THE DEFINITION OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY
The term 'cryptozoology' is derived from the Greek word kryptos, which can be translated into the English as hidden, unknown, secret, enigmatic, or mysterious. Thus, one of the preferred translations is "hidden animals."
The first use of the term cryptozoology is attributed by Belgian zoologist Bernard Heuvelmans, the so-called "Father of Cryptozoology" to the Scottish explorer Ivan T. Sanderson. Heuvelmans published On the Track of Unknown Animals, the first book on the subject of cryptozoology, in 1955. In On the Track, the author traces that actual discipline of cryptozoology to Anthonie Cornelis Oudemans who published a study in 1892 entitled The Great Sea Serpent.
Currently, cryptozoology is taken to mean the study of animals that are presumed to exist, but have not yet been scientifically identified. The term also extends to include the study of animals generally considered extinct, but what are still occasionally reported.
Scientists who study such animals, or 'cryptids' are referred to as cryptozoologists. New species of animal are being "found" all the time by scientists the world over. In previously unexplored regions of Vietnam, for example, scientists are describing new species almost daily!
Scientists are also "rediscovering" species thought to be extinct - like the Coelocanth. This fish was once thought to be extinct, but fisherman discovered living samples in the 1930's. Earlier in the 20th century, the panda was only rumored to exist. Now, folks flock to zoos to see them.
CREATURES ONCE THOUGHT HYPOTHETICAL BUT FOUND TO EXIST
In 1938, a South African museum curator was sorting through the local fisherman's daily catch and looking for unusual creatures when she spotted a coelacanth, an ancient fish thought to be extinct for millions of years and known only through fossils. As with many cryptids, the coelacanth was well known to local inhabitants, who called the fish "gombassa" or "mame."
The West first learned of the giant panda in 1869 because the French missionary Armand David received a skin from a hunter. The first Westerner known to have seen a living giant panda is the German zoologist Hugo Weigold, who purchased a cub in 1916. Kermit and Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., became the first Westerners to shoot a panda, on an expedition funded by the Field Museum of Natural History in the 1920s. In 1936, Ruth Harkness became the first Westerner to bring back a live giant panda.
Long considered to be a mythical creature, on September 30, 2004, researchers from the National Science Museum of Japan and the Ogasawara Whale Watching Association took the first images of a live giant squid in its natural habitat. The same team successfully filmed a live adult giant squid for the first time on December 4, 2006.
In October 1902, Captain Robert von Beringe shot two large apes during an expedition to establish the boundaries of German East Africa. One of the apes was recovered and sent to the Zoological Museum in Berlin, where Professor Paul Matschie classified the animal as a new form of gorilla.
Komodo dragons were first documented by Europeans in 1910, when rumors of a "land crocodile" reached Lieutenant van Steyn van Hensbroek of the Dutch colonial administration. Later, the Komodo dragon was the driving factor for an expedition to Komodo Island by W. Douglas Burden in 1926. After returning with 12 preserved specimens and 2 live ones, this expedition provided the inspiration for the 1933 movie King Kong.
Also known as the Tasmanian tiger or wolf, the thylacine was a large meat-eating marsupial that lived in Australia. It had a long, stiff tail, dark stripes on its back and rump, and a pouch similar to other marsupials like the koala and kangaroo. It was driven to extinction by human activity and the introduction of wild dogs onto the Australian mainland. The last confirmed wild thylacine was spotted in Tasmania in 1932, while the last captive one died in Tasmania's Hobart Zoo in 1936. Though widely considered to be extinct, sightings of this strange creature do still occur occasionally.
Prior to 1901, okapis were known only to the people living in the Congo rain forest. You can now see them in many zoos!
By the mid-1990s, the ivory-billed woodpecker was widely believed to be extinct due to decades of deforestation and hunting by collectors. It was rediscovered in 2004, when a bird enthusiast kayaking through waters in the woods of Arkansas reported seeing one alive. Researchers later obtained a video clip of the bird, as well as an audio recording of its call and the distinctive sound it makes when drilling wood.
FAMOUS 'HYPOTHICAL CREATURES' STILL UNPROVEN
The creatures noted in this list are just a handfull of creatures thought by many to be alive, but not yet "discovered" by accepted zoological science:
- Loch Ness Monster
- Big Cats of Great Britain
- Bergman's Bear
- Ayia Napa Seam Monster
- Anatolian Leopard
- Andean Wolf
- Woolly Cheetah
- Yangtze River Dolphin
- Congo Peacock
- Giant Anaconda
- Minnesota Iceman
THE FUTURE OF CRYPTOZOOLOGY
In an October 2, 2005, New York Times article, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist William J. Broad wrote, "Monster lovers take heart. Scientists argue that so much of the planet remains unexplored that new surprises are sure to show up; if not legendary beasts like the Loch Ness monster or the dinosaur-like reptile 'Champ' said to inhabit Lake Champlain, then animals that in their own way may be even stranger."