Dr KARL SHUKER

Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. Author of such seminal works as Mystery Cats of the World (1989), The Lost Ark: New and Rediscovered Animals of the 20th Century (1993; greatly expanded in 2012 as The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), and more recently Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), Dr Shuker's Casebook (2008), Karl Shuker's Alien Zoo: From the Pages of Fortean Times (2010), Cats of Magic, Mythology, and Mystery (2012), and Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), his many fans have been badgering him to join the blogosphere for years. The CFZ Blog Network is proud to have finally persuaded him to do so.

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Sunday, 30 January 2011

GIANT TOADS AND SOUTH AMERICAN SASQUATCHES?

Rolf Blomberg (Archivo Blomberg)

What does a South American sasquatch of sorts and the world's longest species of toad have in common? Perhaps I ought to rephrase that question, and ask who, rather than what, because the answer is the late Rolf Blomberg (1912-1996) - a Swedish explorer, photographer, and writer. As fully documented in my books The Lost Ark (1993), The New Zoo (2002), and the near-completed third edition of these books of mine on new and rediscovered animals, in 1950 Blomberg was instrumental in bringing to scientific attention a hitherto-undescribed species of giant toad native to southwestern Colombia. He achieved this by capturing a huge specimen there that he brought back with him to his home in neighbouring Ecuador, and which became the type specimen of this spectacular new species - duly dubbed Bufo blombergi in his honour a year later. Blomberg's giant toad can attain a total snout-to-vent length of up to 10 in (25 cm), which is greater even than that of the heavier, more massively-built cane toad B. marinus, the world's largest toad species.

(Incidentally, yesterday German cryptozoological correspondent Markus Bühler informed me that while browsing through a series of yearbooks from the 1970s for Stuttgart's Wilhelma Zoo, he noticed that the 1971 volume mentioned the chance birth at the zoo some years earlier of hybrids between a female B. blombergi and a male B. marinus. They were apparently indistinguishable from the paternal species, but exhibited unusually strong growth - no doubt a result of hybrid vigour. Bearing in mind that they were crossbreeds of the world's longest toad species and the world's largest toad species, it is a great pity that the book did not contain any additional information concerning them, because they must surely have had the potential to become veritable mega-toads!)

Less well known than his success with the giant toad, however, is that while exploring South America, Blomberg also investigated and documented reports of a mysterious man-beast known as the sacharuna. This entity is greatly feared by native tribes in Ecuador, who claim that it will kidnap humans, thereby calling to mind various comparable claims for North America's sasquatch or bigfoot. I am exceedingly grateful to Swedish correspondent Håkan Lindh for kindly bringing this hitherto-unpublicised cryptozoological aspect of Blomberg's researches to my attention, which he did in a detailed email to me of 15 January 2011, from which the following excerpts are quoted:

"He [Blomberg] had a colleague, a Danish man called Harry Nielsen, who himself had searched actively for the creature. And he even heard the alleged wailings at night from the beast, but while exploring he found that the source was a puma. Blomberg had, however, heard about two cases that made him take Sacharuna a bit more seriously than most. One case was a young girl that disappeared from her home but was found alive in the jungle some time later. She claimed that she had been kidnapped by an apelike creature, as big as a man, who gave her food but showed with grunts and gestures that if she tried to escape, he would kill her. She was interrogated several times by her parents and not once she did contradict herself.

"The other case was about a friend of Blomberg's, Emilio Bonifaz, who visited the area where Harry Nielsen had already searched for Sacharuna. He too heard odd noises from the jungle and was informed that that was the sound from the apemen. The locals claimed that at least three Sacharuna lived in the area, and that a few years earlier one was killed. The hunters showed Bonifaz where they buried the body, and Bonifaz excavated the spot. He did find bones, but so fragmented that it was impossible to draw any conclusions.

"Blomberg himself didn't believe Sacharuna was an unknown primate, or primitive human. He did, however, point out that many Indian tribes feared children with retardations, and...the Jivaros killed such babies on the spot as soon as they were born. Blomberg thought that Sacharuna may be such individuals with mental handicaps who had been cast out but had managed to survive in the jungle. Although Blomberg did not seem to think that explanation was completely convincing either, he favoured it over the purely cryptozoological theory. (I personally think that theory is very unsatisfying.)

"He also searched around for giant anacondas, but concluded that such stories were likely exaggerations."


Reports of man-beasts or wildmen have been discounted as sightings of mentally deficient outcasts or feral recluses/hermits on many occasions down through the ages, especially in relation to European woodwose, so this theory is hardly a new one. Moreover, like Håkan, I am not convinced by it at all, certainly not in a locality like the Ecuadorean jungle - where it seems highly unlikely that such individuals would survive the multifarious dangers posed there by such major threats as jaguars, venomous snakes and spiders, all manner of poisonous plants, virulent diseases, and even by other tribes. In contrast, there is a rich heritage of man-beast reports and sightings throughout the South American continent's dense tropical rainforests, so if this is the identity of the sacharuna, it would merely be another such example rather than a cryptozoological novelty.

It now seems pretty well established that the infamous Loys's 'ape' Ameranthropoides loysi, as pictured propped upright with a stick underneath its chin in the famous 1920s photograph snapped during a Venezuelan expedition led by Swiss geologist Dr Francois de Loys, was a hoax - merely a dead spider monkey with its tail chopped off or hidden from view. Nevertheless, many other reports of similar bipedal ape-like beings untainted by this incident are also on file, and palaeontological discoveries here include the fossils of various huge species of spider monkey far bigger than any known to survive today. In my view, if a South American counterpart to the large anthropoid apes of the Old World has indeed evolved convergently, and is still awaiting formal discovery by science amid this continent's remote verdant wildernesses, it may well have done so from the spider monkey lineage.

11 comments:

  1. I first heard of Sacharunas from Wikin's Lost Cities of Old South America. He was quoting from older historical records which said in part that the Sacharunas liked to eat Brazil nuts and play ball (Pelota): no doubt someone saw the creatures throwing brazil nuts around playfully.

    Unfortunately, the majority of the witnesses of South American Cryptid primates do indeed say that what they saw looked EXACTLY like the creature in DeLoys' photo. This gives us serious cause to reconsider the position that it is a hoax. For the most part, the case for a hoax is built on innuendo, much as in the case of the Patterson Sasquatch film. For my part I am NOT convinced the creature in the photo is a spidermonkey at all: spidermonkeys do NOT have feet like that. I think it is more likely to be a small ape along the lines of a siamang, and this matches the statements of the various witnesses of Mono Grande, Shiru, and so on, most economically. It is NOT the same as the Isnachi or giant spidermonkey-types: the face is quite different. And there is also a distinction to be made between Mono Grande and Mono Rey.

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  2. As a longtime supporter of the Loys ape photo, I'd like nothing more than for it to be genuine. However, as I revealed in my book Extraordinary Animals Revisited (2007), the case against it is more serious than mere innuendo - nothing less, in fact, than a letter stating categorically that the creature in the photo was merely a pet marimonda spider monkey of de Loys that, when it died, was de-tailed and photographed propped up in an ape-like pose as a joke. Bearing in mind, moreover, that this letter was written by none other than Enrique Tejera, a celebrated, decorated scientist who also happened to have been a friend of de Loys in the field, how can we discount that as innuendo? Also, I have to disagree that this photographed creature does not resemble a spider monkey - it certainly does, very much so, in fact. In contrast, the isnachi, with its burly form and snout, is clearly not spider monkey-like, and does not, I feel, have any bearing upon reports of man-beasts in South America, being assuredly an extra-large form of arboreal monkey instead.

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  3. I have to say having worked closley with three species of spider monkey, the thing in DeLoy's photo is most deffinatly a spider monkey, most likley the red faced black spider monkey.
    You can se the vestigial thumbs and large external clitoris. The feet look exactly like a spider monkeys and look adapted for a tree dwelling life.
    Richad Freeman
    The Sacharuna sounds exactly like the Di-Di of Guyana. We herad accouts of one kidnapping a girl some 15 miles from Letham as recently as 2006.

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  4. There is very ample evidence for the De Loys "ape" being a hoax (including motive in the form of Montandon's desire to prove the discredited theory - essentially an attempt to "scientifically" justify racism and colonialism - that the human "races" in each continent evolved from different species of apes rather than all radiating from one human origin in Africa - for which there "had to" be a native ape species in the Americas). The animal shown in the photo is also very clearly a spider monkey (Ateles sp.) - its tail doesn't even need to have been chopped off, just hidden behind the box it's sitting on.

    However, the size and exact species of the monkey are still somewhat uncertain. IMO there *is* a possibility that De Loys *unknowingly* photographed a real cryptid while creating a hoax cryptid - ie. an as yet undocumented species of Ateles which is larger than any known living species, and possibly more terrestrial (as opposed to treetop-dwelling). (Of course this could turn out to be conspecific with one of the supposedly-extinct larger species of spider monkeys.)

    As for the Isnachi, i have wondered if it might actually be a bear related to Arctodus (short-faced bear) and Tremarctos (spectacled bear). However, a "giant" species of howler monkey (or close relative) could also be a possibility.

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  5. DMT Toads - Ayahuasca - tribe.net
    Jan 22, 2007... Bufo valliceps, Bufo blombergi, Bufo quercicus, Bufo asper, ..... Re: DMT Toads. Mon, January 22, 2007 - 7:36 PM. You can buy Bufo ...

    Did this explorer see any giant apes after licking the world's longest toad?

    DMT visions.

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  6. I see no reason whatsoever to doubt the veracity of Enrique Tejera's letter. It was written by an eminent scientist, who is not likely therefore to risk his reputation by writing a hoax letter, especially on a subject that was of little personal and no professional interest to him anyway. Moreover, it was certainly not of the 'deathbed confession' variety of communication, bearing in mind that Tejera wrote it and sent it in 1962, but did not die until 1980. In my view, therefore, this letter places the 'ape' photo's authenticity in such jeopardy that the photo can no longer - and, indeed, should no longer - be utilised as evidence for the existence of man-beasts in South America. I do agree that the creature's appearance in the photo certainly recalls eyewitness and local native descriptions of the didi. However, if (as seems near-certain) the photo was produced as a hoax, the dead monkey would have been purposefully posed and modified to achieve this precise goal (the explorers no doubt having been informed of the didi by their native helpers), so such similarities between reports of the didi and the photographed creature's appearance are hardly surprising. On the contrary, this very close morphological correspondence is exactly what we should expect!

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  7. One thing I noted about Loy's ape. Nowhere on the photo is there any evidence of the bullet wound which is alleged to have killed it.

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  8. I hope that my comment will be published this time. I'm an archeologist, not a Paleoanthropologist; so, i might be wrong. But, i have noticed a similarity between De Loys' Ape and an ancient human species (correct term? ) which had been described by Karl Linnaeus. Best regards, Kerem SAYIN from Turkey.

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  9. Hi there, I have seen the primate image used by Linnaeus that you are comparing the photo of de Loys's 'ape' with, and there is a superficial similarity. However, the image used by Linnaeus (of an entity referred to by him as Pygmaeus) was actually a very early representation of the orang utan, whose zoological name is Pongo pygmaeus. All the best, Karl

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  10. The Deloys Ape photo might be just a Spider Monkey. It seems to be about 5 feet tall which is bigger than the average. The tail could have been cut off or hidden. According to the story a group of travelers between Colombia and Venezuela encountered two upright ape like creatures that became agitated and started throwing their excrement at the men. One of the two apes was shot and killed which is the specimen in the photo while the other one fled. I dont know what to make of this story or this photo. Its another unknown mystery in my opinion and there are conflicting stories. Stories exist of the Mono-Grande which are similar to Deloys Ape. The Mono-Grande walk upright and live in dense South American jungles and become greatly agitated in the presence of humans as is the Deloys Ape. It really is a Lost World out there. There are still unknown Primates out there.

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