of Cryptozoological Alumni
All the following creatures have been discovered in the past
Megamouth Shark - This species of
shark was completely unknown till 1976 when one, caught in a U.S.
Navy trawler's parachute anchor, was hauled up from the depths
As dangerous as the name sounds, and as nasty
as the creature looks, this extremely rare shark is harmless
to humans. Its huge mouth is full of tiny teeth which are used
to filter the water as the animal sucks in the tiny shrimp and
plankton that make up it's diet. Two other members of the shark
family, the basking shark and whale shark, use the same feeding
technique. The largest Megamouth ever found was about 14 feet
For years, only male Megamouths had been found,
but then in 1994 a female, the seventh specimen ever seen, was
washed ashore in Japan.
Panda - Stories of the Giant Panda's
existence, and even hides, had come back to the west starting
at the end of the 19th century. It took 50 years, though, till
a living Panda was brought to the west.
The Giant Panda lives in the cool, damp bamboo
forests of central China, near Tibet. Living at altitudes of
5,000 to 13,000 feet, the Giant Panda feeds on the bamboo using
its sharp claws to strip open the plant. Full grown Pandas are
bear-like, have black and white coats, weight up to 330 pounds
and grow 5 feet in length.
Hunters and zoo keepers diligently sought the
Panda until Mrs. William Harkness, who husband had died
on a Panda expedition, found a baby asleep in a tree in Northern
China and, in 1937, sent it to the Chicago Zoo.
Okapi - For years Europeans brushed aside stories from
native pygmies of the Congo about a creature that looked like
a cross between a zebra and a giraffe. It wasn't until 1900
that the explorer, Sir Harry Johnson, was able to send
to Europe a complete skin and two skulls of the creature proving
The Okapi was first sent to zoos in 1920 and has
adapted quite well. They can now be found in captivity around
the world, though they are rare in the wild. Scientists believe
they are the closest living relative of the giraffe. If nothing
else the lesson from the Okapi is it is important for naturalists
to take serious the stories of native peoples.
The Mountain Gorilla - This animal,
the largest primate alive, was unknown till 1902 when a German,
Captain von Beringe, observed some tall "man-like" apes
near one of the volcanoes of the Virunga region of what now
is Rwanda. He shot a specimen and brought the animal back to
Europe. The sub-speices is named after him: Gorilla Gorilla
The first expedition to study the Mountain Gorilla
in its natural habitat didn't arrive in Africa until the 1960's.
Late in that decade Dr. Dian Fossey
founded the Karisoke Research Centre in Rwanda and started
its long running gorilla study.
Unfortunately poaching and encroaching human activity
is threatening the Mountain Gorilla and as few as 320 individuals
may still survive.
The King Cheetah - Paul and Lena
Bottriell, two cryptozoogists, pursued this animal diligently
until, 1975, they were able to see and photograph it. The animal
they observed was larger than a regular cheetah and had a remarkably
different pattern of spots and stripes on its coat. The big
cat seemed incredibly elusive.
When a specimen was finally examined it became
obvious why. The King Cheetah wasn't a new species, but a variation
on the standard cheetah. A King Cheetah is the result of a "recessive"
or hidden gene. When a cheetah inherits this gene from both
his parents he will be a King Cheetah. If he inherits only from
one side he will be a standard cheetah, but will still carry
the gene. This means that King Cheetahs can disappear completely
from a population of cheetahs for a length of time, then reappear
when two standard cheetahs with the right recessive genes mate.
This made "finding" the King Cheetah extremely difficult.
Copyright Lee Krystek 1996.
All Rights Reserved.