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.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Distortions of Time

When views have existed for many years, it can be extremely arduous changing them. New Zealand is a classic example, it was always thought that we were free from snakes, crocodiles and even apart from three species of bats, mammals as a whole. A way different picture is certainly now being painted of New Zealand in its early years. Yes most certainly birds abounded but as it would appear, so did a large species of Python, crocodiles and a small species of rodent perhaps the first of many to be found. Part of the jaw, and a hip bone from a mouse sized animal was found in the fossil rich St Bathans region of Otago and was dated to be about 16 million years old. The thing is that rodents make fantastic food for raptors, and I am sure many a small Harpagornis began its early diet on species of small rodents, lizards and birds smaller than itself. Mr Worthy from the University of Adelaide stated “there are other mammals waiting out there to be found”. Judging from his enthusiasm it is quite likely. It is absolute certainty that the night hunting Morepork and Laughing Owl would most certainly have found a rodent dinner very much to their taste. That is the amazing thing, when rats first appeared in this country, namely the kiore -Rattus exulans Peale), I believe these owl species actually saw this as more of a gift than a condemnation as they were already used to eating the endemic species. These fossils also indicate that New Zealand's history needs to be rewritten and New Zealand may not have been as completely submerged 25 to 30,000,000 years ago as scientists thought. It also creates somewhat of a dilemma as more mammal fossil may lie in wait, waiting once again to see the light of day. Perhaps the birds succeeded the mammals that were already here. The crocodile species that existed here would most certainly account for the unbalance between predator and prey ratios as like Harpogornis they would have easily been able to take down a large Moa as it came to the water's edge to drink. Species such as the Python would have kept Kiwi and other ground dwelling birds like Kakapo in check as well. The tiny jaw and tooth fragments of a Python like snake were excavated along with the mammal fossils which shows that New Zealand was definitely a different place back then. However, there was a difference the Python fragments were dated at 15 to 20,000,000 years ago. Along with these fascinating finds came teeth and a number of scales from a crocodile like reptile measuring 1.5 m (5 feet) to 2 m (6.5 feet) long. Quite capable size of handling any large size Moa. What also made this site extremely interesting were the remains of teeth of a tuatara like reptile. The oldest tuatara fossils were dated to 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, these stretched back in history a lot further. One of the things that make this fantastic area so unusual is that it was a fresh water deposit which are very rare so the location is kept strictly guarded to prevent amateurs from destroying possibly extremely valuable, both scientifically and monetarily from destruction. Craig Jones-the Institute's Collections Manager stated "these deposits exist only in isolated pockets." Even with these small missing links once brought into the faunal picture of an early New Zealand evolving landscape the whole scenario right away seems a lot more comfortable. It is definitely highly likely that we may, or may never find the missing pieces to New Zealand's puzzling past. Where are the large "clean up crew" that got rid of the large carcasses which Harpogornis could definitely not pick clean. Where are the Vulturine or other large scavengers that cleared away the waste of those at the top of the food chain.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Finding What You’re Not Looking For.

It’s surprising how you stumble across things that you would not initially looking for. For the most part, cryptozoology is highly reliant upon research to find as much information, at times however unelaborated, on the creature you are looking for. Sometimes, serendipity steps in and you find information on something altogether unrelated and yet could be useful. I found this just the other day when I was browsing through a book "Rare Wildlife of New Zealand", by Rod Morris and Alyson Ballance, a book I would highly recommend by the way if you're interested in New Zealand Fauna. I came across firstly what is referred to as Tadpole Shimp-Lepiduris viridus. They Are Listed As Sparse but Must Have Been Well Known to the Maori Who Named Them Kouraura Wai. The Beginning of the name Kouraura indicates that they were potentially a food source but most significantly they had been resident in this country for a long time. Where is this going? Well, they are prehistoric Horse Crab like animals are sold overseas as pets called Triops.
Apparently a kindergarten a couple of years ago got hold of some of these creatures from overseas, and were raided by Biocontrol and the animals destroyed. I myself wrote to Biocontrol to try and obtain permission to import some of these creatures and have never heard from them since, embarrassment perhaps? Now, while on my voyage of discovery through this marvellous book I found out, and I don't think this is known to even many New Zealanders that there are actually two species of Tuatara in New Zealand. Usual species we are used to Sphenodon punctatus, were once thought of as a single species, it is now found there are two species and one of these species has two subspecies. The Cook Strait subspecies is only found on about 30 islands in the Cook Strait area, with almost half the population being resident on Stephens Island. The second major species is Gunthers Tuatara - Sphenodon guntheri. It is found only on one tiny island of about 5 ha on the tiny Northern Brother Island in the Cook Strait vicinity. It is genetically distinct from its other close relatives. It may have once been widespread throughout New Zealand as it has been proven that young Tuatara were an important part of the diet of the now extinct Laughing Owl, with nests containing large amounts of Tuatara bones. These creatures may also have solved another mystery, for a long time scientists had problems ascertaining the function of the very large bill of the now extinct bird known as the Adze Bill. It is now speculated that its massive bill may have been used to dig out tuatara from their burrows. So my warning to other researchers is be careful what you read as you may pick up other things you didn't know.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Where have all the Greyling Gone?

Once again, it is that time of the year when we see whitebait nets spread along the riverbanks of both Islands, faces filled with expectancy of that one mighty haul of rare larval form of Galaxid that were once so common they were dumped on fields as fertilizer or fed to pigs as a food supplement..

With a scarcity of good sites it has even come down at times to armed conflict over the possession of a single site.

It was inevitable that the unceasing supply would eventually dwindle away and protection measures were taken by providing a designated season in which these creatures could be caught. These methods have not done much to help the position as the population of some of the rarest species, whitebait consists of a mixture of Galaxid species, as rarer species showed no sign of recovery.

It is not generally understood that the whitebait have to run a massive gauntlet to get not only to the rivers, but also up to the alpine areas. Firstly, many hungry predators follow the run in large numbers. These small fish are a favourite of many marine species.

After this they then have to avoid freshwater species mainly trout and the nets of the whitebaiters.

Once past those man-made constructions become a problem until they finally reach the cool Alpine streams.

From the original number that began this journey only a vastly diminish number finally make it to grow and become breeding adults.

In the interim people pay outrageous sums of money just for small quantities of these juvenile fish leaving populations dangling on the edge of extinction.

A lot of species that travel in these migrations we know very little about and if the situation continues, like the greyling, more species will disappear before we learn anything about them all for the sake of a fritter on a plate.