Rare, Endangered and Mysterious Life
I am interested in the notion that most people consider the planet has yielded all of its large creatures. This however is not necessarily true and in the past century many large animals have been discovered including some in the past 30 years. Giant Pandas, Gorillas, Kraken, Coelacanths and many animals have been discovered or made it back from the dead or near extinction. They find a more caring world, the second, and perhaps last time around. Such animals with a second chance include the Australian Leadbeater's Possum, Californian Sea Otters, North American Bison, Przewalski's horse and soon perhaps, the Tasmanian Thylacine.
In 1847 this largest of the known anthropoid apes was discovered. Man has been and is still his main enemy. The species is still threatened and was during the 1990's in the news with the war in Rwanda.
This member of the giraffe family stands about 5 feet tall at the shoulders and has a long neck. The Okapi is strangely coloured and was discovered in the Congo valley of Africa in 1900.
Collosal Squid (1925)
This squid (Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni) at 13m size is larger than the Kraken, also known as the Giant Squid (10m) and was identified from two arms found inside a whale. The first proper specimens were not found until 2003 and 2007 in Antarctic waters and returned to New Zealand for scientific study.
Congo Peafowl (1913 and 1936)
In 1913 they identified the species from a feather in a hat but found two stuffed ones in a Belgium museum in 1936 that had been misidentified. They are found only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and are Africa's only true pheasant. They make up the third type of peafowl the Common Asian one being very well known.
In 1937 a type of wild ox that had been reported to exist in Kampuchea was named and described. They were extremely rare and almost extinct by the 1970's.
In 1938 off South Africa a living specimen was caught. Lobe finned fishes were thought to have been extinct for many millions of years. Lobe finned fish were thought to be a possible ancestor of four legged land animals. Several more specimens have been caught since.
Leadbeaters Possum (1961)
In Eastern Victoria in 1961 this possum was rediscovered after long being thought extinct.
Vietnam Deer (1980's)
Although known to the locals, several animals which were previously unknown to the scientific world were discovered after the end of the war in Vietnam.
Central Rock Rat (1996)
The Australian Central Rock Rat was thought to be extinct for forty years but was rediscovered in 1996 and another group found in 2001 in West MacDonnell National Park.
Wild Horse (1997)
In about 1997 or 1998 I heard a report of a wild horse species previously unknown found in one of the desert areas. I am unsure if this was the same type as the Mongolian wild horse that was virtually extinct in the wild, which was the ancestor of modern horses (I think). This latter species is well represented with about a third of the world's total population living in the San Diego Zoo Parks.
Calayan Rail (2004)
This flightless bird was discovered in 2004 on small island in the Phillipines. The proposed name for it is Gallirallus calayanensis. The bird, about the size of a crow, was found on the island of Calayan.
This new species of rodent was discovered in a market in Laos and since then more have been found.
In Tanzania in 2005 this monkey was discovered and it is so different it needed a new genus to describe it. This was the first new genus for monkeys in Africa for 83 years. The animal is related to a baboon but does not look like one.
Cypriot Mouse (2006)
This mouse (Mus cypriacus)was discovered in Cyprus in 2006 and was the first new terrestrial mammal discovered in Europe in decades and all European land mammals were thought to have been discovered.
Bornean Clouded Leopard (2007)
In 2007 the Bornean Clouded Leopard was identified as a separate species. This is the smallest of the big cats and it has the longest canine teeth of any of the big cats. DNA has shown that this is a different species to the Clouded Leopards that live on mainland SE Asia.
Red-bearded Monkey (2010)
In 2010 in the Amazon a cat sized monkey was discovered and it is Callicebus caquetensis.
Hog-nosed Rat (2015)
In 2015 the Hog-nosed rat was discovered on Sulawesi and indeed it was a new genus as well. The species is called Hyorhinomys stuempkei.
There are apparently four types of quolls and the Eastern Quoll is possibly extinct on the mainland but still lives on in Tasmania, where there is no competition from foxes. The last one died on the mainland in Sydney in about 1960.
I previously recounted a Quoll being caught in a trap and being taken to a zoo in about 1995. In fact this did happen but it was not an Eastern Quoll but a Spot Tail and it was from the Swan Hill area and went to the Healesville Sanctuary. (Thanks Chris for helping to clarify this.)
In recent years researchers using DNA have confirmed that Bonobo Chimpanzees are a separate species to traditional chimpanzees. Some researchers are calling for both species to be relocated under the Homo classification along with humans. Bonobos are the closest living relative to humans.
Elephant have traditionally been classified as two species. Basically Asian or African. However in recent years DNA has been providing some interesting insights. The African is agreed to be two different species; savannah (Loxodonta africana) in the south and forest elephants (Loxodonta cyclotis)in the north. The Forest elephants have always been about a foot smaller than the Savannah ones so it is pleasing this has been figured out. The claim is that they are more different than a zebra and a horse. Some still believe them to be subspecies though, (Loxodonta africana cyclotis).
What is interesting though is that in the Bardia National Park in Nepal during the past decade they have measured and observed a herd of elephant that have a number of bulls that are at least 1 foot taller than the tallest ever Asian elephant on record. These elephant also have a large dome structure on the top of their head that distinguishes them from other Asian elephants. The jury is still out on whether these elephant are a mutation from an isolated valley or a separte species. One report I read suggested that DNA indicates they have more in common with mastodons than elephant. I guess time will tell.
Lastly a report in the papers in January 2005 states that in India a small herd of 5 pygmy elephants 5 feet tall were observed in Peppara Wildlife Sanctuary. They were not believed to be calves as calves do not travel on their own in herds. The local tribe have for some time been stating that they exist and call them kallana.
Worth noting that other elephant species have existed in biblical times and in about 1500BC a species of elephant <Elephas maximus rubridens) in Northern China was still to be found. Indeed some mastodons (Cuvieronius postremus) in South America died out in 400 AD.
In about Christmas 2000 a report in the Herald/Sun stated that in Thailand the Princess Rangsrinopadorn Yukol who has a keen interest in wildlife had taken aerial photographs of wooly elephants. Scientists were investigating the sightings in Thailand's northern jungles.
The Giant Squid was long thought to be the myth of drunkard sailors and only in the Twentieth Century has the Kraken been discovered and found to be up to about 20m length. I have read claims that a US submarine had damage, which appeared to be inflicted by such an animal. Around 2012 a team of scientists filmed a live Kraken and the report was presented at a TED conference. Refer to https://www.ted.com/talks/edith_widder_how_we_found_the_giant_squid
Around late 1995 or Jan 1996 a newspaper article in the Herald-Sun said that a small Moa had been sighted in New Zealand. No further information was released. The article read as follows:
Wellington - Three hikers yesterday said they saw, chased and photographed a huge flightless bird and are convinced it was a moa, believed to have been extinct for 500 years. Paddy Freaney, Sam Waby and Rochelle Rafferty said their encounter in the South Island's Craigieburn Range left them stunned, but they were positive of their sighting. "As soon as I saw it, I believed it was a moa, amazing as that sounds. It was one of those things you don't believe is happening," Mr Freaney said.
Mr. Freaney, a hotelier and a former instructor with the British Army's elite Special Air Service, dismissed the possibility that the bird was an ostrich or an emu. "I've seen them in the wild; I know exactly what they look like," he said. "This was definitely not an ostrich or an emu. The minute I saw it I knew what it was." In pre-European times, New Zealand had 25 species of moa, which dominated the economy of the native Maoris. Some of the birds grew as big as 3 metres and weighed up to 230kg. -Reuter
The Age newspaper on 25 Feb 97 followed a news item the previous day that scientists in the Philippines were baffled by the discovery on a beach of an eel like fish that had fins but no ribs. On Melbourne radio on the same day the length was quoted as about 8m long.
The Herald-Sun newspaper on or around 10 Jan 1998 had an article about a large mass of unknown origin being washed up on the coast of Tasmania. Apparently this had happened about 15 to 20 years ago also. The article mentioned that they suspect it is a giant squid's, (or Kraken), parts or could be whale blubber. A cartoon in the paper a few days later gave the impression that it may have been identified as blubber. Later books I have confirm that it was decaying blubber from a dead whale.
In 2003 in Chile a similar incident occurred with a positive resolution that identified the blob as a sperm whale carcass.
In Australia for the past 100 years or so there have been sightings of a strange glowing light often as bright as a conventional flashlight. The light generally seems to float along just above ground level and matches the surface contours as it goes. I have seen this sight on two occasions at Lima, near Benalla in Victoria. I am also aware of research into historic sightings. In this research I have seen correspondence from the man who has been mapping the location of the sightings and trying to identify which animal or bird may match the distribution of the sightings. He believes it may be a Barn Owl. The luminescence generated though is still conjecture and doesn't fit in with current (excuse the pun), knowledge of animals that generate electricity or light.
At Wandong, Victoria, Australia a horse rider, (male about 24), was riding through forest and claimed to have seen up close a panther. Tracks were purportedly found on dam edge. No official comment seems to have been made. Date was 2 Jan 1998 and the story made the evening news on channel 10. My father also claims to have seen a large cat in the Strathbogie Ranges several years ago above the family farm.
Note: The term panther is misleading since it is used by differing authorities to refer to a variety of large members of the cat family. Sometimes to leopards, or only large leopards and other times to cougars as well as a few other species.
A Victorian newspaper, the Wimmera Mail Times, of 4 Dec 1998 reported several sightings of big cats recently in the Grampians. They said the latest came from a couple holidaying at Halls Gap who were walking along the track behind the old football ground when a 'big cat stepped out of the bush and onto the track in front of them. The cat stared at the couple for a few moments before leaping across the track and into the safety of the bushland. The couple described the cat as panther-like and about the size of a big dog. The woman was terrified by the incident.'
Video footage shown on TV in Mid 2000 showed what appeared to be a large puma like animal walking down a hillside. Experts admitted it had all the features of a large cat and seemed bigger than the largest known feral cats. A very similar episode occurred again in early August 2001 and the video footage made the TV news.Then again this happened in late 2004 and an article in the WMT 'Video sparks puma talk' covered the recent new TV footage of a cat stalking a kangaroo. Experts later said they thought it was just a cat because of the way the tail was carried and not a 'big cat'.
On 19 May 2002 the Herald Sun paper, in an article by Adrian Tame, reported that about a month earlier Jahne Hope-Williams encountered a large panther. The big cat crossed her path on a quiet road at Mt Macedon, Victoria. Jahne works as a scientific illustrator and says she is certain that was what she saw. She had good visibility and is no longer 'a grade A sceptic'. Other sightings around Metcalfe and Cascades have also been reported.
The Wimmera Mail Times in an article dated 14 Feb 2003, by Jenny
Shand reported several reputable people at Murtoa reporting what they
believed was a puma near Murtoa's Lake Marma during an evening walk.
However the Wimmera senior flora and fauna management officer, a Mr
Venn, was quoted that he had mentioned that there had been many reports
over the years and that staff were sceptical and that there was "no
concrete evidence of anything existing over such a long period of
time...". I wonder what the experts did make of the above two films? We
never seem to find out!
On March 24 2004 an article in the Herald Sun reported that a person
from the 'Blue Mountains Big Cats Investigation Group' reported finding
a large footprint and that plaster casts were taken.
Numerous mountaineers from Eric Shipton to Don Whillans have described seeing such an animal or photographed tracks, which appeared to be from such an animal living in the foothills of the Himalayas. Despite expeditions looking for it nothing concrete seems to have materialised yet. Sasquatch in the Canada and the U.S.A. are similar in nature.
In Australia around Mansfield in about the 1970's a claim to have seen something similar was made by a locally respectable mountain cattleman.
Tales of a giant anaconda (Sucuriju Gigante) like animal in South America have existed for a long time. Although not accepted by the scientific community there are several eyewitness accounts by reliable people attesting to killing anacondas in excess of 20m up until the early years of the Twentieth Century. (Ref. Colonel Percy Fawcett, Royal Engineers and separately Father Victor Heinz.
I read a newspaper report about a giant snake in the Belgian Congo that rose up as if to strike at a low ground flying helicopter. This report was made by Colonel Rene van Lierde and he took photos which experts accord to his estimated 40-50 feet length. Again until you produce the body and a tape measure it's not accepted and the longest measured snake was from Indonesia at 32feet.
The third last Hawaiian Po'ouli bird has died in captivity. Only two others are known and they haven't been seen in the wild for one year.
Late 96 there was considerable coverage of a sighting in Tasmania by a park official.
In Feb 97 an article in Herald/Sun covered at length the one sighting per month for the past 5 months down near Loch Sport on the ninety-mile beach. The latest was by an RACV mechanic and he saw the animal feeding on a dead wallaby at the side of the road for about 2 minutes from 40 feet away. He said it was striped and a dirty brown grey and about the size of a greyhound.
Just prior to the 4 December 1998 sightings of a large cat in the Grampians there was dramatic footage shown on national TV (10) of an animal claimed to be a thylacine. Experts said they could not rule out the possibility. The footage was shot near Foster north of Wilson's Promontory in Victoria. This is in the same broad area where earlier claimed sightings of thylacines were seen in 1996/97. Another sighting by a National Parks employee in a remote part of Tasmania during about 1997 was also given considerable attention. Thylacines were last found in the wild in the 1930's in Tasmania.
Another interesting account of a thylacine sighting is from Irian Jaya at a remote mountainside where local tribes people report sighting a thylacine. The Melbourne Age carried an article to this effect on 15 April 1997
In early 2000 on Melbourne TV video film shot by an amateur shows what appeared to be a thylacine down in the Gippsland area.
Refer to Job Chap 41 and also to Psalm 104: 25-26 to see a large animal that perhaps is crocodilian and maybe the animal described by the German sub U28 after sinking the Iberian in World War 1. When the Iberian exploded a large animal was brought to the surface thrashing around.
Refer to Job 40: 15-24 for a description of what might be a dinosaur.
At Ball's Pyramid several miles off the coast of Lord Howe Island (part of NSW in the Coral Sea) in 2001 a stick insect thought to be extinct for over 80 years was rediscovered. Some of the insects have since been caught and bred. Probably still one of the world's rarest insects. On nearby Lord Howe the Lord Howe Island Hen has also made a recovery following a successful capture and breeding program. I climbed at Ball's Pyramid in 1975 and it is a remarkable place.
Dawn Redwood (1944)
In 1944 a Chinese botanist discovered this relative of the Sequoia tree alive and well in China. Previously the tree was thought to have become extinct some 20 million years earlier. The tree was, until then, only known from fossils.
Wollemi Pines (1994)
In 1994 a tree was discovered, (about 20 specimens), on the valley floor in a remote part of the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. The tree was a very tall tree that has an unusual bubbly bark. The tree was previously unknown and seeds from it have been sent around the world for propagation. The tree is called the Wollemi Pine and as at mid 1999 there are now 38 in the world of which two are on a travelling display. The discovery was described as the " botanical find of the century" but I think this is a bit flowery. Previously the tree was thought to have been extinct for 90 million years.
Eucalyptus Copulans (1997)
On 27 Feb 97 in the Herald/Sun newspaper article, mention is made that this tree is the rarest in the world and that it is 'alive again'. About 3 months earlier the last known tree of the species, died in the Blue Mountains. However it has re-sprouted.
1847 - Gorilla
Feb 1999 Geneva: The World Wide Fund for Nature warned of tigers in the wild being extinct within 10 years. They said there were 7200 tigers in the wild compared with ten times that number 100 years ago. Refer Melbourne Herald/Sun Fri 12 Feb 1999.
A boat was pulled by its anchor chain in circles until the Coast Guard rescued them. A giant Manta Ray of 5.5m and 135kg surfaced soon after. Herald/Sun and Reuters 12 Feb 1999.