tirsdag den 2. februar 2016

Macaques and other mysteries

A few days ago, a barbary macaque which up until then had lived quite contendedly in Blåvand Zoo (Blåvand is the westernmost town in Denmark in case you should wonder), suddenly decided, that enough is enough and scarpered. This was in many ways an ill-considered move by said itchy-footed monkey. First and foremost because it has been teeth-chatteringly cold in Denmark lately, with nighttime temperatures hovering around the -15°C  mark and lots of snow, which almost certainly will translate into a miserable time for said macaque. Secondly and thirdly because the zoo was not keen on losing one of their animals, and nobody was particularly keen on having a teeth-wise heavily armed monkey on the loose – barbary macaques are known for their crankiness. The animal was spotted a couple of times in the general area, shortly after its escape, but all has turned quiet now, and there is only the occational glimpse of the thing. It is probably sheltering in a stable or a barn somewhere, waiting for things to get better, and possible for the chance to scare the living daylights out of the owner of the place.

This is not the escapee by the way - its just another barbarymacaque to give you some idea of the culprit.

I await the outcome of the great escape with bated breath – not hoping for at shooting, and if so, with nothing heavier than a tranquilizer-gun. In the meantime, it has inspired me to delve into the depth of my files to what else has been going on in that same general area, ’cause if memorys serves, it is a place of some strangeness. The local lighthouse is haunted, there is a large military training area nearby, which has been connected with several ufo sightings, and the inevitable conspiracy/cover-up/fooling the public theories, and to the immediate south is a large peninsula called Skallingen, where a number of rare and extremely rare birds – even a couple of firsts for Denmark – has been seen. And then of course, there is things of a more cryptozoological nature.

In the middle of the 1980’s this general area was a hotbed of sightings of the so-called ”Jyske Puma” (The Jutland Puma”). It was to all extent and purposes a typical cat-flap. Lots of sightings of a big, brown, short-legged cat with a small head and small ears and a long tail. There was a lot of talk as to where the thing was coming from – an escapee from a small derelict zoo in the other end of Jutland, somebody’s unmanegable and illegal pet or just hogwash and general rubbish. To add to the confusion, a local family, who had a pet serval, wrote a book claiming their animal was the reason for the sightings, as it had escaped and was out and about on its own for a rather longish period before it was recaptured. The only thing wrong with this theory is that servals are only medium sized, spotted, with long legs, very large ears, and a rather short tail.

And in between all that, a handful of sightings of wolves managed to slip under the radar – or at least was never published in any of the local newspapers. Which is kind of interesting considering the 2012 official recognition of wolves having reestablished themselves in Denmark (although some people in the general western area of Denmark are still convinced that the wolves have been deliberately released by left-wing, radical environmentalists from Copenhagen as an experiment/insult to the locals/attempt to destroy the local way of life/attempt to scare the locals away so their properties will be up for sale cheaply – take your pick).

A wolf doing its best to look like it is up to something.

Anything else? Well, there is a couple of sightings of sea-turtles, and one or two strandings as well. A family of German holidaymakers claimed to have seen a great white shark a few years back – although it was probably a basking shark, as they said the animal kept sticking its nose out of the water. And a bunch of drunken birdwatchers sometime in the 1970’es sent in a description to the Danish Rarities Commitee of a sighting of father Christmas flying past with his reindeer and all the trimmings – for some strange reason it was rejected J Oh yes – and it’s a nice place for a holiday, and you have a good chance of finding a piece of amber.

The strangest sighting of them all though, came from a guy who grew up in the area. When I talked to him sometime in the 1990’s (I was giving a lecture on a school in the town of Esbjerg a bit further south), he described how he had seen something resembling a large crocodile come in to shore very late one evening in the middle of summer sometime in the early 1960’s when he was a boy. The animam, which he thought was about 15 meters in length, dragged its vast bulk up onto the sand, lay there for a few minutes, got up again, walked along the water’s edge for a couple of hundred meters, and then veered off, and disappeared into the water again. He never saw it again, and he never heard of anybody else who had seen it – and 30 years later he was still very clearly marked by his experience. I have no idea what he actually saw, but it sure did scare him.