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).

Dr Karl Shuker's Official Website - http://www.karlshuker.com/index.htm

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Saturday 30 December 2023


The snake cat photograph (© unknown to me, despite in-depth searches made by me online; AI-generated, via person(s) unknown to me – reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

During early March 2023, I noticed a certain, very eyecatching photograph doing the rounds on social media and inciting all manner of speculation as to the creature that it portrayed. As seen above, it is a close-up head-and-shoulders image of a very spectacular cat, ornately adorned with vivid black and yellow markings.

According to claims accompanying this photo, the animal is a South American snake cat, up to 50 cm (20 in) long, weighing as much as 4 kg (9 lb), and allegedly the world's rarest species of wild cat, despite the claims also stating that it exists in a number of different countries, including Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, French Guiana, and Suriname.

Within its ostensibly expansive distribution range, this exotic beast reputedly exists only in the most remote, inaccessible Amazon jungle locations, is poorly studied, and was not even photographed in the wild state until 2020. Yet the snake cat is supposedly well known to the indigenous locals, who sometimes even rear and tame cubs to use in keeping their homes free of its venomous serpentine namesakes and other undesirable creatures.

Looking at this single extraordinary photo – my subsequent investigations swiftly revealed that there were no other purported snake cat photos online – I had little doubt that it was a fake, as I had never encountered any information whatsoever of this mysterious mammal, yet I felt certain that such a visually-arresting beast would be extensively (and scientifically) documented online and elsewhere if it were indeed real.

Finally, courtesy of a Mexican article, I discovered the truth. As revealed in a Chihuahua Noticias news report from 14 March 2023 (click here to access it), the snake cat is wholly fictitious, with its unique photo actually being an AI (Artificial Intelligence) creation. Quelle surprise!

Looking again at its distinctive markings, I think it likely that photos of a large and very familiar, wide-ranging species of North American amphibian known as the tiger salamander Ambystoma tigrinum, whose bright yellow and black markings readily recall the snake cat's, may have played a part in this non-existent entity's photographic generation.

A tiger salamander (public domain)


Tuesday 19 December 2023


Deep within the green secluded forest kingdom of Ruwenzori (© Diego Tirira/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Ruwenzori (aka Rwenzori and Rwenjura) constitutes an East African mountain range at the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire) and Uganda. Below their peaks' snowy caps and alpine meadows, these mountains are covered in lush tropical rainforests and are rightly deemed to be a biodiversity hotspot, with many regions still only sparsely explored scientifically. Not surprisingly, therefore, some interesting potential cryptids have been reported from Ruwenzori, including the three examples presented here.



Some of cryptozoology's least-known mystery beasts have often long been hiding in plain sight, at least in the sense that they have been documented in books or articles originally published many years ago but which have never attracted cryptozoological attention. Consequently, whenever possible I try to rectify this sad situation by publicising these cryptic cryptids once I've learnt about them.

So here is yet another example, kindly brought to my attention on Facebook by longstanding FB friend Richard Hing on 16 August 2023.

In his FB post, Richard wondered if anyone had ever heard of a strange creature reportedly existing in Ruwenzori and briefly referred to by BBC wildlife film-maker/author Michael Bright in a BBC Wildlife Magazine article from November 1987 concerning the fauna of these infamously impenetrable, inaccessible mountains.

Michael had been writing about how fascinated by the Ruwenzoris and their natural history was Pelham Aldrich-Blake, producer of the renowned TV series The Natural World and a longstanding lover of mountain-climbing, and while listing the various creatures existing here Michael included the following short but very tantalising paragraph:

Pelham also mentions the occasional solitary leopard and a creature that most people consider more mythical than fact – the 1.5m [5-ft]-long giant Ruwenzori potto, which shares the scientific twilight with Nessie and the yeti. It is described in the [local native] stories as simply a huge version of the well-known big-eyed primate and is supposed to glower at intruders from the branches of 10m-tall giant heathers.

Vintage 19th-Century illustration of the common or West African potto Perodicticus potto (public domain)

Pottos are related to and somewhat resemble the more familiar lorises of Asia, especially the slow lorises. For many years, only a single geographically-widespread potto species, Perodicticus potto, was recognised, inhabiting West Africa, Central Africa, and East Africa, but in more recent times this species has been divided taxonomically into three separate ones, based on genetic analyses published in 2015 indicating that they split from one another in evolutionary terms as long ago as the Miocene Epoch (23-5.3 million years ago).

These are now, respectively, the common or West African potto P. potto, the Central African potto P. edwarsi, and the East African potto P. ibeanus. (There is also the mysterious false potto Pseudopotto martini, represented only by skeletal remains from two specimens of uncertain provenance and unknown external appearance, but which may merely be aberrant specimens of P. potto.)

Nevertheless, they are all still united by one very noticeable shared feature – none of them exceeds around 50 cm [20 in] (including its short tail) in total length, i.e. only a third the alleged length of the aptly-dubbed giant Ruwenzori potto. Consequently, assuming that the latter really does exist, and really is 1.5 m (i.e. 150 cm) [5 ft] long, it seems reasonable to speculate that this exceptionally large variation on the potto theme does indeed represent a taxonomically discrete form still awaiting scientific recognition and naming. Incidentally, if anyone has additional information concerning it, I would love to receive details!

Nor is this giant potto the only obscure cryptozoological curiosity on record from the Ruwenzoris.



Two totally separate reports of very large but still-unidentified black birds have also been chronicled from these lofty peaks.

My copy of John Preston's book  Touching The Moon (© John Preston/Mandarin Paperbacks reproduced here on a strictly non-commercial Fair Use basis for educational/review purposes only)

The Ruwenzoris are popularly and poetically dubbed the Mountains of the Moon, because they were traditionally deemed to be the real-life identity of the mysterious legendary mountains given this romantic name by ancient Greek and Roman geographers who believed that they comprised the long-hidden source of the River Nile.

The first 'moon bird' report, documented by John Preston in his 1990 Ruwenzoris travelogue Touching The Moon, is that of that of the local guide accompanying explorer Stephen Bagge during his Ruwenzori ascent in 1898.

Bagge reached an altitude of 9,000 ft, but his guide climbed a little higher, alone, reaching Lake Bujuku, south of Mount Speke. According to this guide, he saw on its shores a number of all-black birds as large as sheep, which uttered an alarm call resembling the bellow of a bull when he tried to approach them, which scared him away. In 1906, conversely, a very extensive Ruwenzoris expedition led by Italian explorer the Duke of Abruzzi did not report encountering any such birds there.

However, in his 1957 book Animal Africa, Canadian mountaineer Earl Denman recalled that while climbing the Ruwenzoris a few years earlier, he had watched a couple of very large unidentifiable black birds diving swiftly and almost vertically through the high mountain air. Were these of the same mystery species as those that Bagge's guide had seen, or something different again?

Verreaux's eagle, painted by René Primevère Lesson, 1830 (public domain)

Cryptozoological author George Eberhart has speculated that Denman's birds may have been a pair of Verreaux's eagles Aquila verreauxii – a striking species that is indeed native to the highlands of East Africa, has predominantly black plumage, a very impressive wingspan of up to 8 ft, and an extremely dramatic aerial courtship display that features spectacular vertical dives.

Consequently, I think this a plausible identity for Denman's birds, but Bagge's remain far more mystifying.

After all, it seems unlikely that a number of eagles would all congregate together around the shores of a lake, and utter a bull-like sound when approached. To me, such behaviour is much more indicative of birds such as cranes, herons, storks, or even bustards, but I'm not aware of any known species that corresponds both morphologically and zoogeographically with Bagge's birds.

And so, over a century later, these remain as enigmatic now as they were back in 1896. Once again, any additional info would be very welcome!

Kori bustard Ardeotis kori, Africa's largest flying bird (only the flightless ostrich is larger), standing 5 ft tall and weighing 24-42 lb in the adult male (females are only half this size), but not native to Ruwenzori (© Haplochromis/Wikipedia – CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)