Zoologist, media consultant, and science writer, Dr Karl Shuker is also one of the best known cryptozoologists in the world. He is the 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), Dragons: A Natural History (1995), In Search of Prehistoric Survivors (1995), The Unexplained (1996), From Flying Toads To Snakes With Wings (1997), Mysteries of Planet Earth (1999), The Hidden Powers of Animals (2001), The Beasts That Hide From Man (2003), 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), Mirabilis: A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History (2013), Dragons in Zoology, Cryptozoology, and Culture (2013), The Menagerie of Marvels (2014), A Manifestation of Monsters (2015), Here's Nessie! (2016), and what is widely considered to be his cryptozoological magnum opus, Still In Search Of Prehistoric Survivors (2016) - plus, very excitingly, his first two long-awaited, much-requested ShukerNature blog books (2019, 2020).

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Tuesday 9 February 2010


The gorgakh - a depiction of deception (photo owner unknown to me)

I've always had an especial interest in lesser-known mystery beasts, and a couple of my favourites hail from Indonesia.

One of these, which, sadly, I did not learn about in time to include within my book Mystery Cats of the World (Robert Hale: London, 1989) is a very peculiar cat said to inhabit the Lesser Sunda islands of Alor and Solor. According to orang pendek investigator Debbie Martyr, who wrote to me concerning this cryptid, it is only the size of an ordinary domestic cat, but is instantly distinguished from all felids, domestic or otherwise, by the pair of noticeable knob-like structures projecting from its brow, which resemble short stubby horns!

Pangolin (Piekfrosch-Wikipedia)

Another member of the Lesser Sundas island group is Rintja, which is reputedly home to a scaly mystery beast known as the veo. It is described by the island's native hunters and other eyewitnesses as measuring at least 10 ft long, with an armour of large overlapping scales covering much of its body, but with hair on its head, throat, belly, inner limbs, and tail tip. Its head is long, its feet are armed with very large claws, and if threatened it will rear up onto its haunches and slash out with the razor-sharp claws on its forepaws. The veo apparently spends its days up in the mountains, but comes down to the coast at night, where it feeds upon termites and ants, as well as any small animals left stranded on the beach by the outgoing tide. Except for its massive size, the veo's description very closely corresponds with that of the pangolins or scaly anteaters, some species of which do inhabit Asia, though none attains its size. However, during the Pleistocene epoch, ending 10,000 years ago, a giant species of pangolin, Manis palaeojavanicus, existed on Java and Borneo. Is it possible, therefore, that it, or a related species, lingers undiscovered by science on Rintja?

UPDATE: 23 August 2012

Today, I encountered a rash of online reports concerning a mysterious creature called a gorgakh that had lately been killed by villagers in Swabi, Pakistan, and was said to dig up newly-buried humans from their graves and devour them. It included the following striking photograph of the creature's carcase held upright for the camera:

The gorgakh photograph (photo's owner is unknown to me)

This picture has also been posted on YouTube (click here). As can readily be seen, however, the gorgakh is merely a dead pangolin, and as suggested in some of the reports, it appears far bigger than it actually is due to the fact that it is positioned much closer to the camera than are the various people featured in this same photograph - a classic case of forced perspective. Moreover, because pangolins are exclusively insectivorous, lack teeth, and are incapable even of chewing, we can swiftly discount the lurid claims about its corpse-consuming proclivities too. Exit the gorgakh as a valid cryptid.

One final point that needs to be made, however, is that despite some online reports inferring that pangolins are restricted to Africa, they do occur in Asia too, and one species, the Indian pangolin Manis crassicaudata, is native to parts of Pakistan. Consequently, there is no mystery as to this deceased specimen's procurement here either.

The Indian pangolin (Dushy Ranetunge-Wikipedia)


  1. I agree with everything you say so far, but what really catches my attention is the long claws it has , more over the thickness of it's tongue. when in searching for more pangolin pictures , I noticed in particular the head width, the thigh circumference and particularly the claws and tongue were a bit on the abnormal side. Are there any elaborate explanations regarding the possibility of the Indian pangolin which inhabits such areas of pakistan to grow to such "claimed" lengths . It is said by the locals , that the size of the creature is equal to an average height of a human , and the width that is twice that of an average human being . please elaborate

    Thank you ,

    Sarmad (Pakistan)

  2. All of the pangolin (i.e. gorgakh) size oddities mentioned by you, as well as the seemingly huge overall size of the pangolin, are explainable by forced perspective - i.e. holding the pangolin's body much closer to the camera than the holder is himself and the other people around him, which makes the pangolin look considerably bigger and wider than it actually is. As for the locals' claim that it is the height of a human, this is clearly exaggeration on their part, as are various others made by them, such as the claim that it attacks, kills, and devours their livestock, when in reality the pangolin is a harmless insectivore.

  3. Dr. Karl it concerns me to think that you can so easily say all the claims the people have made about this animal are false. How do you know? It looks far more different than an average pangolin. You didn't explain the tongue which is so much larger in comparision. And if the people say it was devouring corpses, maybe it actually was. It's really surprising that you can simply say they lied when you have no hand's on experience with the animal. That is ovbiously not a mere Pangolin.

  4. In fact, it doesn't look different at all from the average Indian pangolin. As I've already explained, it only looks bulkier because of forced perspective. As for its tongue, pangolin tongues are extremely long, enabling them to be inserted at some length insidee ant hills and termite mounds. And as pangolins cannot chew and are toothless, how can a panglin devour a corpse? I didn't say that the observers lied. We don't know who it was who was responsible for this account. It could originate from some journalist or reporter only interested in spicing up a very ordinary story, which has happened many times in the past with animal reports.

  5. I have seen one Dushy Ranetunge-pengolin some eight year back , near ma home.

    it was very cute and was,t scared on any thing,

    Asif Sohail ( Taxila-Pakistam)