cats certainly leave no doubt that Canterbury has a resident population of big cat.
The Department of Conservations excuse of 14 kg feral cats is beginning to wear rather thin, especially with Canterbury residents and especially with people like Mr Hasson and Oatshott who have seen this thing up close and personal.

Another point of excitement was an email I recently received of strange happenings at a farm in Tongaporutu, North Taranaki. The first incident involved something large crashing through scrub on an isolated area of the farm and startling a herb of sheep, which emerged from the scrub very panicked and as if something large was in pursuit of them.

The second more interestingly involved screams which came from up a nearby gully, coming from a broad area of bush in broad daylight. This was heard by two witnesses in two separate locations.

Two very distinct screams.

One witness described it as “a high pitch, like a cow that had been bellowing and bellowing for hours and its voice had gone horse”.

Alfie Lovell, who’s family had owned the neighbouring farm for generations also admitted that he had also heard these mysterious screams from time to time.

After this incident the thing was given the name “Hutiwai Yeti” by the family and become quite a part of the family history. These events happened between 1988 – 1990. It’s refreshing to get such reports as it gives hope that remnant populations of these creatures may just hang on still.
My sincere thanks go to both James Hasson and Petrina Putt for submitting these reports