CFZ: 2021 Annual ReportFriday 24th December 2021
CFZ: 2021 Annual Report
The Centre for Fortean Zoology,
Bideford, North Devon
Telephone 01237 431413
THE CENTRE FOR FORTEAN ZOOLOGY
Annual Report 2021
I cannot believe that for the 27th time I have sat down to dictate the Centre for Fortean Zoology Annual Report. In fact, I’m not writing it, I am dictating it to my amanuensis Louis, because my hands are not working particularly well at the moment, but enough of my bellyaching. Whilst, I suspect in common with most organisations working in a similar situation to us, this year has been disappointing because of the strictures caused by the worldwide Coronavirus pandemic, some things have been done and once again it is Louis who is responsible for most of it.
All the expeditions and UK based investigations that we had planned for this year ended up being cancelled, that is – except for – the investigation into lynx-sized cats in the Forest of Dean which has been run by Carl Marshall since the end of 2019. For those of you who are not aware of what, I believe in the current vernacular is called the backstory, Carl was in the Forest of Dean with a friend of his and his young son in the closing months of 2019. They were looking for wild boar, which indeed, they found, but they also found a footprint that gives every indication of being that of a felid far larger than any domestic cat, although smaller than that of a Puma or Panther.
He sent photographs of this footprint to a number of well-respected zoologists, who with only one exception, agreed with him. Since then we have been running a series of investigations in the Forest of Dean to find out the likelihood of there being Lynx or similar sized cats in the forest. Here it should be noted that the Forest of Dean is not particularly far away from the parts of Shropshire where Dr Karl Shuker has established that not only were there jungle cats (Felis chaus) living there at one time reasonably recently, but has also indicated the likelihood that genetic material of this species has entered the gene pool of the area’s feral cats. This indicates that the idea of a medium sized cat species living wild in the area is not at all unlikely.
However, the intensive trail camming which we have carried out has produced the expected result of showing that there are numerous deer and rodents living in the location. What appeared to have been a den for one of our target carnivores appears either to have been deserted, or nothing of the sort. The only hair samples that we have secured, to date, have proven not to be from a cat species. However, the investigation will continue in the New Year and I hope that in twelve months time I will have more positive news for you!
On a positive note, the requirement for camera trapping in the Forest of Dean has triggered Louis Rozier to start work on designing a CFZ trail cam, using recycled smartphones. These devices will allow us to affordably deploy cameras to sites of interest and will return photos directly to us without need for constant tending to, which could make it significantly easier for us to conduct these sorts of investigations in the future. Louis has already produced and tested a basic working prototype and we will look to develop this concept further in the new year.
Louis’s biggest contribution during the last twelve months, however, is the beautiful new website that he designed and developed for us, which went live for the first time back in the spring. It supersedes both the old website, and the CFZ blogs which have been running on the Google-owned Blogger since 2005. The old blogs are still there as legacy sites, and can be reached through the new current site. Louis is also busy at work developing some new web software for communities for one of his own projects, or “side-hustles” as the kids call it nowadays, and we may look to integrate this into our site in the future.
As I am sure you are all aware, my beloved wife Corinna died of cancer during the summer of 2020 and as I am sure you can imagine, recovering from such a serious blow has not been easy. Indeed I am not quite there yet but we are getting there slowly. But we are still not functioning at the level that we would like to be working at.
This year we managed to publish two books, both of which we had been working upon for a considerable length of time. The first is ‘The Soviet Sasquatch’ by Boris Porshnev:
In 1957 Soviet historian and social scientist Boris Porshnev, inspired by the reports of the Yeti in the Himalayas, became interested in the possibility of similar creatures in the area of Europe and Asia then controlled by the Soviet Union. He was given permission by the Soviet Academy of Sciences to establish a Commission to examine the whole question of the ‘Snowman’. After he wrote an article in Pravda he received over a thousand reports from all over the Soviet Union, giving a consistent picture of a wild creature, more closely related to human beings than any known species, surviving in mountainous areas all over Asia. An expedition to the Pamirs of Tajikistan was organised in 1958 to follow up the most promising reports. Unfortunately, more powerful figures in the scientific establishment subverted the original purpose of the expedition and it produced little result. From then on Porshnev’s position declined. His theory that Asian wildman reports could be explained by surviving Neanderthals was attacked, in one case in terms that doubted his sanity. The defence he wrote could not be published in Moscow, and had to appear in a Kazakhstan literary magazine.
In 1963 he produced a book summarising the evidence the Commission had received, studies from other parts of the world, and further evidence from history. He built up on this basis a consistent picture of the creature and discussed its possible relation to Neanderthal man. The book was never actually completed, but 180 copies of a preliminary version were circulated to colleagues in Moscow. The book then disappeared for well over half a century. With the assistance of Porshnev’s family the manuscript has now reached the West and is published here in an English translation with the addition of notes, maps, illustrations and an index. This book casts a wholly new light on the Yeti, Bigfoot and the possible survival of human ancestors into the present day.
The second being my book about my childhood in Hong Kong: Wild Colonial Boy
Anybody who has been a CFZ watcher at any time this last thirty years, will know that I have been promising to write a book about my childhood in Hong Kong, and my early introductions to the arcane world of Fortean zoology. Well, half a century after I first thought of the idea, and over forty years since I actually started writing the bloody thing, the first edition is finally out.
For those of you who are interested in the more Fortean aspects of the stories, let me assure you it includes a bunch of musings on the subject of the final Hong Kong tiger, what happened to Hong Kong’s foxes, accounts of mysterious apes in the heavily forested areas on the south of the island, the complicated story of St. John’s macaque, rumours of giant earthworms, and all sorts of other things besides. I stress that it is the first edition, because there are still a few minor typographical errors needing to be sorted out. Louis and I are working on them as we speak, and so the first edition – especially one signed by me – is likely to become a collector’s item in very short order.
I have had several people write to me, having brought my book, wondering why I have been so blunt about my relationship with my parents over the years. The fact that this book was published in the same year that the Duke of Sussex and his unfortunate wife made a whole bunch of revelations and claims about the Royal Family that is difficult to see as anything other than cheap points scoring is unfortunate. However, my intentions in writing this were far more honourable. Since my seismic life change in August 2000, I have had to reevaluate my life, personal universe and everything once again. The last time I had to do this on such a level, was when I split up with my first wife Alison, in the summer of 1996. This time I will not be using as my main treatment tools alcohol and narcotics, I am too old and I fear too sensible these days, so I have finally finished the book I have been working on for decades, in which I attempt to address – amongst other things – various things that Roger Waters would have described as “bricks” in my own personal wall. I loved both of my parents and in fact still do, despite the fact that my mother has been dead twenty years and my father fifteen, but my relationship with them was neither good nor easy and was rather dysfunctional most of the time. In this book I spend most of my time talking about natural history and cryptozoology, and the life of a young boy in Hong Kong in the 1950’s, but I have not shied away from the things that Phillip Larkin talks about in one of his most famous poems ‘This be the verse’. At least in my case, my mum and dad did indeed fuck me up.
However, I didn’t write it in order to point blame at them, nor would I want anybody to read it in that way. I wrote it to try and make sense of my childhood and to try to offer an answer to people who have asked me what my childhood was like.
Now for some bad news, both Martha the pigeon that Corinna hand reared and her pet crow Bard died this year. Martha was near the top of the age limit for captive pigeons and Bard had always been sickly. We miss them both, and this means that at the moment, not counting Archie and the cats, the CFZ menagerie consists of two chickens, two axolotls, an african leaf fish, Clarence the clarias Catfish, the tank in my sitting room which has a few mosquito fish and three paradise fish, which are showing the beginning of signs of wanting to breed. I am not intending to get any more animals any time soon, but in the past whenever I have said that the universe has proven my resolution to be wrong.
We are currently working on the 2022 yearbook, being compiled by me and Richard Muirhead, I hope it will be out by the Spring. We are also working on the long delayed new issues of Animals and Men, both of these things are very difficult to do without Corinna who was as responsible for them as I was over the past fifteen years.
The most important thing that we have done over the past year concerns our weekly webTV show, which has been ongoing since 2007. However, it only became weekly in the Spring of this year. Again, I want to thank Louis for everything he has done to help us improve the production value and streamline the production schedule for the show. Louis, my friend, I cannot thank you enough. On The Track is the thing I enjoy most, and I am very happy to bring it to you each week on Saturday on CFZTV.
As we approach the new year, there is a lot to look forward to. Back in the summer Richard and I bought a stack of papers from the late Odette Tchernine, including an unpublished manuscript which we will be publishing ourselves during 2022. However, when we looked at the collection of press cuttings, letters and unpublished writings, we decided that it behoves us to celebrate the legacy of this remarkable lady. CFZ volunteer Guin Palmer has taken on the mantle of collecting more of Odette’s writings and memorabilia and together with Louis, will be assembling an in-depth website for and about the lady. Guin has done a remarkable job and we look forward very much to sharing the results with you all.
Also, in 2022 we have the first book by Damon Corrie, an Amerindian Chieftain of the Arawak tribe in Guiana in which he describes – for the first time – many of the animal archetypes of his people.
As regular viewers of On The Track will know, we are in the early stages of setting up a, or at least carrying out a feasibility study, into a research project on the Japanese island of Iriomote. As you probably know, this island, one of the southernmost parts of the Japanese archipelago is home to a unique species of cat Prionailurus iriomotensis which some people believe is a subspecies of the Asian Leopard Cat. It was discovered in 1965 by Tetsuo Koura, who also looked into rumours of a larger mystery cat on the island. This, if it exists, will almost certainly turn out to be a clouded leopard of some description, but the important thing is to find out to which of the two species of clouded leopards to which it belongs. However, as recent evidence has shown that speciation within the clouded leopard complex is not unknown, could it be a new subspecies, and if so, what is its relationship to the semi-mythical clouded leopards of Formosa.
We are looking for some volunteers to help put this project together. This, in the early stages, will take completely on social media, but if there is anybody who speaks Japanese or who reads this and has family or friends on Iriomote and wants to have a bash at getting themselves a modicum of zoological immortality, please drop me a line at:
Thank you very much to all of you who have stuck with me through the past few years, many of you had noticed that both the CFZ and I had taken, to a certain extent at least, a backseat as far as Cryptozoology was concerned. You all know now that it was because of the illnesses of Corinna and Mother, both of them were dying and under the circumstances obeying Corinna’s wishes and not telling anybody was not only the kindest thing that I could do, but the only thing that I could do for her. However, as I’m sure you can understand, dealing with the aftermath of the death of these two people whom I loved and love very much, has not been easy, but I am coming out of the other side and would like to think that the CFZ is back on an upward trajectory.
I would like to thank everybody who works so hard for the CFZ, and also the people who – each month – volunteer to join our merry band of brothers and sisters. If you want to be one of these gallant volunteers, please email me at email@example.com.
Many good wishes to you all from me for a Happy Christmas and a peaceful and fulfilling New Year for you and yours!
Yours, as ever,
(Director, Centre for Fortean Zoology)