tirsdag den 24. september 2013

The search for the truth - and a giant monitor lizard

I think it was Jon Downes, the illustrious leader of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, that once said something along the lines of "Cryptozoology is not the search for monsters, but the search for the truth" - a sentiment in which I totally agree, but since so much of cryptozoology, especially on the internet, is about people almost having the evidence for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster of similar creatures, one could easily assume that was all there is to cryptozoology. And of the things that turn out to be quite ordinaryt, one hears almost nothing, so here is the cautionary tale of a giant monitor lizard that wasn't.

For many years stories about extremely large lizards have been coming out of the australian outback. And we are talking very large lizards, bigger even than the Komodo dragon which is supposed to be the biggest living species of lizard. There are quite a few stories about animals the size of a small truck, and sometimes even bigger. Australien cryptozoologist Rex Gilroy has been suggesting for years that these sightings are evidence of the continued survival of Megalania prisca, a lizard one could easily have mistaken for a small dinosaur. So imagine my surprise and excitement, when about ten days ago, I received the following picture.

This picture was taken in 1986 by a danish couple visiting Kakadu National Park. According to them, they were looking across a grassy plain, when what they thought were a fallen tree trunk suddenly stood up and walked away. To say they were surprised, would be putting it mildly. "I am quite sure the animal was at least one meter longer than our car (a Holden stationcar)." Now that is a seriously big lizard, and as one can readily see from the picture, it is a rather massive and powerful animal. So what are we dealing with here? 

Although I have been to Australia several times, and have seen various monitor lizards, or goannas, as they prefer to call them Down Under, I felt far from qualified to identify this animal with any kind of certainty. Instead I contacted the Australian branch of the Centre for Fortean Zoology, and asked them if they perhaps had a herpetologist contact that could do the deed.

They had indeed, and within very few answers an answer came back. As far as the herp man could see, bearing in mind the picture is not of the best quality, this was in fact a yellowspotted monitor lizard (Varanus panoptes), a rather well fed, and perhaps old individual - hence the rather dull colour, and as such nothing special. It is in fact a very common species in and around Kakadu. I myself have seen several of them, but all of them rather small individuals with far more prominent spots than this one. 

As for the large size? Well, my correspondents described that they were not just surprised, they were absolutely terrified, and in such a state, and when seeing an animal walking across a rather featureless plain, where you can't relly judge how close it is - it is extremely easy to exaggerate the size.

One day someone ought to do some research into how often and how much people misjudge the size of animals. 

Anyway - this is also cryptozoology!!!